This guest blog post is a short paper on an ongoing research project. Enter the world of creating and executing a research project. The authors describe their set up, the frustrating lack of initial results, and changes made to improve the study. I’m looking forward to seeing what this year will bring! – Kai
Guest writers Halley Buckanoff BS, CVT, CWR and Lynn J. Moseley, BS, PhD
The Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (VHS WRC) at the North Carolina Zoo, in partnership with faculty at Guilford College, has been conducting a post-release survival study of commonly rehabilitated backyard, non-migratory songbirds for four years to date. A search of the literature revealed few studies on post-release survival and/or behavior of hand-reared and rehabilitated songbirds (Berger 1966; Dunning 1988; Ferguson and Ludwig 1991). Anecdotal comments suggest that the behavior of hand-reared wild birds is sometimes distinguishable from that of their parent-reared counterparts as they act inappropriately for their sex or species, are unafraid of humans and/or continue to come to humans for food.
Seven species of birds were chosen for the study based on admission numbers at the VHS WRC and the potential for re-sighting released birds near feeders or around homes. All have non-migratory populations in North Carolina. The species chosen were American Robins (Turdus migratorius, AMRO), Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata, BLJA), Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus, CARW), Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis, EABL), Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura, MODO), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis, NOCA) and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus, RBWO).
All study birds were admitted in their hatch year at fledgling stage or younger, and were hand-raised within the guidelines of the VHS WRC by trained staff, volunteers, and interns following standardized protocols for veterinary care as needed, husbandry, nutrition, and pre-release conditioning.
Prior to release, birds were banded with a numbered metal band and three colored bands in a unique combination for specific identification of individuals. Bird-banding is regulated by the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) and requires a federal permit; both authors possess federal licenses for bird-banding.
All post-release data was compiled through periodic observations of banded birds. If a released bird was re-sighted, we recorded behavioral data according to the following categories: Feeding (F), preening/bathing (P/B), carrying nesting material (CNM), resting (R), other comments (O). If feeding was observed, we noted whether it occurred at an established feeder. We also recorded whether the bird was with other banded or non-banded birds. We used this information to help determine whether a released bird demonstrated appropriate species-specific affiliations.
During 2010, the study’s first year, we attempted to engage the public to be “Citizen Scientists” and participate in the study. Birds were predominately released by the person who had rescued the bird and brought it to the VHS WRC. Birds were transported to their original capture site in vented paper bags and hard released. A total of 43 birds were banded with metal and color bands and released (Table 1). Unfortunately, no members of the public who released the birds reported any data, and upon inquiry the participants stated that they had not looked vigilantly for the banded birds.
Table 1. Species of birds and numbers of individuals of each species rehabilitated, banded, released, and re-sighted in each year of this study.
|YEAR||AMRO||BLJA||CARW||EABL||MODO||NOCA||RBWO||TOTALS||# birds resighted|
The following year, in 2011, Volunteers/Interns at the VSH WRC conducted releases. Birds were again transported in vented paper bags to appropriate habitats and hard released. A total of 42 birds were metal and color banded and released (Table 1). But, once again no data was acquired due to lack of surveying for released birds.
In 2012, study birds were released and monitored by the two authors only, and only at two locations. Sites chosen offered suitable habitat for study birds (those species had been observed routinely at each site) and could be easily monitored. Feeders were maintained at both locations. In the first half of the season birds were transported in vented paper bags and hard released; at the second half of the season birds were transported in Exo Terra Explorariums® soft-sided hanging enclosures.
The enclosures were hung in visual distance of a feeder and left, depending on time of day, several hours to overnight. The door to the enclosure was then unzipped and the birds were allowed to leave at their own will. We referred to this release type as pseudo-soft release.
Of the 28 banded and released birds, one pseudo-soft released Northern Cardinal was repeatedly observed for 5 months post release. The ethogram results suggest that it exhibited appropriate behaviors for a normal wild bird.
