Remember to use the buddy system, to put safety first, and to share locations, locations, locations! Rescuers can and have been seriously hurt and even killed when attempting to rescue stray animals. As much as we all want to get animals out of harm’s way, you need to be aware of your environment when attempting a rescue and respond accordingly. In general, rescuers should try as much as possible to at least work in pairs. Three people are even better. If you absolutely MUST go on a rescue on your own, it is imperative that you check in with others regularly so that they can keep tabs on you.
Special Considerations Around Certain Kinds Of Sites
When safely rescuing stray birds, there are some unique considerations to specific settings that you may need to plan for. Here is a quick overview of some of the things you might want to think about in advance when it comes to particular kinds of sites and rescue situations.
Highly Trafficked Areas
Safety first, always! You may need to call authorities for assistance if you attempt to rescue a bird from an area with high vehicular traffic. For example, if you see a pigeon on an elevated track in an urban area or a loose bird by a highway, you should NOT attempt these kinds of rescues without assistance from authorities who are willing to help you in stopping traffic or guiding you around hazards. Third rails can and do kill humans. Outside of urban subways, train tracks are also a major risk. Sadly areas with train tracks are frequent dumping spots for birds.
It’s also a sad reality that many drivers do not pay attention to the road ahead, and they can easily either run into your vehicle if you are pulled over or run into you. We recommend keeping emergency traffic triangles (mentioned in Part I) in your “rescue go kit.” For guidance on how to place traffic triangles to ensure your safety, check out this resource!
Urban And Highly Populated Areas
Because many bird rescues are most successfully attempted at night, you should take special precautions in highly populated areas. If you need to go onto private property, ALWAYS ask for permission! Also, if you are attempting a rescue in an area like this, it is extremely helpful to introduce yourself to neighbors before you attempt the rescue. For example, if you have identified where the bird in question is roosting at night during day reconnaissance, you can leave notes in mailboxes with your organization’s card or information and with contact information for the rescuer running the lead on the situation, as well as a brief explanation of what you are trying to do.
Rescuers who worked without making their presence known have encountered situations where they were perceived as potential threats, so trying to give a neighborhood a heads-up as much as possible is very important to avoid conflict or stress. Here again, the neon vests with reflective tape can come in handy so you don’t look like you’re sneaking around! Having official cards for your organization is also helpful! Another added bonus of reaching out to neighbors before attempting a rescue is that you may find folks who are either willing to help you or are willing to support your The stated goals and activities of an organization. An animal sanctuary’s mission is commonly focused on objectives such as animal rescue and public advocacy. once they learn what you do!
Forest Preserves And Other Public Natural Areas
Sadly, birds are often dumped in forest preserves. Most typically, they are unwanted, dumped roosters. Forest preserves and parks are lovely spaces, but it is always good for rescuers to work in teams in these contexts. Aside from the potential of getting lost, there can be other risks, especially at night. If a single rescuer goes into a preserve in the evening to find a bird, it’s essential for them to share their location (as described in the text box above).
Also, consider following up with the staff administering these public areas when you find a dumped bird. This can be a helpful way to make them aware of dumping issues. In some cases, after consulting with rescuers about areas with chronic bird dumping, forest preserve staff or park district staff have agreed to implement signage or even install trail cameras to help deter further dumping.
Graveyards are another area in which all of the above considerations apply. Sadly, graveyards are also public spaces where birds are dumped or abused. To show sensitivity to the nature of this kind of space, you should contact graveyard staff before engaging in rescue activities there. They may have special requests for how you conduct your rescue work and may be interested in learning more to prevent future dumping or abuse on their grounds.
Keep in mind another thing to be aware of in the context of forest preserves specifically: boundaries between public and private land are not always clearly marked. Rescuers using geotracking may be able to gauge this better and may avoid issues with accidentally trespassing on private land.
Rescues Involving Water
When water is involved, it is imperative to have multiple team members on hand, especially in cold weather. It’s also imperative to keep heating pads, warming blankets, and other warming agents on hand. Waterfowl rescue can be particularly complicated because even if a bird in need is disabled to a point that they cannot fly, they can still often swim – sometimes into the middle of a pond where you may not be able to reach them! Therefore you may need additional tools for this kind of rescue, including small watercraft like kayaks or waders people can wear to navigate shallow areas.
