Thursday, March 29, 2012

Important Information to Know About Hummingbirds

The tiny patient in this photo is a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. These little birds may especially need your help this time of year.  (Photo credit: Gina Javurek Smith)

Marge has some important information about hummingbirds she would like everyone to know. She wrote the following:

"We have received several calls this morning about hummingbirds in torpor.

Due to the extremely mild spring, male hummers have begun to show up very early several weeks ahead of their normal schedule. They are arriving in our area having completed the spring migration that has taken them 2,000 miles including a non-stop 500 mile segment over the Gulf of Mexico. The early arrival in our area, while exciting for residents, created a serious problem for the hummers when the temperature dropped the past few days.

Torpor is a deep sleep state entered into to conserve energy. The tiny birds are often mistaken for being dead during torpor. Hummingbirds go into torpor when they are unable to keep up with their body’s needs. During torpor the tiny bird's body temperature drops to about 30 degrees F. They are found motionless on a small branch, on the ground or even hanging upside down during the torpor state.

Unique birds, hummingbirds are a tiny package with a metabolism that is 100 times that of an elephant. Their heart beats up to 1,260 times a minute! They need to eat up to 8 times their own body weight each day. They are arriving in WI having exhausted their fat stores. They are counting on warm weather, adequate flowers, and tiny insects to keep them in good health.

If you find a hummingbird that appears to be dead, carefully gather it up as you would a butterfly. Cup it in your hands and put it into a box. Call Raptor Education Group, Inc. (715-623-4015 or 715-627-7408) or take it to the wildlife center as soon as possible.  Do not try to feed it! During torpor hummers will drown if forced to drink.

Hummingbirds will recover from torpor in about 20 minutes but need specialized treatment afterwards to assist them getting back to health. Hummingbirds, like all migratory birds, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and are illegal to have without state and federal permits.

Hummingbird feeders are very important to their survival now, especially during the early arrival.  Good quality food is vital to them. A mixture of one part sugar to 4 parts water is the recommended mixture. Check with Wild Birds Unlimited in Wausau for quality products for hummingbirds."

This Ruby-throated Hummingbird is buried face-deep in a delicious honeysuckle flower. When flowers like this aren't available, hummers come looking for your feeders.  Help them by getting your feeders out today.

You can find more interesting facts about hummingbirds at When you read through the list of incredible facts, you will surely be astonished. These, the tiniest of the birds, are nothing short of extraordinary. One of the surprising facts on the list is that hummingbirds enjoy perching and they spend much of their life perching. That has me thinking about a wonderful product called a hummingbird swing which you hang near your hummingbird feeders. It is a great way to give your backyard hummers a place to rest their wings while giving you another way to watch them. You can find hummingbird swings at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Wausau, WI. I encourage you to check out the store for all of their wonderful, high-quality wild bird products and food.  

This is an awesome product called a hummingbird swing. Hang it near your hummingbird feeders! (Photo provided by Lori Schubring of Wild Birds Unlimited-Wausau)

Thank you for looking out for your wild neighbors! Have a good weekend everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easy Ways That You Can Help Birds This Spring

This information can also be found in the latest issue of our newsletters which will arrive in your mailboxes and email in-boxes very soon if you are on our subscription list. This information is so important that I thought I would post it for our blog readers to see as well.

Spring is an important time in the lives of birds because many are returning from their migrations to build nests and raise their young. As thoughtful people, we can do a few pretty simple things to help them out.

Prevent birds from striking your windows. As many as one billion birds die each year by flying into window glass because they simply cannot see it. An amazing new product called BirdTape helps the birds to see the window while still allowing you to look out from the inside. The price for this wonderful tape ranges from $10.95 to $14.95 per roll; a small price to pay to save the lives of the birds in your neighborhood. You can find this life-saving tape through the American Bird Conservancy at They provide you with instructions and application patterns so you can get the best results from the tape. 

Strips of BirdTape are being applied to a large picture window. This tape makes the window noticeable to a bird while still allowing you an easy view to the outside. (Photo credit: American Bird Conservancy)

Keep your pets safe and under control.
Cats and dogs can be extremely dangerous for nesting adults and baby birds. Cats alone kill 39 million birds annually here in Wisconsin. Pets should not be allowed to run free because they can cause injury to wildlife and become injured themselves. Poisons, vehicles, and other predators are just a few of the things that could harm or kill your pets. We have seen many patients already this year here at REGI who are suffering from dog and cat bites. If the birds survive the initial harm, the infections caused by the bacteria from the mouth of the dog or cat can lead to death.

This little fledgling Blue Jay was a past patient of ours from a couple summers ago. He was brought in after suffering from dog bites. He had multiple punctures and a broken wing which is why his wings were taped. He was lucky because he was brought for help right away and received antibiotics to combat the infection caused by the bacteria from the dog's mouth. He is wild and free now, but his pain could have been avoided if the landowner had controlled their pet. 

