February 1 is the due date for wildlife rehabilitators to submit their annual reports (something I noticed on January 31, but that’s another story). So my tally for last summer (May-July) was 69 birds, of which I managed to release 45. Like previous summers, I had a ton of robins (30) and a fair number of jays (10). For me the exciting development was rehabbing crows (6) and branching out into other species such as woodpeckers and flickers.
In a couple of weeks I’m supposed to speak at an event to recruit new rehabbers. It’s hard to explain why having dozens of yammering songbird chicks who do nothing but eat, squawk, and poop in one’s house is a good idea, but somehow it is. Because who wouldn’t want pinkie mice in the freezer or mealworms in a bucket next to the washing machine? Hmmm…..
Some of them are sort of cute. And they all have personalities, even if ornery or demanding is their characteristic of choice.
At least songbirds do useful things like eat bugs. The nutcracker (a corvid, of course) hides tens of thousands of pine nuts every summer and remembers where most of them are even months later. The seeds that the birds don’t retrieve serve to replenish the North American pine forests.
And yet there are people who rehab squirrels, bunnies, and even raccoons—which is bit loony because they are rabies vector species and so anyone who wants to rehab them has to go through a series of shots for about $700.
So why do it? Maybe because helping these creatures is a low-cost way to make the world a tiny bit better and to defy nature’s indifference. Setting a bird free that would have otherwise not survived tells the random universe that it’s not entirely in charge.
Or maybe we’ve all just lost our minds.