It is critically important to ensure that anyone using waders or any kind of watercraft to capture stray waterfowl in need of rescue is experienced in their use. Waders, and even high rubber boots, can become flooded, which can cause a drowning risk for rescuers, even in shallow water or in streams. Small watercraft can be flipped or flooded by those inexperienced in their use. In cold temperatures, being wet and cold causes hypothermia quickly. And, of course, in situations where you are working around ice over water, you always need to be aware of the risk of ice breaking under rescuers. Outside community help, especially from those who have watercraft and know how to use them, can become instrumental in waterfowl rescues so that rescuers keep themselves safe.
Also, consider the cleanliness of the water involved. After one rescue of a disabled A young duck from a retention pond, rescuers had to discard their clothing because no cleaning could remove the smell from the pond. If you have entered water potentially contaminated with bacteria or other toxins, it may be your best bet to discard your clothing and to make sure that you take a thorough shower as soon as possible to remove any traces of contaminants from your skin. If you have incurred cuts or other open injuries in the rescue process, it’s crucial to clean and disinfect those as quickly as possible after you have gotten out of the water. For more specifics on questions of waterfowl rescue, read on to Part III of this series, How Bird Type And Species Can Impact Your Plans.
Timing Your Capture Of Stray Birds
Now that we have considered some safety considerations about specific sites where you might need to capture a stray bird, let’s think about strategizing your timing. In virtually all situations involving bird rescue, your best chance at capture with the least trauma to the bird and the rescuer is when it is dark. This may mean before dawn or just after dusk. Birds generally do not see well at night, and to protect themselves from predation, they either perch in trees out of reach of predators or, if they are ground birds like quails, they may sleep in groups just slightly off of the ground, such as in a bush. This is the best time to catch them quickly with the least amount of trauma.
During the day, as prey animals, birds have a heightened sense of anyone trying to chase or capture them. If you’d like to know more about birds’ heightened visual senses (and other senses), you can check out our resource on dismantling rooster stigma, which includes an in-depth discussion on the senses of chickens. Generally, birds do NOT respond well to being chased by humans. Chasing stray birds can often make them even more afraid of humans trying to help them, making it much harder to catch them. Conveying the importance of not chasing birds is one way you can help members of the public understand how to help, not hinder, the rescue of a stray bird.
All of this being said, if you have received a report from a member of the public about a stray Adapted over time (as by selective breeding) from a wild or natural state to life in close association with and to the benefit of humans bird in need of rescue, your first question should be: “Is the bird at imminent risk of The infliction of mental, emotional, and/or physical pain, suffering, or loss. Harm can occur intentionally or unintentionally and directly or indirectly. Someone can intentionally cause direct harm (e.g., punitively cutting a sheep's skin while shearing them) or unintentionally cause direct harm (e.g., your hand slips while shearing a sheep, causing an accidental wound on their skin). Likewise, someone can intentionally cause indirect harm (e.g., selling socks made from a sanctuary resident's wool and encouraging folks who purchase them to buy more products made from the wool of farmed sheep) or unintentionally cause indirect harm (e.g., selling socks made from a sanctuary resident's wool, which inadvertently perpetuates the idea that it is ok to commodify sheep for their wool). from traffic or other humans?” If so, your optimal choice to capture the bird in the dark may not be an option. In such cases you may need to move immediately, regardless of the time of day to secure the safety of the bird in question. While in general it is best not to chase birds, if a bird is at imminent risk of harm, in this context, it is best to shoo them away from areas where they face high risk as soon as possible. Sometimes this may involve quickly shooing them away from roads or other high-hazard areas.
Strategizing The Best Site And Timing For Capture
Again, as stated above, the best possible way to catch a bird without inflicting more trauma upon them is to quickly catch them once they are asleep and perching. However, this may not always be a possibility. For example, sometimes birds can choose high-perching areas that may be entirely inaccessible to rescuers, especially if they are capable of high flying. We’ll discuss some options for this possibility further below (and in Part III), but sometimes there is no way to reach a high-perching bird. So how can you develop an alternate plan? One possibility is seeing if there are ways you can safely “herd” birds into safer, ideally enclosed areas before they perch.