Don’t cut down trees in the spring.
It may be tempting to spruce up your yard in the spring by removing trees or pruning limbs, but young animals may be nesting in and on that tree. Birds are protected through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and it is illegal to take, possess or needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of any bird. It is also better for the trees to prune in late winter before spring growth and hopefully before birds start nesting.

Try natural landscaping techniques. Manicured lawns, while attractive to some people, are basically sterile environments for wildlife. Not only is there no food or shelter for wildlife, but the toxic substances used to control pests and weeds can cause illness and death in birds and other animals, including your beloved pets.
When landscaping your yard, consider including the following aspects:
Food—provide a variety of native plants which produce nectar, nuts, and edible berries.
Water—incorporate bird baths, pools or ponds into your landscape making sure to replace standing water every few days to avoid mosquito activity.
Cover—plant evergreens and shrubs which provide shelter all year long. Leave dead trees standing, provide hollow logs, and install bird houses which give cavity nesters a place to raise their young.

Growing plants in your yard which produce food can attract beautiful wildlife for you to enjoy watching. The lovely female Ruby-throated Hummingbird in this photo is a frequent visitor the the honeysuckle bush in my parent's yard thanks to the delicious nectar it produces in its delicate trumpet flowers.
Installing bird houses on your property is a wonderful way to encourage cavity nesters, like these tree swallows, to raise their young in your yard. These birds will subsequently help to control the insect populations in the surrounding areas by feeding the bugs to their nestlings. Nesting birds are also wonderful to watch (from afar to avoid frightening them) and can be a fun way to educate your young ones about family and the lives of birds. 

If you can safely allow dead trees, called snags, to remain standing on your property, many types of wildlife will make good use out of those trees. Snags are essential for woodpeckers who eat the insect larvae found in the wood and cavity nesters who raise their young inside the natural holes or the ones created by the woodpeckers. Saw-whet Owls, like the one above, are cavity nesters which may raise their families in the dead trees on your property.

If you find birds that need help this spring, please give us a call on our rehabilitation line (715) 623-4015.

Thanks everyone! Have a happy spring!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Saw-whet Owl, Ruffed Grouse, Dark-eyed Junco, Patient Updates, and Fun Spring Ideas

Good Thursday afternoon everyone!

We have been thoroughly enjoying this beautiful atypical March weather. The bird migrations are a bit ahead of schedule and that means it is very likely we will be seeing lots of baby songbirds soon. While we don't have any babies to introduce you to quite yet, we do have a few other new patients and some updates for you.

Photo above: This beautiful male Northern Saw-whet Owl was rescued after being hit by a vehicle. This little male has us feeling a case of deja vu because only a few months ago we admitted another male Northern Saw-whet in the same condition, from a similar incident, but it was his opposite eye which was damaged. He has since become an education bird in training. This handsome little guy may follow a similar path if his eye doesn't heal properly.

Photo above: This male Roughed Grouse was admitted with a broken leg. These lovely birds get their name from the black "ruff" the males possess. His is neatly tucked away at the moment, but you can still see some signs of it. The black feathers that are poking out from his other neck feathers are his ruff. When displaying for females, the males raise these black feathers into a stunning ruffle of feathers around their neck as well as fan their impressive tail feathers; undoubtedly hard to resist for a female.

Photo above: This sweet little American Tree Sparrow was found along with a Dark-eyed Junco (not pictured) covered in unidentified "sticky stuff." The rehabbers turned to Dawn soap to try to remove some of the gooey material from their feathers, but with little success. These tiny birds will need to stay with us until they molt and grow new feathers.

Photo above: Sparrows are some of the trickiest birds to identify because many look similarly to each other. I'll try to point out some of the "field marks" which may help you identify this type of sparrow in the future. This is the same American Tree Sparrow from above (you can see the sticky material pulled out most of his tail feathers). Our rehabilitator, Katie Farvour, held him in such a way so you could see one of his identifying characteristics; these little sparrows have a black spot of feathers on their otherwise spotless breasts. They also have bicolored beaks; black on top and yellow on the bottom, and a rusty crown of feathers on their head as well as a rusty line of feathers coming from their eyes. These characteristics, along with knowing that they spend winters here in the United States and summers in far northern Canada, should help you distinguish these sparrows from their look-alikes.

I'd like to update you on a few of the patients we've mentioned in recent blog posts. The large number of eagles we have are still doing well. All are in the flight building reconditioning their muscles.

The Snowy Owl is getting us all really excited. Our amazing rehabbers examined her a few days ago to see how her Trichomonas gallinae infection is healing (To read more about Trichomonas please see previous blogs). They were shocked to see that most of her lesions are gone! She still has a long road to recovery, but this was very encouraging to see.

