The spring and summer months at International Bird Rescue bring new life, and with it a special time of wildlife rescue and care: Baby Bird Season. This year, an exceptional story about one of our smallest patients left its mark upon me.
This is the story of Spot (and it has a happy ending!)
On May 29th, a tiny, orphaned bird with silver down entered our care weighing only 185 grams, which is approximately the weight of just 30 quarters. This baby, shown in the first photo, is a Western Grebe, a kind of diving bird that is equally at home in fresh and salt water. While we never name the wild birds in our care beyond a simple number to track them, we’ll call this adorable fellow “Spot” for the sake of our story.
As they grow, these cute-but-drab babies become elegant adults with a black head and red eyes. Western Grebes live in large flocks, are adept at fishing, and have perhaps the most elaborate breeding ritual of any animal in North America.
But these baby grebes carry an extraordinary trait that has become most meaningful for us at Bird Rescue. As a chick, the Western Grebe has a patch of bare skin on its forehead, which remarkably turns a bright red color when the chick is hungry. Once fed, the “red dot” fades away and will not come back again until the chick is once again hungry.
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The red dot has ultimately become the symbol of our center’s greatest challenge this year: FISH. Fish are the main food staple for most of our patients. In order to tame the red dot on Spot’s forehead, we needed to feed him small amounts of fish every 20-30 minutes at first, and then gradually larger amounts but less frequently as he grew.
We use human-grade fish in order to ensure that our patients have the best possible chance of success, but this also creates serious challenges for our budget. Over-fishing and warming ocean waters are leading to challenges in finding affordable, high-quality fish to feed our patients. Bird Rescue’s fish budget has more than doubled this year!
Please join us in providing a basic need: life-supporting food source for the most vulnerable birds that share the environment with you. Adopt a Grebe!
Not every bird has a red dot to quickly tell us when they need food, but EVERY bird in our care is hungry. The daily and sometimes hourly feeding schedule for our patients, coupled with the high cost of fish, has given Spot’s red dot a special meaning this year, reminding me how hunger is ever present and urgent for all the birds at our clinics; and that is 221 mouths to feed as I write this letter!
If you are reading this note, we know that you already appreciate our work and I’m writing you today to ask for your continuing support by sending us your donation.
Spot’s journey from our smallest patient to full health as a young adult ended in his release back into the wild on July 14th. The second photo shows him majestically transformed into adulthood as he was swimming away to join a group of Western Grebes at Clear Lake in California. Though we may never know his destiny for sure, we let Spot take flight with many hopes for a bright future for him and all the birds. We are so grateful to you for being a supporter of yet another successful bird rescue story!
You can find a video of Spot being fed and the beautiful mating dance of the Western Grebes on our Facebook page where you can follow and like us. As always, we stand prepared for wildlife oil spill response AND our door remains open 365 days per year to assure a safe healing place for all birds otherwise in need.
How will you help a bird today?
Warm wishes from all of us at International Bird Rescue,
CEO, International Bird Rescue
P.S. Remember you can also adopt a bird for a friend and send them an adoption certificate!