Thursday, September 17, 2009
Firemen assist with bird rescue
The Holly Springs Fire Department came to the rescue on Sunday.
While fire departments are sometimes called to rescue stranded cats in trees, this time it was a bird that needed help.
Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation (MWR) is an annual participant in the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center’s Hummingbird Migration Festival and displays a variety of birds of prey that are used in their education programs. On Sunday MWR was showing a new education bird, a small bird of prey known as a Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis), when it accidentally escaped from its handler’s hand. The bird flew across the lawn to a large hickory tree and was perched approximately 75 feet high. Unfortunately the bird was wearing leather straps and a short leash when it took off. After a few minutes, the bird flew to another nearby tree, going even higher. This time the bird’s leash became tangled on the tree limb making it impossible for the bird to fly anywhere.
The staff at Strawberry Plains contacted the Holly Springs Fire Department for assistance and they came to the bird’s rescue. After maneuvering the large ladder truck through the festival activities, Kenny Holbrook with the Fire Department lifted Kate Friedman, MWR’s education director, up through the trees and was able to get her within a few inches of the bird. Friedman untied the bird from the tree limb and the two were lowered to the ground safely.
Mississippi kites are graceful, long-winged raptors that feed primarily on insects. They migrate to South America in the fall and return to North America in the spring to nest. This particular bird was a juvenile at only 5 months old and was not releasable because it was imprinted on people. Normally, imprinting occurs when young birds first open their eyes and identify with the parent birds that are bringing food to the nest. When a young bird of prey is presented to wildlife rehabilitators, rehabilitators cover their faces during feeding time so the bird does not identify with people instead of its own species. As a hatchling, this particular bird fell from the nest and was fed for two weeks by the individual who found the bird. Unfortunately, the finder did not know to cover his face and the bird imprinted on people, meaning that it could never be released. Imprinted birds do not recognize their own species and are unable to hunt for themselves. They are non-releasable because they starve to death without hunting skills.
According to Friedman, “If the bird escaped without the leash it would have starved to death within a week or two because it is imprinted. But since the bird escaped wearing a leash which became tangled on the tree limb, it would have died within a day or two from stress and dehydration. We cannot thank the fire department enough and we will be taking steps from this day on to ensure that this does not happen again.”
MWR is also thankful to the staff at Strawberry Plains for their assistance.
“The staff at Strawberry Plains was so helpful and we really appreciate everything they did to assist in recovering this little kite,” said Valery Smith, MWR’s executive director.
MWR is an all-volunteer wildlife rehabilitation organization permitted by both state and federal agencies. The organization is currently working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Arkabutla Lake and the Desoto County Greenway to build the Arkabutla Lake Wildlife Rehabilitation and Nature Center in Desoto County. Once construction is complete, visitors will be able to visit the center and learn about birds of prey that will be on exhibit.
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