Photo above: The Snowy Owl is doing very well. She has found her way to one of the high perches in her mew. Her breathing becomes raspy when we approach her so to keep her calm I snapped a photo through the slats of her mew.

Spring is a time of constant change and it can be really fun to watch and keep track of. I become terribly excited in the spring and I have a hard time not sharing my joy with everyone.
I find it extremely fulfilling to observe nature and help children observe it too and I want to tell you about a few of the really fun things you can do and see in the spring.

If you're looking for something new to try with the children in your life, you can explore phenology. Phenology is the study of the timing of changes in nature, such as the arrival of robins in the spring, the changing of leaf color in the fall, and the first snowfall of winter. You can choose an area like your yard or city park and keep a journal of all the changes you see throughout the year. Keep track of which birds you see; what day they leave in the fall and come back in the spring. Look to the sky for flocks of migrating ducks, swans, geese, and cranes. Listen for the sounds of frogs and toads calling. Watch for butterflies and moths. When did your lake, pond or river freeze over and when did it thaw? What was the last day snow was on the ground? I could go on and on. There are limitless things to look at in nature and you and your children will become more observant over time. You can keep these journals for years and look back at how the dates compare and how your area has changed over time. Someday your children's grandchildren may read those journals and if we work hard enough to instill conservation values and a love for nature in our young ones now, their descendants will still have wilderness to enjoy.

Photo above: American Woodcocks, like the bird above, become very vocally active in the spring. While normally living in forested areas, they choose more open areas for their courtship displays. You and your children can be lucky enough to see this display if you head outside near open marshes, meadows or boggy areas at dusk during the spring. Listen for the male to make his "peent" and watch the area above where the sound is coming from (Please do not approach these birds as you will interrupt their courtship and scare them away). If you're near the area at the right time you may see the male shoot himself high in the sky, spiraling up as he goes. He makes a lovely twittering noise created by the feathers of his wings as he's spiraling in the sky. It's an experience you'll never forget! Follow this link to learn more about American Woodcocks and hear what their peent sounds like.

The last fun idea I'll tell you about today is already a pretty hot trend. Live nest cameras are rapidly gaining popularity, and if you haven't already jumped on the bandwagon, hop on now! Nest cams are a wonderful way to introduce your children to nature, family, and the lives of birds. These cameras provide an intimate and unobtrusive view into the lives of these otherwise secretive animals. You can watch from the time the nests are fixed up to the time the young leave the nest. There are cameras watching everything from hummingbirds to Bald Eagles, and so many species in between. My favorite ones right now are the Red-tailed Hawk nest in New York through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Bald Eagle nest in Blair, Wisconsin, and of course the Bald Eagles from Decorah, Iowa, whose eggs are expected to hatch in the next few days. If you look around you can find many, many more.

There are so many more things that you can do to enjoy nature with your children, so get out there and have some fun!

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Time and Patients on the Mend!

It seems as though springtime has snuck up on us, and a little bit early to be honest. But both the REGI staff and the birds are enjoying it immensely.

We have quite a few birds who stay indoors for the winter, since they would typically have headed south during the cold season. We have been taking advantage of these warm temperatures and beautiful sunshine to bring them outdoors for a bit.

Photos above: One of our educational Turkey Vultures enjoys her perch on the fence. In the bottom photo you can see her displaying a very typical vulture behavior. They open up their wings to soak up the suns rays. It's like having your very own solar panel! And it helps them to bake off any nasty parasites that might try to make their feathers a home.

Photo above: Alberta, rehabilitator, takes of some of the weatherizing plastic off of a mew(bird enclosure). We here in Wisconsin know that winter may rear it's head again, but the less sensitive birds no longer need the extra thermal protection that the plastic wrap gives them.

Spring time is full of releases! We are preparing for release of a few of our patients currently.

Photo above: The little male Saw-whet Owl that you read about a couple of blogs back has graduated to a flight with other Saw-whets to prepare for release. He is much stronger than when he came in with pneumonia and internal bleeding just two weeks ago. He was flying all over the place when I stopped in to snap this photo. It won't be long before he is back where he belongs, in the wild!

Today is a big day for the Common Raven who came in to REGI in late fall with Avian Pox. It has been a slow healing process, but after lengthy supportive care and treatment he is ready for release. The raven was found and brought in by Bob Konopacky. Today Bob came to drive the raven back to his original territory.

Photos above: Rehabilitator, Katie Farvour, and Bob Conopacky get the raven all set up for his travel back home. The Common Raven patient, in his travel box, is all ready to go.

