Blue Jay nestling had fallen out of its nest
Heather Goroski was walking back from a trip to the Bremer Bank in Warren, Monday afternoon. She happened to look down at the grass near a tree in the parking lot. What appeared to be a pile of feathers caught her eye. Curious, she moved closer to get a better look.
It was a baby bird. It didn’t look old enough to be out of the nest. She expected to see a panicked adult bird somewhere nearby. But there were no other birds in sight.
Goroski couldn’t just leave the little baby there. It didn’t look old enough to take care of itself. Goroski had to do something.
She pulled out her cell phone and called Agassiz Audubon for advice.
"I have an unusual question," Goroski said tentatively, and went on to explain the situation. "Is there anything I can do?" she asked.
Before I could give her an answer, I told her I needed to know more about the bird. How big is it? Is it fully feathered? Does it look sick or injured?
“It looks relatively healthy,” Goroski said. “I think it’s a nestling.”
Take a look at the trees nearby, I said. Do you see any nests?
“Hold on,” said Goroski. “I’ll take a look.”
There was a pause, then she was back on the line. “Yes, I found a nest.”
Can you put the bird back in the nest?
"I don't think I can reach it," she said. “It’s up about 8-feet.”
Would a step-ladder help?
"Yes, I think so," she said.
Maybe the folks at Bremer Bank might have a ladder you could borrow, I suggested. And if you can, take a picture of the bird with your smart-phone and send it to me. I’ll try to identify it.
"Okay,” she said. “I'll see what I can do. I’ll call you back.”
Twenty minutes later, Goroski called and shared the rest of the story.
The folks at Bremer provided a ladder, and Cassie Szklarski, a teller, went outside to help. The two women set the ladder under the nest in the tree. Szklarski climbed up and took a look. She spotted three healthy baby birds in the nest, and they all looked like the bird Goroski had found on the ground.
This had to be the “right” nest.
Szklarski donned a pair of latex gloves, picked up the bird, climbed up the ladder and put the baby back in the nest. She watched as it settled-down, and waited to be sure it didn’t jump (or fall) out of the nest again. It was a happy ending for both the bird and the rescuers.
Goroski, however, had one more question for me: Is it “safe” to touch a baby bird? The rescue team worried that the parents might smell human scent and abandon the baby.
No, I assured her, human scent is not an issue for birds. Most of them, with the notable exception of vultures, don’t have a good sense of smell.
However, there could be a problem for a person who touches a wild bird: disease transmission. You should wear gloves and wash your hands before you pick up a bird - and afterwards.
Summer is a time when baby birds are learning how to care for themselves. Please resist the temptation to “rescue” a baby by taking it home with you. Its parents are likely to be nearby, even if you don’t see them. If it’s a nestling, put it back in the nest. If it’s a fledgling, the best thing you can do is keep your cats and dogs indoors for a couple of days. Let the birds do the parenting job.
When in doubt, call the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Oh, by the way, who was that baby bird Goroski and Szklarski rescued?
A very lucky nestling Blue Jay.
Questions about birds and wildlife? Contact Agassiz Audubon at 218-745-5663 or email AgassizAudubon@gmail.com. Check out photos of local wildlife at facebook.com/AgassizAudubon. and Visit the NW Minnesota Pollinator Garden at 27591 190th Street NW in Warren.