Saturday, January 26, 2008

Robins, Bluebirds, Chimney Swifts, and Bats

There is a whole flock of robins in my yard, at least two dozen of them. There are six bluebirds next door in Frances' yard.

No, they are not harbingers of Spring, unfortunately. They never go away at all, at least not in Virginia. They flock together and hide out in wooded areas. The way you know Spring is near is when they pair off and each pair claims your yard, or a portion of it, for its own breeding territory.

NOW is the time to have a wire mesh cap put over your chimney if you want to prevent chimney swifts from nesting in it. They fly most of the way down the chimney and build a mud nest that sticks to the bricks. You will definitely know if you get 'em, because the babies have a loud, raucous cry that many people can't stand. And it lasts for some weeks and goes on from dawn to dusk, every few minutes.

It's illegal to tamper with a chimney swift nest that contains babies. The birds are protected by state law, federal law, and international treaties. Treaties? Yes, because chimney swifts, having in this respect more sense than we, spend every winter in Peru.

We rehabbers get in a dozen or so every year, and we don't usually report the offenders, but that doesn't mean all rehabbers are like our group here. And baby chimney swifts are a pain to raise, not only because they are so noisy, but because they do not open their mouths like some baby birds. They poke at their mother's mouth until she regurgitates their food for them. We have to train them to poke at our hands and then we squirt their food down their throats with a syringe.

So please cap your chimneys now.

While you're at it, you can close off the louvers to your attic to protect your family from bats. (Yes, many species of bats are no bigger than mice and can crawl through very tiny openings.) You do not want a colony of bats in your attic. They smell bad and about one in every 200 has rabies.