Ah, spring. The shrubs start to grow and must be trimmed.
Among those growing most vigorously are the ones right outside my window. I’m looking at them now. They’re loving the warm temperatures and all the rain. It makes them happy, and a happy shrub is a thriving shrub.
Boy, are they ever.
“We’ve got to trim those shrubs, you know,” observed Wife of Mine one Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, and she was using the royal “we.”
“They’re not really so bad yet,” I offered, thinking to myself that I would much rather go fishing than spend even 15 minutes trimming shrubbery. So I used my most persuasive tone.
“Do we really want to trim them?” I asked sweetly.
It didn’t work.
“Yes,” she said. “We do.”
Hmmm. That might be a problem, I thought to myself, because there’s fishing on the agenda.
But I didn’t say that. Instead, I said this:
“Well, okay. But you know,” I added, with a dramatic pause. “That there might be a bird’s nest in there somewhere.”
Clever, eh? It might have worked, too, because my wife loves birds.
But it didn’t. So there I was, a couple of weeks later, limbering up the loppers and getting ready to go to work on the jungle by the house when I saw it.
A bird’s nest!
In the most remarkable of coincidences, it turns out that a family of birds had for some time been hard at work building its happy home there in the branches right there just a couple of feet from the window. Birds are thoughtful that way. So I had to put the hedge trimming hardware away, which I did, and then I went fishing. It was a good day.
Now, a few weeks later, I’m looking out the window at that nest and waiting for that clutch of tiny eggs to transform itself into a bunch of equally tiny birds.
It must be interesting being a baby bird. You sit there in a comfortable nest, snuggled down in moss and twigs and stuff, waiting for somebody to bring you breakfast, lunch and dinner. When said dinner arrives, you gobble down your share. Then I guess you settle back and bask in a bird equivalent of a food coma until the next serving arrives a few minutes later.
This goes on for a while, and the baby birds get bigger. But as baby birds grow, they get antsy, like kids of any sort are prone to do. Sometimes they try to wiggle their wings before they’re ready, and once in a while, one of the little birds manages to wiggle its way right over the edge of the nest.
I’m hoping that my bird friends will have a talk with their kids before this becomes a problem. I hope that everybody stays put in the nest. But what happens if one of the kids falls out?
According to the Atlanta Audobon Society, it is not uncommon to find baby birds on the ground this time of year – and the natural inclination of most folks is to help the baby bird. But is that the best thing to do?
“In many instances, the best way to help a baby bird is to leave it alone,” said Adam Betuel, director of conservation for Atlanta Audubon Society.
But won’t the baby bird starve?
“Fledgling birds hop out of their nests before they are fully flighted,” Betuel said. “And their parents will tend to them on the ground. If you find a young bird with feathers on the ground, chances are very good the parents are nearby and looking after the bird.”
“With feathers” is the key here. In fact, as long as the feathered baby is not in danger from cats, dogs, or traffic, Betuel advises leaving it alone and observing from a distance. That, he added, is “generally the best course of action.”
But there are times when featherless hatchlings fall out of the nest too – perhaps due to high winds, predators, or other causes. Those birds were not ready to leave the nest and should be returned to the nest if it’s possible to do so safely.
Will the fact that you picked up the baby bird cause the parents to abandon it? Not according to the Atlanta Audubon Society, which said that parent birds will not abandon a baby that has been handled by humans.
What if you can’t safely reach the nest? If it is not possible to return the hatchling to the nest, the Audubon Society suggests that you might try constructing a makeshift nest out of a berry basket or small plastic container. Put the baby in the new nest and then place the nest (bird and all) back in the tree. Sometimes that’s all you need to do. The parents just might accept the new nest as a sort of addition to their homestead, and they may tend to the baby there.
If the baby bird may appear to be injured, or if the parent birds do not begin tending it within an hour or so, then your best bet may be to contact a wildlife rehabilitator. There’s a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators on the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division website at georgiawildlife.com.
Can you just keep the bird? No. The Audubon Society said that it is illegal to possess a wild bird without a permit. More importantly, baby birds require specialized, full-time care, so it is important that well-meaning individuals do not try to raise the bird at home.
The Atlanta Audubon Society has created a set of guidelines to help you if you find a baby bird on the ground. To check ‘em out, visit atlantaaudubon.org/injuredorphaned-birds.
Meanwhile, enjoy those baby birds. Trimming the shrubs can wait. Watching the birds is a lot more fun, and the shrubbery will still be there when the birds are grown up and gone.