Photo above: This Red Crossbill came in over the winter hit by a car. After spending time in the indoor aviary during the most crucial healing time he has moved to the outdoor aviary, built for songbirds, to get those wings ready for release. In a few days he will be free to make a big migration and head back to the Arctic for the summer.

Happy early spring everyone!

Molly McKay
Director of Education

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Education Program Updates

Hello everyone. Molly and I have been busy the last few days with lots and lots of education programs. Last weekend we had a booth set up for Klondike Days in Eagle River. As always, it was great meeting the thousands of visitors who found their way to our booth.

Photo above: Director of Education, Molly McKay teaches a family of Klondike Days attendees about owls.

Photo above: This year at Klondike Days was the debut of our new and improved lead-free display. Our new educational poster, tackle box, and side show help teach people about the dangers of lead poisoning in wild birds. Not everyone knows that lead ammunition and lead sinkers are extremely dangerous to wildlife. We hope that through this display many more people are now aware of the problem and will make the voluntary switch to non-toxic hunting and fishing supplies.

Photo above: One of the new elements of our lead-free display is this wonderful tackle box filled with non-toxic tackle. This display allows people to see the wide variety of non-toxic tackle now available on the market. Glass, tungsten, bismuth, steel, tin, brass, and even natural limestone are some of the non-toxic materials now available in fishing tackle. Thank you to Jobber Lures, BossTin, RockyBrook Sinkers, and Tacklesmith for donating these excellent products.

We also did four programs on Tuesday in my home town of Marathon, WI. It was so fun to be back in the school I attended from Kindergarten through 8th grade. The students were wonderful and really made the birds feel at home. Thank you Marathon Area Elementary School!

Photo above: I am teaching the Marathon Area Elementary School students about the amazing adaptations of owls with help from our lovely Great Horned Owl.

This Wednesday was our last program of the season at the Wausau School Forest. This winter Molly and I have been giving programs for the 5th grade students there about twice a week. It has been so fun to meet the wonderful 5th graders from each of the schools around Wausau. I know that Molly and I are looking forward to heading down there again next winter!

Photo above: Molly teaches the 5th grade students at the Wausau School Forest about Barred Owls.

We have another program this Saturday, March 10th, at Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH). If you're looking for something fun to do with your kids or grandkids, bring them out to the SPASH Science Extravaganza in Stevens Point, WI. There will be hands-on activities, food, and fun. The event is taking place from 10 am to 2:30 pm and we will be doing a one-hour live bird presentation from 10:30 to 11:30 am. All ages are welcome. $3 admission supports the Stevens Point FFA. We hope to see you there!

Many of you are faithfully keeping our patients in your thoughts, and we thank you for that. I am pleased to say that everyone continues to improve.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Friday, March 2, 2012

Saw-whet Owl, Snowstorm, and Updates

Hello everyone! We have another patient and more updates for you!

Photo above: Our newest patient is a lovely little male Saw-whet Owl. This little guy is very lucky he had a friend in the landowner that took this photo. She realized something wasn't quite right and called for help. He is suffering from starvation and pneumonia and would not have lasted much longer without help. If you find a bird that is puffy-looking and very quiet, it is sick and needs help. It is likely he had a mate nearby, but he will miss out on breeding season this year.

Photo above: After a night on a heating pad with emaciation diet in his belly, he's beginning to perk up quite a bit. He still has a long way to go, but we are glad he appears to be feeling better.

I'm sure many of you reading right now have survived the "Snowpocalypse 2012" which arrived Wednesday morning and dumped something like 13 inches of wet, heavy snow on us here in Antigo. When it finally stopped snowing, cleanup began.

Photo above: Licensed Rehabilitators, Katie Farvour and Alberta Halfmann, and Assistant Rehabilitator, Brennan Rausch try to dig paths through the huge piles of snow. The snow is above their knees!

Photo above: I think REGI looks just lovely under a layer of fresh snow; although, I think we could have done without the snowbanks up to my chest!

Photo above: Even the resident chickens get special paths to walk through. They aren't bothered by the snow one bit, and I think they get a kick out of watching the humans dig, plow, and blow through all the snow.

I'd like to update you on Eagle #019 who arrived earlier in the week. He was anxious to get out of his box in the clinic so he was moved to the flight building. He instantly flew to the highest perches. That is great news because when he was found he wasn't able to fly at all.

Photo above: Eagle #019 happily standing on the highest perch in the flight building.

Photo above: I snapped a photo of the Snowy Owl in her larger mew. She is still not eating on her own, but she is digesting solid food.

I'm pleased to say that everyone else is doing well!

Molly and I will be at Klondike Days in Eagle river tomorrow and Sunday! You can come visit us and meet our lovely birds. I have the van all packed up so all we have to do in the morning is gather our feathered educators and head out. We will be on the road before the rooster crows! Is that dedication or what ;)

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator