What’s Best for the Bird

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Many well-intentioned people believe they know how to care for wild animals, but as you’re about to see, good intentions can sometimes lead to cruel results.

Some people think that if they find a baby animal, they can raise it on their own. However, it’s very rare that these situations have positive outcomes. In fact, without proper training and licensing, doing so may result in criminal charges. Think about this: you see someone get struck by a car, you bring them inside, run an internet search on what to do, and then you perform surgery based on the information you gleaned in your internet search. We don’t have to take this any further – I can already see your head shaking, “I would never do such a thing.”  So why would we think that animals would be any different?  Every animal has its own biochemicophysiology, and veterinarians not only spend years in university learning veterinary science, they then specialize their focus on certain species, requiring even more intense study and experiences.

At the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, it’s a heartbreaking experience to see the pain and anguish that well-meaning humans have put some birds through; birds that were born healthy, but because of limited understanding or an assumption of knowledge, are actually putting these beautiful creatures through immense pain and suffering. Oftentimes, we are unable to save them because of irreversible damage, and we have no other choice than to humanely euthanize. (At left: A broken wing from being in a wire cage that was way too small. This bird will never fly again.)

In their own words

The following are some examples from our licensed wildlife rehabilitators, in their own words:

  • “The birds are usually healthy babies but by the time they are turned over to us they are malnourished, imprinted, and on the verge of death (which is the only reason people bring them to us at all). It is devastating to receive birds knowing if you had received them a month before, they would be on their way to release. Instead, we have to watch them die or make hard decisions such as euthanizing them.”
  • “I’ve had most birds raised by people come in with almost no tail feathers, due to small wire caging and the breaking of their delicate feathers.”
  • “I have seen baby grackles fed only watermelon for a week, baby Mockingbirds fed meatballs, pigeons fed hamburgers for six months, all types of birds being fed rice and/or oatmeal.”
  • “I have seen people give birds bread and cow’s milk!” (No birds feed their young bread and milk. Babies cannot drink liquid, as it can cause them to aspirate and drown, and bread inside a bird’s esophagus can expand and choke the bird to death.)
  • “I once explained to someone that baby owls eat mice, and she scoffed at me claiming she always assumed they drank milk.”

Now, our intention here is not for this article to be a heavy and sad reading experience, but rather to share our experiences in the hopes that we can help educate others – people who, most often, genuinely care and want to help. (At right: this bird was held captive and fed a diet of only hamburger and eggs. The degenerative malnutrition is obvious.)

Here’s what you can do

The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is staffed with trained, experienced wildlife rehabilitation and education specialists, and shares their experiences with an impressive network of similar organizations, veterinary scientists, specialists and universities around the world.

Keep Them Flying

The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center provides emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you see a baby bird or an injured adult bird, please contact us at (305) 852-4486 and let our trained, experienced wildlife rehabilitation specialists help you assess the situation and determine the best and most appropriate course of action.


FKWBC Team, 2015

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