Due to the encouraging results of 2012, the same techniques were used in 2013. Of the 45 birds banded and released, five Carolina Wrens (CARW) were seen repeatedly (Table 1). The first 4 CARW were released as a group and were seen on an almost daily basis for up to 3 months. The activity log included reports of interactions with non-banded CAWR, feeding at feeders as well as foraging in brush, and bathing/preening The birds gave alarm calls when observers approached. The fifth wren was released at another date approximately 10 weeks later with another group of CARW and was seen almost daily for up to a month. Ethogram comments were the same as for the four wrens released earlier, but also included molting, at which time it was caught by a dog and succumbed.
This study is still in its early stages, as we continue to refine our techniques, and does not have enough data for statistical analysis at this point. However, as our techniques improve, we hope to increase the number of resightings, and possibly to include telemetry in the future. We believe that understanding the impacts of hand-rearing songbirds on their post-release survival will provide critical information for wildlife rehabilitators, and may serve to test the effectiveness of different techniques for successfully raising songbirds.
Berger, A.J. 1966. Survival in the wild of hand-reared passerine birds. Condor 68:304-305.
Dunning, J.B. 1988. Significant encounters with marked birds. North American Bird Bander 13: 110-112.
Ferguson, Bruce and Daniel R. Ludwig. 1991. Post-release behavior of captive-reared American Robins (Turdus migratorius). Wildlife Rehabilitation 9: 193-205.
Explorarium®, Exo Terra, Rolf C. Hagen (U.S.A.) Corp., Mansfield, MA. 02048
Halley D. Buckanoff, BS, CVT, CWR
Halley is the Lead Veterinary Technician at the North Carolina Zoo’s Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center overseeing rehabilitation practices, center operations, and volunteers/interns. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. She is a Certified Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of emergency, exotic, zoo and wildlife medicine and husbandry experience. She has completed graduate level course work in animal population management and animal nutrition. She has worked as field biologist mist-netting, trapping, banding, tracking and radio-collaring birds. She is also the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s North American Regional Studbook Keeper for Perodicticus potto (a small African monkey). She became a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator in 2009 and has been a contract instructor for IWRC since 2010.
Lynn J. Moseley, B.S., Ph.D.
Lynn is Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She teaches courses in Ornithology, Animal Behavior, and Vertebrate Field Zoology, among others. She received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary, and her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her main areas of interest include social behavior and communication of vertebrates, especially birds, and behavioral ecology.
Welcome Kim Poisson and Kelly Donithan, recent additions to the IWRC Board. Kelly has been on the board since November, when she was appointed by the 2013 board to finish out a departing member’s term. Kim joined the board January 6th, elected by the IWRC membership. She will serve a three year term.
Kelly is currently the Wildlife Rescue Program Officer for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, based at the international headquarters on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. IFAW’s wildlife rescue projects span the globe and include grizzly bear cub rescue and rehabilitation in Canada, orphan brown bear rehabilitation in Russia, Amur tiger rehabilitation in Russia’s Far East, raptor rehabilitation in China, an elephant orphanage in Zambia, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in India, and rescue and sanctuary placement of displaced big cats in the U.S. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and a Master’s of Science in Conservation Medicine from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. During her graduate studies, she completed a case study on the health and conservation concerns of international wildlife trade and investigated zoonotic disease risks at U.S exotic animal auctions. At IFAW, Kelly is also looking at the welfare concerns of live wildlife seized from trade and the potential of increasing rehabilitation and release efforts of such animals when feasible. She has been involved with wildlife rehabilitation and care in Arizona, Florida, and New England.
Kim Poisson, CWR
Kimberly Poisson is the executive director of A2 Raptor Rescue, a non-profit organization in Washtenaw County. A life long Michigan native, she resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and three children.
The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association are proud to bring the annual IWRC Symposium to Cincinnati, OH December 1 to 6, 2014.
This symposium provides a platform to discuss how wildlife rehabilitators, researchers, legislators and conservationists can work together to promote the survival of species at risk of extinction. Each surviving individual in a declining population carries a greater proportion of the genetic heritage of that population. We as rehabilitators assist in the survival of these individuals and so can contribute to the conservation of endangered species. Join us in Cincinnati and become part of the discussion.
~Dedicated to the memory of Martha, the last passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorious) on the 100th anniversary of her death.
The abstract should include:
- ABSTRACT (Summary of the presentation in 250 words or less)
- BRIEF BIOGRAPHY (100 words)
- TYPE OF PRESENTATION e.g. Paper, round table, workshop
- PROPOSED DURATION OF PRESENTATION
Presentations can be one of the following:
Paper presentation – 45 minutes
Round table – 90 minutes to 2 hours
*Workshop (class) 2 – 4 hours *deadline is March 31, 2014
The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2014
Please submit your Abstract to Kai Williams email@example.com
Recently, IWRC was able to interview Rebecca Dmytryk on the new animal rescue app, WildHelp she is working on:
IWRC: The description on kickstarter mentions that the app will provide safety tips and basic instruction on first aid to help save the animals life. Does this take into account the fact that most people that find injured wildlife don’t have any experience in animal first aid?
Dmytryk: Most people who find a wild animal in trouble will have little experience handling wildlife and for their safety and the welfare of the animal they should keep their hands off. There will, however, be instances when a very basic, very simple thing can help extend the life of an animal until it reaches a professional. For example, placing a cold hatchling on a warm rice-sock in a small cardboard box could save its life.
IWRC: What type of additional information will be given to the finder after the data has been sent besides basic first aid information? And will it be general information or specific to the type of animal and injury?
Dmytryk: Depending on the information the user gives, the app will respond with information specific to the type of animal or situation. If it’s a beached seal or sea lion for example, the app will offer the user tips on what not to do, instructing them not to pour water or sand on the animal or chase it back into the water, explaining that these animals haul out of the water to rest and get warm. If it seems the user is reporting an uninjured fledgling, the app will provide information on this stage in a bird’s development.
IWRC: If the finder of the animal is, for some reason, not able to identify what type of animal it is or what type of injury it has sustained, will there be a list of people/organizations that the finder can contact in order to better classify the type of animal/injury?
Dmytryk: The app will offer very basic questions, starting out with identifying what type of animal it is. After making the basic selection between bird, mammal, marine mammal, reptile or amphibian, the user is asked to refine their answer down to the species if they know it, or they can skip along to the next question. As for the animal’s condition, here, too, the user can provide details if they’re able to, or skip forward. Let’s say the user gave a very general description of an injured bird about the size of a football, then the app will still route them to the nearest wildlife hospitals or nearby responders.
IWRC: If the initial goal amount is reached, how long do you expect it will take to complete the database of first responders and wildlife professionals before the app can be launched?
Dmytryk: The database of wildlife response organizations, and categorizing them, is what will take time. The more we raise, the faster we can produce it. If all goes well, we should have this up and running by February, in time for the 2014 season. If we don’t reach our initial goal in pledges, we get nothing – we’ll have no money to complete the app’s development, so we really need people to make those pledges, even if it’s only $1., and then spread the word far and wide. I feel confident that if enough people know about it, we’ll be successful. People want this.
IWRC: Were there any experiences you or someone you know went through that inspired the creation of this app? And if so, how would this app have helped or improved the situation of the finder and of the injured animal?
Dmytryk: I’ve been involved in wildlife rescue and rehabilitaton since the earl 1980s, and back then this was an issue. It’s not like the system is broken, there’s never been anything in place to help people connect with wildlife experts. There has always been a major gap – a missing link. You know, you have 911 for people emergencies and animal control and police handle domestic animal calls, but injured wildlife? Unless the animal is a threat to public health and safety, it seems like the calls just slip through the cracks. We sure hear about it though – the wildlife hotline operators – don’t we? Just about every caller tells me of the difficulties they had in finding the right number, and such delays can be costly. Last year, a woman tried desperately to find help for an injured goose. It had line around its leg. Calling various agencies, she kept getting the runaround, until, get this, three months later she finally got through to an organization that helped rescue the bird. By then, though, it was too late. The bird lost its leg. Its life. So preventable. If she’d had the WildHelp app, the bird would have been saved in time.
I hope the rehabilitation community sees this as a valuable tool and supports its development. Remember, pledges through Kickstarter are just that – promises – no money exchanges hands until we are successful at reaching our goal. That’s when backers will be asked to make good on the amount they pledged. Safe and securely through Amazon Payments.
The Wildlife Health Event Reporter – A Surveillance and Communication Tool
Wildlife can be effective sentinels that alert us to potential health hazards and environmental concerns, but information about sick/injured/dead wildlife need to be reported and shared in a timely manner for professionals to evaluate and determine if response is warranted. The Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER), www.wher.org, developed by the Wildlife Data Integration Network (WDIN) and maintained by University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine, not only provides a destination for observations of sick/injured/dead wild animals, but also functions as an alerting system, quickly distributing these reports to those who are signed up to receive them. Since 2010, the system has been collecting reports from the public, citizen groups, wildlife rehabilitators and other wildlife professional organizations and is building a long-term dataset of wildlife morbidity and mortality event data.
Get Alerts! Stay Informed about Emerging Events
Did you hear about the multiple seabird mortality events that were reported along the US’ East coastline beginning in January 2013? An unusual number of dead/injured dovekies, razorbills and grebes have been reported along the US’ Northeast coast; while puffins and loons are being reported along the East coast from Florida to Maine. If you were subscribed to alerts through the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER), you would know about these occurrences as well as future unfolding events.
Alerts can be delivered daily by email (when reports are available) or in near-real time as an RSS feed. In addition, you can choose what geographic locations (by state or equivalent administrative unit) you want alerts from (e.g. Wisconsin, United States; Alberta, Canada; or Hunan Province, China). Or if you’re interested, you can select to receive all the reports made to WHER from around the globe.
Alerts include summary information about the wildlife health event, including the location, species involved, how many of each species were observed to be dead, sick and alive, and what actions were taken. To learn more and to sign up for alerts, visit: http://feeds.wher.org
Wildlife Health Observation Network for Data Exchange
Due to the health consequences of emerging diseases in wildlife and their potential effects on human and domestic animal populations, the collection of wildlife health data is increasing not only through professional monitoring efforts but also through citizen science projects. Despite this increase, the data often is not standardized nor formatted for distribution (e.g. as XML web services or RSS feeds) and therefore cannot be easily integrated or shared effectively across political or academic boundaries for practical surveillance applications or scholarly research.
In addition to functioning as a data collection application and alerting system for wildlife health events, WHER is also an open data exchange hub capable of importing, exporting and integrating basic but essential data fields from more complex datasets for epidemiologic study.
The WHER team works with organizations who are interested in sharing their surveillance data with WHER to help them automate the delivery process that will integrate pertinent data with WHER’s dataset. Currently WHER is integrating data from multiple sources. In addition to the public sharing their wildlife health observations through WHER, the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET), a citizen science effort that tasks trained volunteers to record seabird deaths and injuries along the Atlantic coastline, pushes their reports to WHER through an automated feed. HealthMap is also providing a feed of its wildlife health reports made through its mobile application, Outbreaks Near Me. In the near future, through a southeastern pilot study, US Fish and Wildlife Service field staff and other conservation partners will be submitting their wildlife health observations to WHER.
As a hub, WHER can exchange and integrate wildlife health data either within the WHER system (e.g. view joined data on maps or tables) or in a user’s local system (e.g. WHER data can be streamed or downloaded for analysis in outside systems) to evaluate for trends or investigate potential disease hot spots.
