Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Orphaned Squirrels, Goldfinch Swimming, and a Red-tail with a Squirrel on his Foot

Photo by Carol Vinzant
Rehabber Carol Vinzant's current charges--

I’ve got 2 baby squirrel sisters. But one is in really bad shape and probably won’t make it. I think they were all attacked by a cat. A woman in Queens found four of them, one dead already. She waited an hour for the mother, then took 3 home. One died on the way here. One girl is completely fine. One has a deep bite wound on her belly and maybe a broken foot.

Jolly is of course very happy to see them. They’re about four weeks old maybe, eyes still closed. Both are very noisy.

(Jolly is Carol's wonderful dog who absolutely loves having squirrel company--or opossum company-- or just about any kind of beastie company when it comes down to it. D. B.)

Carol Vinzant

Long time blog contributor Betty Jo of California sent me the following email concerning a Goldfinch, the one above is in the Wisconsin backyard up to usual Goldfinch activities while the one Betty Jo is watching seems an unusual fellow, with unusual habits. Lets hope she gets that photo!


I am sitting at my computer with one eye on my "vase" style front yard fountain. The birds perch on the 1 and 1/2" rim to drink and bathe as the water cascades over the rim. A goldfinch is swimming! It dives into the water (which is a 3' deep jar--swims to the middle where the water bubbles up, swims back to the edge and pulls itself out with its beak! It has repeated this 8 times! Once it slipped off the edge, down the curved side of the jar and flew back to the top. So wonderful. I will try to get a picture to send to you. None of the other goldfinches do this; the Michael Phelps of goldfinches!

So wonderful!

Betty Jo

(This Goldfinch is amazing. So now we know that Goldfinch participate in play also. D.B.)

The following email came into our state cat rescue email list:

"One of our foster moms called: a hawk somehow got his claw caught in a dead squirrel - it took him more than an hour to dislodge the squirrel from his claws, and has been perching on a swing set, favoring the foot, and not flying away. The ACO in that town would dispatch the hawk if called. Tufts isn't too far from us, but none of us have any skills in trapping wild predatory birds."

Several people emailed with suggestions on contacts and the writer has promised to keep us updated. My 2 questions: Wouldn't it be illegal as in a federal offence for the local Animal Control Officer to kill a redtail? (we cat rescue people areas hesitant to call them as you NYC redtail people are to call Animal Care and Control). What kind of injury could the bird have from catching his talon in a squirrel?

Inquiring minds want to know.

I had a redtail in my yard a few weeks ago, I think it might have been a parent trying to coax a fledgling along from the way it was calling. I've learned a lot reading all the CPS hawk blogs!


Hi Judy,

This sounds like John Blakeman’s cup of tea so I’ll send it off to him but in the meantime here’s my take.

One can't just go around zapping federally protected species for no real reason even if you are Animal Control. A permit would have to be granted and as far as I can tell in this case there would be absolutely no reason for one to be given. I suppose there might be some leeway for emergencies but this isn't one. In fact I can't think what might be construed as a Red-tail being so dangerous that it would have to be killed on the spot. I mean, it isn't as if they hold human children hostage.

Trapping a particular Red-tail is extremely difficult while it is still flighted as you may have read about when we were attempting to get our hands on the RT fledgling, Hous, when he was sick.

There are foot traps used to snare raptors for banding but that is also permit only and you have no control over who you might catch.

Squirrels take real skill on a Red-tail's part to capture safely. They're dangerous sharp-toothed little buggers with very tough skin.



About the hawk with the embedded talon.

It would be a decided violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and almost surely also of any state raptor protection statute, for an animal control officer to kill any hawk, with the possible exception of if such a bird had it's talons entangled in a human. In a squirrel? Not a chance that this allowed.

Young red-tails can get their talons so deeply embedded into the skull of a squirrel or other similar-sized mammal that they don't know how to rub off the talon-clasping head or skull. Usually, though, the bird sooner or later rips away the enclosing bone tissue, freeing the talon.

John Blakeman
JSTOR: Food and Habitat of the Spotted Owl Concerning the capture of bats, it is possible that the Spotted Owl is sufficiently agile flier to take bats on the wing, at least the slow-flying
Food Habits — Spotted Owl — Birds of North America Online Figure 2. Spotted Owls hunt primarily at night in dense forest. ... hawks for insects and moths and will hawk and capture bats on the wing (ABF, RJG)....Also, apparently RTHs do it to: (link attached)
We had watched a Red-tail Hawk floating motionless over the hill behind the bat cave. Someone mentioned that the bats would be out soon; the hawk knew it. Once the bats started pouring out, the Red-tail started feeding, taking bats on the wing. The hawk’s mate and a Sharpie later joined the hunt. Both Red-tails took out at least five bats.
The reason I 'd asked was, the other evening, I was driving down a rural road in Wisconsin after dark, after just leaving Thresherman's Park where I watch the Crows and the mystery Raptor. I drive slowly at such times as I really don't want to hit a deer. Collisions being dreadful for everyone involved after all, when suddenly just as I was going under the action I saw what I took to be a mid-sized owl flitting around above the car catching something. I had seen bats earlier so my first thought was the flying mammals.
ALSO FROM R. AND THE BBC, Birds can do it and now it turns out that cows and deer do it too. They can tell North/South.
Why is that an evolutionary advantage for cattle. It's an advantage for migrating birds, so perhaps as cattle's progenitors long ago migrated too...?
Here's the link--

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