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Lesson for those who feed birds

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Photo courtesy Brenda Miller This sharp shinned hawk was injured, probably from flying into a window while hunting. It was ultimately put down due to the injuries to its wing and shoulder.

Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue received a call Saturday from Amy Seglund of Colorado Parks and Wildlife about an injured sharp shinned hawk found on the ground at the Prestige Building by Montrose High School. Amy and Brenda Miller (volunteer licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator) met up at the Morningstar Vet clinic shortly thereafter where the hawk was warmed up, and then X-rayed.

The sharpy most likely hit a window while it was hunting songbirds around a feeder. These hawks are numerous in Montrose, attracted by all the songbirds, especially starlings and pigeons. It is important we have these birds around to keep the starling and pigeon populations in check. If people would quit feeding the birds, we would not have near the numbers of hawks and songbirds slamming into windows and injuring themselves.

During the winter, the sun is low in the sky, causing reflections off windows. The birds' vision may be temporarily blinded as they pass through the reflection, and windows reflect the outdoors, making the space appear as an opening to more habitat. If people insist on feeding the birds, feeders need to be hung far away from a building -- never on a building! Feeders must be taken down and washed in hot water, soap and bleach once a week, rinsed well, and thoroughly dried before loading with seed and putting back outdoors. The feeder should never be put back in the same place.

It is not natural for wildlife to congregate day after day in the same place to feed. When birds gather at feeders, they drop feces, urine, blood, saliva -- bodily fluids build up in one place, making a perfect medium for spreading disease. Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed salmonella in Delta County this past August, which carried into fall until the cold weather kills a lot of the bacteria off. Salmonella can live in soil and overwinter. Hundreds of birds die of salmonella when these outbreaks occur. It causes diarrhea, which causes dehydration, so the birds quickly die a miserable death. Salmonella is spread at birdfeeders! If you have just cleaned your feeder, and 15 minutes later a sick bird shows up to feed -- disease is spread!

If you want to feed the birds, the best thing you can do for them is to plant things that they eat. Brenda Miller of RRWR states she always plants extra of everything in her garden, then lets a lot of it go to seed. In the fall especially she has watched all kinds of migrating birds come through, hanging out in the garden for a while, eating healthy food. People need to remember chemical fertilizers are used to raise corn and other grains used in bird seed feed. A lot of precious water goes into raising these crops, and herbicides are used to kill weeds in and around the fields. Pesticides are also used to kill the bugs that feed on these crops.

Many thanks to Dr. Bettye Hooley and her staff at the Morningstar vet clinic who volunteer their services to help wildlife, Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue, the public and CPW. Thank you, Amy Seglund, for dropping what you were doing to go catch the bird and meet Brenda at the clinic. The sharpy was put down by Brenda due to its wing being broken near the elbow joint, which could not be repaired. When bones heal near a joint, they calcify over, interfering with the movement of the joint -- the bird still cannot fly. There was also injury to the shoulder. It was a young hawk with excellent weight on -- obviously a very successful hunter.

Roubideau Rim Wildlife Rescue, 501(c)(3) non-profit can be reached at 970-209-5946, by email at rrwildliferehab@gmail.com or by mail at P.O. Box 750, Olathe, CO 81425.

Wildlife rehabilitation in Colorado is all volunteer. If you are interested in becoming a wildlife rehabber, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website, click on Special Licensing, then click "Wildlife Rehabilition." Feel free to contact Brenda Miller if you have any questions.

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