|© Tabi Walters|
by Jan Schlain
The Bird Center of Washtenaw County took in 1,002 injured or orphaned birds last year. Most died or had to be euthanized, 324 recovered and were returned to the wild, and as winter set in, the volunteers were still caring for ten birds. Nine needed more time to recover before being released. The tenth, a beautiful bird they named Blue, is in perfect health--but can't be set free because he doesn't speak blue jay.
"Birds have a certain window of opportunity where they learn the appropriate sounds," explains center director Carol Akerlof. Unfortunately, the people who found Blue as a chick kept "him in their home for six weeks"--and he grew up mimicking the sounds he heard there. "He lived with a cockatiel, so he makes cockatiel sounds," says Akerlof. "He makes a long moaning sound, like a microwave. He makes cell-phone sounds." For Blue, that's no joke, Akerlof explains: "It means he will never have a normal life."
The center's license allows its volunteers to rehabilitate and release wild birds, but not to keep them indefinitely. And "he can't go to a private home," Akerlof says, "because blue jays are federally protected birds, and it is illegal to keep them without a permit." So the center is requesting permits to keep Blue for educational purposes. Volunteer Dorothy Stock and her husband, Kenneth Antkowiak, are working with a falconer to teach him to perch on a human's hand.
What might Blue teach? "It would be good to tell people that they can't keep wild birds," says Akerlof. "It's illegal, and it's bad for the bird."
[Originally published in January, 2013.]
Government, business, environment, the U-M, and more.>> Blogs