For example, if you are dealing with stray birds in a rural area who have been sighted near a barn, you may have the best luck in capturing them if you can lure or gently herd them into the barn and then wait for them to perch and fall asleep in that enclosed area. Before attempting the capture of enclosed birds, you should always cover any windows in the enclosure. Panicked birds may see the window as an escape opportunity and fly right through them or injure themselves trying to do so.
In an urban area, stray birds may perch on or under apartment decks or balconies. Identifying perching spots is very important in urban settings so you can get the appropriate permissions to access them and strategize. If a well-flighted bird is known to perch under a deck, you may be able to develop a plan to quietly encircle the area where they are perched once they are asleep with netting so that there is an “impromptu enclosure” that you can work within. Alternatively, if there is an alley or gangway between buildings in the area that you can gently herd them into, you may be able to capture them by having rescuers approach with nets and netting from either end of the alley or gangway.
Another option is to talk to neighbors in the area and ask them if they are willing to let you have access to their garage to herd birds into. Neighbors are often interested in these rescues and may be willing to help in this way! Keep in mind again that if you enclose a bird in a garage with windows, you will want to securely cover the windows before going in for the catch.
If you can’t catch the bird at night and you can’t find an enclosed area, even a wall or a fence may prove helpful sometimes. In one case, rescuers caught a very flighty game hen by using a fence in the daytime when she was found in a yard. After asking the property owner for permission to enter the yard, one rescuer lured her near the fence corner with treats. To deter her from flying over the fence and escaping, another rescuer stood on the other side and gently waved their net, while the rescuer nearest to the hen quietly offered the treats and then netted her.
If you can’t find a way to safely enclose birds for capture, an alternative to the use of traps is making a DIY enclosure. In one instance, a team of rescuers trying to capture a flock of guinea fowl built a massive box with a wood frame and galvanized hardware screen sides. They then filled it with treats and set it up so the door would prevent the birds from walking right past it. They rigged a string to the door so they could pull it shut and lay in wait. Meanwhile, another small group of rescuers calmly and quietly surrounded the flock and gently herded them towards the box, guiding them to be motivated to turn into the box instead of away from it. Once the birds had entered, the rescuers controlling the door pulled it shut and were able to secure the birds inside. The large box size, the fact that the birds could see through it, how it was positioned, and how the rescuers guided the birds helped prevent them from panicking at being cornered and fleeing the rescuers
We hope that this discussion of how to cope with different sites you may encounter, and how to strategize timing helps to keep you, your team, and the birds you are trying to rescue safe! To learn more about how you can safely capture stray birds, please read on to Part III: How Bird Type And Species Can Impact Your Plans. For a quick infographic reference regarding site and timing considerations, you can find that below!
Site And Timing Catching Birds Infographic by Julia Magnus
Subheader: Consider Your Timing
Image: An image of a clock indicating a time just past midnight.
Catching birds is almost always more effective, safest, and less traumatic for the bird at dark unless there is an emergency situation, or the bird is in the imminent risk of harm.
Subheader: Highly Trafficked Areas
Image: An image of three tightly packed cars.
-Rescuers should wear neon reflective safety vests.
-Use traffic triangles when you pull off road.
-Contact transportation authorities as needed.
Subheader: Urban And Highly Populated Areas
Image: A city skyline
-Rescuers should communicate with the community!
-Let neighbors know what you are doing!
-Ask for permission to enter private property.
Subheader: Forest Preserves And Other Natural Areas
Image: An image of trees
-Communicate with administrators of the area.
-Keep your eye out for boundaries with private property.
Subheader: Rescues Involving Water
Image: An image of a pond
-Safety first! Bring a team, and make sure those using equipment are experienced.
-Consider the cleanliness of the water and take precautions.
A Starter Guide To Understanding And Working With Organizations, either government-funded and maintained or not-for-profit and funded by charitable contributions, with a physical infrastructure in which homeless animals are cared for and offered for adoption. For Animal Sanctuaries | The Open Sanctuary Project
Purple Paint On Posts And Trees: What It Means And What To Do If You Find It | WideOpenSpaces.com (Non-Compassionate Source)