We Work Better When We Work Together
The ecology of wildlife disease is complex and poses many challenges to effective disease management, which can be best overcome through collaboration that leverages resources, reduces duplication of efforts and broadens access to information about disease events. WHER can facilitate communication and collaboration about emerging wildlife health events. It was developed to collect and distribute wildlife health data, and complement other organizations’ surveillance systems. Whether you are interested in contributing or obtaining WHER data, you are invited to become a member of the WHER community. Increase your awareness about wildlife disease and health events and your ability to work with others to address the challenges of wildlife disease!
Want to Learn More about WHER?
Your are invited to check out this online wildlife health surveillance and communication tool at www.wher.org and explore its capabilities to inform you about where wildlife disease incidences are occurring on the ground through maps, tables, downloadable data and alerts. Email comments and questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
● Use case of how WHER is being used for tracking and communicating unusual bird mortalities as described above, http://seanetters.wordpress.com/tag/reporting-dead-birds/
● How to get report alerts from WHER – http://feeds.wher.org
● Handout [benefits and proposed enhancements] – http://www.wdin.org/documents/wher/wher%20handout_biologists.pdf
● Two- minute overview video – http://www.whmn.org/wher/pages/about#video
We are pleased to announce the new board members voted in by the membership in December of 2012. Continuing board members Brenda Harms and Melissa Matassa-Stone were also voted to the board. But for the moment, lets concentrate on our three new members.
Kristen Heitman is a full-time bird and mammal. rehabilitator, specializing in waterfowl. Her passionate connection to this field began in 1999 and in 2002 she founded the non-profit, Providence Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc., and continues as their director. With Providence’s 13 education birds, Kristen and her staff provide outreach conservation programs across Indiana.
Kristen took the 1AB Basic Wildlife course in 2005 and became a CWR in March 2007. Kristen has been a board member, Communications Chair, and newsletter editor for IWREN (Indiana Wildlife Rehabilitators and Educators Network).
Kristen is guided by a strong commitment to furthering the mission and goals of the IWRC, to promoting the organization and its members to even greater excellence. She relays her passion through extreme dedication and tenacity, and would like to lend her detail-oriented organizational skills toward these ends.
Steve’s professional career spans 40 years of public service, including service in the United States Army and a 30 year career in law enforcement. An avid fisherman and hunter, wildlife has been an important part of his life since early childhood. With his wife’s encouragement, both began rehabilitating birds at Wild Bird Rescue, Inc. in Wichita Falls, Texas. Steve attended Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation in Houston, Texas, and later attained his Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator credential. He served on the Board of Directors for WBR and was instrumental in the success of several fundraising activities, as well as the wildscaping and beautification of the facilities. He is a member of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, a life member of the Sierra Club, an Associate Member of the John Muir Society, and a member of the Audubon Society.
Steve envisions IWRC moving forward by broadening its participation in wildlife conservation and preservation through mutual cooperation with similarly minded organizations. He wants to stimulate interest and increase new membership in IWRC. He foresees the IWRC serving as a clearinghouse for knowledge between experienced wildlife rehabilitators and the scientific community with the goal of assuring wildlife their place in the circle of life.
Amanda Cyr currently resides in Wausau, Wisconsin where she serves as the wildlife rehabilitation/captive wildlife liaison for the State of Wisconsin. She has a bachelor’s of science degree in biology with minors in captive wildlife management and conservation biology from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and a master’s degree in wildlife also from UW Stevens Point. Amanda discovered wildlife rehabilitation as an undergraduate student, and since then she has found numerous ways to stay involved in this field. She started as an intern one summer, which led to future internships, volunteering, and other employment opportunities in wildlife rehabilitation. In addition to wildlife rehabilitation, Amanda is particularly interested in studying wildlife health and disease. She strives to work within the wildlife rehabilitation community to promote networking and collaboration, encourage continuing education, and support research opportunities. She believes teamwork is an important key to success, and aspires to be a part of that team and encourage others to also promote and protect wildlife conservation.
