EDIT 5/26/2016: If you found this post because you have a baby bird and are wondering what to do with it, please see this post instead; it will be more useful.
Being a fledgling—a chick that has left the nest—is awkward.
Junco fledgling MAII illustrates the awkwardness via interpretive dance.
Fledglings are at one of the most dangerous time in their lives, facing an average mortality rate of 42% over just a week or two. Most of that mortality happens early, just after the little guys have left the nest. New fledglings have almost no skills: they can’t feed themselves, can’t fly well (or, in many cases, at all) and can’t do anything to defend themselves if something terrifying like a weasel, snake, crow, or even chipmunk decides to eat them.
We only try to catch juncos, but when you have nets up in good habitat, some accidental capture of other species seems to be inevitable. These other species—our “bycatch”—are quickly extracted from the nets and released, although not without a few photos first.
Do you know who I am?
Unhand me at once!
I’m quite behind in my bycatch* posts! All of the birds in this post were caught several trips ago.
*Bycatch: birds that fly into our nets while we are trying to catch juncos. We extract them from the net, take a few photos, and release them.
Female Brewer’s Blackbird:
I am too zen to be bothered by you, giant pink monster
When you’re target netting, as we are, you use just a few nets and play the song of the bird species you want to catch to lure them into the nets. Even so, sometimes you accidentally catch other things.
The bycatch we dreaded was the stinging insects: we caught two bees and three wasps last week. We did get all of them freed, but it was very time-consuming, and was more time spent closer to these stinging guys than I really ever wanted. Lots of disentangling one body part and then flinching back, disentangling another and flinching back…
It’s hard not to like avian bycatch, though. We extract them from nets and simply release them—I don’t have a permit to do anything with any species besides juncos—but still it’s fun to handle other bird species, and to see them up close. Continue reading