2019 at the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation

by Grae O’Toole
Lead Wildlife Keeper

Northern Saw-whet Owl

It has certainly been a busy year! Many may remember that our intake total was a record-breaking 652 patients in 2018. But move over, 2018 – the VINS Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation received 705 total patients in 2019.

I attribute our increased numbers primarily to the winter and early spring.  Winter songbirds like the Pine Grosbeak and Bohemian Waxwing were a few notable patients received in the first half of the year. These birds are not often brought to VINS, and the year’s scarcity of food in their northern habitats likely forced them to venture to Vermont for more food.

young Belted Kingfishers

Though winter songbird intakes were a bit more than expected, what really kept us busy was the influx of Barred Owls received in January, February, and March.  We received 77 Barred Owls this past year. To put it into perspective, we only received 44 Barred Owls in 2018.  The weather overall was just too wet and icy for our feathered friends to hunt properly.  Owls can hear their prey under the snow and can usually punch through the snow pack to capture their food. This past winter there was so much ice built up that it made it impossible to break through to the snow for some owls.  As a result, we received many emaciated birds that were struck by vehicles more often because they were more willing to put themselves in harms way to find food.

Listed below are our top 7 patients for the year.  As you can see it was the year of the American Robin! Robins actually made up 32% of the baby birds we dealt with this past summer. Some other well-represented species were Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (13 patients), Red-eyed Vireo (13 patients), Song Sparrow (13 patients), and Hooded Merganser (13 patients).

1. American Robin (98 patients)
2. Barred Owl (77 patients)
3. Mourning Dove (39 patients)
4. European Starling (37 patients)
5. Rock Dove (35 patients)
6. Cedar Waxwing (23 patients)
7. Eastern Phoebe (15 patients)

More noteworthy patients this year included: a group of Mergansers and Wood Ducks that we raised from little hatchlings to full adults; a ruffed grouse chick that came in at just 12 g (less than 1/2 an ounce!) and was released full grown and not imprinted; Belted Kingfisher fledglings that were raised to release; and a fledgling woodcock that was raised to release. I’m especially proud of these cases because these birds require a lot of care, and get stressed in a rehab setting very easily. The fact that we were able to raise to release is a great accomplishment that could not have been possible without the efforts of the CWBR staff this summer. A few rarer patients included a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2 fledgling American Bitterns, a monstrously huge Bald Eagle, a Greater Shearwater, and a few Common and Red-throated Loons.

And, let us not forget the new arrivals to our Exhibit and Education teams. In 2019 we added 10 new birds to the VINS family: Paige the Harris’s Hawk, Ferrisburgh the American Kestrel, Fairchance and West Virginia our elusive new Eastern Screech Owls, Erie our gorgeous, female Northern Harrier, Addison and Ottercreek our Blue Jays, and Barre, Rutland, and Hanover our exhibit Bohemian Waxwing, Northern Cardinal, and Pine Grosbeak!

Last but not least, CWBR completed a renovation of our entire building this past spring.  Without the extra space the renovation supplied we would not have been able to handle the amount of intakes we received this summer.  Staff and volunteers are so happy to utilize the new space and we are slowly making it homey for staff, volunteers, and birds alike.

Thank you to all VINS staff, volunteers, and members for helping support CWBR this past year.  It really has been a whirlwind and I am excited to see what 2020 brings.

Contact blog@vinsweb.org with questions or comments.