It’s time, people. Baby season is in full swing and residents of Northern Virginia are swiping baby birds left and right. Here is a typical conversation I have with “helpful” members of the public:
Cell phone: ring, ring
Caller: Is this the mumble, mumble Wildlife something mumble?
Me: I’m a rehabber. How can I help?
Caller: I found a baby bird. Can you come get it?
Me: What makes you think the bird is in trouble?
Caller: It can’t fly.
Me: Does it have feathers?
Me: It’s probably a fledgling. Leave it alone. Birds leave the nest before they can fly. By dispersing the chicks, the parents increase the chances that some of their offspring will survive. If they stay together, one predator can wipe out the entire nest. The babies spend a few days on the ground figuring out aerodynamics. Their parents are watching over them. It’s fine.
Caller: I can’t see the parents. It’s been abandoned.
Me: The parents will only come around when there are no people present, so that makes sense.
Caller: But when I go near it, it makes little peeping sounds. It’s hungry.
Me: I’m sure it is. Leave it be and the parents will feed it.
Caller: It’s injured. It’s hopping on one leg.
Me: [looking back into the mists of time when I played hopscotch as a kid. Yup. Hopping involved locomotion on one leg. Two legs = long jump; one leg = hop.] That’s normal.
Caller: [producing the irrefutable argument]: It’s dangerous on the ground. The neighbor’s cat will get it.
Me: [knowing better than to suggest keeping the cat inside for a few days] That’s possible but the parents are watching it and it can hide in the bushes. It’s much better off where it is. I can feed it and keep it safe, but I can’t teach it to be a bird. Only the parents can do that. Please leave it alone.
Caller: But it’s not safe. [Insert lamentation about cats, dogs, foxes, darkness, rain, cold, zombies here].
Me: [snapping because I’m tired of having this stupid conversation]: Yeah, that’s possible. It may get eaten. It happens. Circle of Life and all that. Just leave the bird alone.
Caller: Is there someone else I can talk to?
To Recap: If the bird looks like this, leave it alone.
If you look around, you will probably see Mom and Dad.
If a crow looks like this, you may pick it up and bring it to a rehabber.