Bluebirds In A Wood Stove?
By Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator
This October we got a phone call from a woman in Wellfleet. She had just spoken to the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary who told her to call us. There were birds in her wood stove, “and two are already dead!” She had been trying to get them out herself but was unsuccessful. The wood stove was not on and had not been used recently. Thank Goodness!!!! I doubted her when she told me what kind of birds they were. “ They are those beautiful bluebirds.” She was sure of it. Why would there be a group of Bluebirds in a wood stove? Maybe they were investigating future nesting sites? Bluebirds sometimes roost in large numbers in strange places in the winter…
Because two birds were already dead, it was clear that the remaining birds would not be in good health. I called one of our Wellfleet rescue volunteers, Peter Kosewski, to help. He managed to get the birds out of the stove and bring them to Wild Care very quickly. There were three still alive. How sad. They were so very weak and dehydrated. The living ones were females, and the two who had died were males. Peter reported that the wood stove seemed new, and was very clean inside. That was great news! When I examined the birds, there was barely a trace of soot on their feathers and no sooty smell, just some white ash. (Often animals rescued from a chimney are covered with soot and have inhaled and ingested it. This often makes them sick and requires medicine, oxygen therapy, and stressful rounds of washing. These birds hopefully wouldn’t need any of that.) We offered drops of Pedialyte on their beaks, which they accepted. Too weak to perch, they huddled in the corner of the box for the first couple of hours. They were critical patients. After drinking more fluids they began perching. By evening one began vocalizing.
We were optimistic! Unfortunately only two were alive in the morning. Those two were much more alert than the day before and were hopping around their habitat.
We put in another perch and more food – mealworms. waxworms, and berries. Because they were EXTREMELY stressed we put them into a large soft pen after
a couple of days so they would feel less frightened. A remote camera was set up so we could observe their behavior undisturbed by us. We misted them daily with
water so they would preen their feathers. After six days, we checked their feathers after wetting them. They both passed the waterproof test! Water beaded up from head to tail. They were fattened up and ready for release. Peter did the honors and set them free near their rescue site in Wellfleet. Animals see our chimneys as wonderful hollow trees – a five star hotel with warm beds and plenty of good food. A capped chimney will keep them safe. Providing nest boxes on your property facing the warm morning sun will provide them a safe place with respite from the weather. (Top photo by Jennifer Taylor. Bottom photo Kerry Reid.)
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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!