Veterinarian documents baby bird rescue and recovery in 23 photos.

We get so busy, it's easy to forget to go outside or look out our windows and enjoy nature. This day-by-day account from a veterinarian and his sibling on the journey of a helpless baby bird reminded me of how much I love the little creatures of our world and how important it is to protect them. Enjoy!

Day 1


Here is the little chick on the first day. My brother had been out jogging, and found it on the sidewalk. It was actually still attached to part of its shell and some dried membranes. Clearly freshly hatched, we were unable to locate the nest in the group of trees above us. **NOTE** if you find a bird this young, it is best to try to locate the nest and put it back in. There is a myth that you can't touch a baby bird, because the parents will reject it due to the smell of humans. PLEASE don't try this at home! This is not meant as a guide, but more to show you the amazing development and growth of songbirds. Wildlife rehabilitation should only be carried out by those licensed to do so!

Day 2

Aren't baby birds cute in an ugly kind of way? We kept the chick in an incubator, carefully controlling the humidity and temperature. We decided she was a she (though we were never able to find out if it was male or female), and called her "Dumpling." All baby birds look very similar, so we had no way to really know what kind of bird this was. We'd have to wait and see how she grew, and what her feathers looked like.

Day 3

Baby birds eat a lot! We fed this chick primarily with crickets, mealworms, waxworms, caught insects, and a commercially available liquid formula for chicks. We fed the chick every 30 minutes for 14 hours/day, simulating what she would get in the wild. Just imagine what that means! This was just one chick, and most songbird broods will have anywhere from 2 - 5 chicks. The amount of insects songbird parents need to catch to feed their chicks (and themselves) is a bit staggering when you think about it. Since the parents don't feed their chicks overnight, we didn't either. This is opposed to many mammalian babies that need to be fed regularly around the clock.

Day 4

You can see here the amazing development of the wing feathers in just a few days' time. Also, she had a hilarious wispy mohawk of down feathers that got even more ridiculous when she got a little older. She would start squawking to be fed every 30-45 minutes. An interesting note: instincts are fascinating with these animals. Even with the poor coordination and closed eyes, this chick knew enough to back up to the edge of the nest we made for her and poop over the side, so as to not dirty the nest.

Day 5

By day 5, Dumpling was able to sit more "sternal" (on her chest with the legs tucked under her body) with more stability. Look at the changes in the feathers in just another 24 hours! She is actually starting to look like a bird! Her eyes were starting to open just a little bit by this time, as well.

Day 6

Here is a nice shot of the amazing continued development of her wing feathers. You can see them encased in a cornified sheath. Once the feather gets to its final size, this sheath disintegrates and the feather is allowed to spread open.

Day 7

Overnight, all of the feather sheaths fell away and -tada!- we have a bird! You can see here as well that she has a bent lateral toe on her left leg. Not much to be done about that in a bird this small, and it really didn't slow her down at all.

Day 8

"FEED ME!!" At this point, she was eating 3 large crickets +/- waxworms at every feeding. I'll attempt to make a gif later from some video I have of her scarfing them down.

Day 9

By this time, we were able to stop using the incubator. Since her body was covered in feathers, she was able to regulate her body heat on her own. The tufts of chick fluff and the eternally grumpy expression that baby birds have was hilarious.

Day 10

We moved her into more of a conventional cage, and gave her more materials to explore. She was really happy, despite her expression.

Day 11

She was able to officially perch for the first time! Definitely a big step in the right direction. She doesn't have much of a tail yet, so her balance isn't great, but she had a really strong grip and could hold herself up there very well, bad toe and all.

Day 12

She was a very sweet little bird, and enjoyed perching on our hands, early on. You can see some sprouting millet seeds in the background, which we added to her diet to continue to increase the variety of food she was exposed to. By this point, we actually didn't have to feed her as often. We would hand feed her every 1-2 hours, and place worms in the cage for her to forage for in between times.

Day 13

Almost 2 weeks from hatching, and she is now perching very well! You can see that her strength and balance has improved even compared to Day 11. Her legs are more upright, showing a better perching posture. This "hocks up" posture is very characteristic of 14-day old songbird chicks, so she is right on schedule.

Day 14

She is starting to look more mature. That hilarious baby down is disappearing. Now that she is over 2 weeks old, I'll start skipping days.

Day 17

Here she is in a larger cage that she graduated to. We put in freshly cut branches so she can have a variety of perching options, and can explore the leaves and twigs like she would in the wild. By this point, she is hopping and flying around the cage like a professional. **NOTE** Any of you with pet birds, it is very important to have a variety of perches. The best ones are branches you cut yourself from non-toxic trees. It's great, healthy enrichment for your pets!

Day 22

We started placing her cage out on the deck to get her exposed to the wind, the sun and other birds. This is important for socialization and training. Other birds would come to the feeders and interact with her, and she could watch them and learn their songs.

Day 23

This is one of my favorite pictures of her, showing her wonderfully patterned feathers. By this point, we decided she was likely a White Crowned Sparrow or Chipping Sparrow. WCS is a species of bird that is common around here, but you don't see them often because they don't come to bird feeders regularly. Chipping Sparrows are very common, but there were a few pictures of juveniles that didn't match well with her. Both are a migratory species, traveling south for the winter. We were hoping to get her fit for release in plenty of time to make that trip.

Day 25

Another lovely side view of her, showing her feather patterning. It provides for great camouflage as they flit among the trees.

Day 27

By this time, she was completely off of eating crickets (showed absolutely no interest in them), and her diet was more seed and worm-based. She was also eating on her own, completely. She actually didn't let us feed her anymore, which was a good sign.

Day 29

She loved all of the new leafy branches we'd put in for her. A large part of their diet in the wild is tree buds, and she'd go after those immediately whenever we put fresh branches in for her.

Day 33

At this point, she was essentially releasable. However, there were some expected storms rolling in over the next few days, so we decided to keep her for a few days longer to give her the best chance.

Day 36 — Release Day

After storms the night before, Day 36 dawned beautifully. Confident that the weather was going to be nice for several days, and that the recent rainfall would give her plenty of drinking and feeding opportunities, we decided this would be the perfect day to send her on her way! We drove to a nearby nature preserve about a mile from where she was initially found and where we knew there to be others of her kind.

Bye-bye, Dumpling!

We opened the cage door and stepped back. After a few minutes, she hopped out and flitted immediately up into a tree. She didn't hesitate at all. She immediately started exploring the branches, biting at tree buds and hopping from branch-to-branch like a wild bird. Pretty soon, we lost sight of her.

Hopefully, you enjoyed Dumpling's story, and learned a little about wild birds. I can't stress enough that you shouldn't try to raise wildlife of any sort unless you're trained to. Find a local wildlife rehaber or veterinarian to help you out! Please let me know if you have any questions, and I encourage you all to enjoy natures little miracles that are all around you!

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less