In the US, it’s fairly common to see whitetailed and blacktailed deer, coyotes, and all sorts of mesopredators in and around the city. A recent National Geographic article mentioned the increased urban appearance of apex predators like cougars. The article made me think “what does this mean for rehab”? My only experience with an apex in the city had a tragic end. It was a timber wolf that was shot for being too close to a mall. How can rehabilitators assist in preventing human wildlife conflict with this new influx of predators?
Here are some thoughts from IWRC members:
Ned Bruha: The article in Nat Geo, just like their TV programming, is following suit with so many others who have the power to help instead of hinder animals. They have found that If they talk about, film, and add drama to wildlife dilemmas, they make more money. Wildlife and larger predators will always adapt and overcome. If you feed them, they will come.
Rehabilitators will continue to do gratis rehabilitation to “nuisance” and federally protected animals with personal and donated money, while the state and fed wildlife dollars will continue to go towards anything but helping wildlife that is in true need of rehabilitation. Because of this, it is even more important to screen calls to see if animals truly do need a rehabber’s assistance… those first 3 young raccoons sure look cute and inviting in the spring, but how much time and money can you save by explaining to the caller how to keep them with their real mother? The same goes with calls from people afraid about larger predators. Many times, they are raiding garbage cans, hunting at bird feeders and eating pet food left outdoors along with the cat or dog at the outdoor food bowl – often times, these are avoidable situations.
Kevin Bertoli: There is no way we can stop the influx of wild animals into our neighborhoods, short of our own retreat from THEIR habitat. I don’t see that happening, so it is inevitable that they will continue to be destroyed. Rehabbers can assist in slowing this process if they work in conjunction with their local Wildlife Officers and assist in either notifying them, or working with local law enforcement to quickly incorporate sedation and humane removal when a threat arises. This would mean organizing local vets, animal control, wildlife officials and those able to keep the necessary drugs and equipment on hand ready for immediate response.
By Sam Williams – reposted with author permission from Word Parrot Trust
A few Mondays ago we got a call that another parrot had bounced off a car. Normally we’d expect a parakeet, a broken wing or both but this call came from Jim and Jane who sponsor Echo so it was definitely going to be a parrot. Sam headed over but was still in for a surprise. It was an unweaned parrot chick who had had a lucky escape, he was knocked about but otherwise ok. Except he had lost his parents. The story has a happy ending so do read on. Jane has given us permission to share her nice email and she tells the story well:
“On Monday evening after you left, when the parrots came through on the way back to the roost two of them stopped in the tree out front. Junior was on the wall in the carrier and we opened the door to it hoping their chatter would cause him to talk back and maybe fly to them. He was still very frightened and I think Mom and Dad were a bit intimidated by the carrier. They moved on back to the roost. We put Junior to bed once the sun went down, he could barely keep his eyes open he was so exhausted from all the “trauma” I think.
So then as you suggested we got up about 15 minutes before sunrise on Tuesday and sat on the porch with Junior in the carrier waiting to hear the group of parrots that usually come through. We first heard them about 6:30 and Jim put Junior back on the wall. BUT…this time we had the idea to take the entire top off the carrier, it was then just essentially an open box, as we thought this would be a little less fearsome for Mom and Dad and for Junior too (particularly if they could sense that Junior was in a CAT CARRIER!!!) Even with the top off, Junior was still all huddled in a corner of it. AND THEN, within about 5 minutes Mom and Dad showed up in the same tree out front and started talking. Junior’s head popped up over the side of the box, he gave a little shout. Mom and Dad started talking louder and Junior hopped up onto the edge of the box and answered. Next thing you know he flew to them and the three of them flew off together after a quick burst of what I like to think of as “thank you”. It was just delightful to see them reunited.
They teach children in the U.S. that if you lose your Mom and Dad you should always go back to the place that you last saw them because that is where they will look for you. I guess the same lesson is taught to Bonaire parrot children too!
Thanks again for all your assistance and advice in facilitating this happy reunion.”
Sam works with ECHO. Please check out the wonderful work they do on Bonaire!