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A Little Information to Protect Our Birds - April 16, 2017

Ospreys are back, eagles are competing for partners and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) science team along with Department of Natural Resource (DNR) staff, are posting nesting island signs in preparation for our dwindling and some threatened incoming colonial nesting birds.

It’s that time of year where our migrating birds are coming back to rear their young and perpetuate their species.  This coastal bays region enjoys an amazing variety of spectacular birds.  The landscape offers many nesting opportunities.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad as nature continually attempts to adapt to the environment humans create.

So this week I thought I’d impart a little information in an effort to help protect our feathered friends.

Gulls –known to many as seagulls, are a federally protected bird under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  For every two people that think they are pests, there is one person who enjoys feeding them on the beach or in a parking lot.  Over the centuries this continual behavior has trained our gulls that we are a great food source. Most have of little fear of human interaction. The next time a gull gets too close to you, remember, it’s not there to hurt you; it’s been imprinted to seek food from you. Don’t feed it, simply ignore it and it will eventually go away. Throwing objects and attempting harm it is illegal and punishable by law. Gulls have just as much entitlement as you to enjoy our beaches.

Natural nesting areas for gulls in Ocean City have been taken over by man made buildings. Unfortunately, gulls have adapted by nesting on rooftops. It is only legal to remove nesting material if there are no eggs or chicks. If you don’t want nesting gulls you have to stay on top of removing their nesting material. By continually removing nesting material, this could eventually discourage them from nesting there; but, once there is an egg or chick the nest must be left alone. You are breaking a federal protection law and can be fined if caught tampering with a productive nest.

If you find an egg on a rooftop that isn’t in a nest, leave it alone. It very well could belong to a bird like the least tern, which lays eggs on sandy areas.   

In regards to nests, pretty much all but three species of birds are protected. Once a nest has eggs or chicks, you are obligated by law to leave it and it’s inhabitants alone until the young have matured and have taken flight.

The tricky part is the whole taking flight. As birds mature, they become fledglings. A fledgling is a young bird that has left the nest but has not really taken to flight yet. Its’ parents are still feeding it, but it is no longer in the nest.  Unfortunately fledglings are an easy target for predators. Fledglings can also have little fear of humans. The black back gulls, which are the very large gulls, their fledglings look like full- grown adults. They will wander down a fully populated beach weaving through sunbathers and sitting underneath beach goers’ chairs between feedings by its parents. Needless to say, not all beach goers are enthusiastic with sharing their space with a large gull. Often people mistake these fledglings as birds in distress when in actuality it’s just adapting to its environment.

Should you stumble upon a fledging and find it is easy to catch, look for a nearby nest. If you see one, put it in the nest. It’s an old wives tale that once a baby bird is touched, the mother will reject it. That is far from the truth. In fact, you may get dive-bomb if you pick a fledging up near its momma. If you threaten a fledging gull, you’re certain to experience a rainstorm of bird poo from mom and relatives.

And on a side note, sometimes first time bird parents may not have created the best nest structure. Baby birds can fall out of a poorly constructed nest, this actually just occurred with a barn owl earlier this week. An owlet fell out of a poorly constructed nest and a volunteer with the help of the fire department placed a basket with the owlet in place of the poorly constructed nest and all are good to go. If you see a fallen bird, the best chance for its survival is to put it back in its nest. If this isn’t something you are able to do, call Tri-State bird rescue and they may be able to provide you with solutions, or a volunteer who is adapted to putting a bird back into a nest. Their number is 302-737-9543. 

Some other little tidbits to help protect our birds, if you own a boat or a camper that hasn’t been moved all winter long, check to make sure there isn’t an active nest. Every year campers travel to our resort only to find to their dismay a nest with baby chicks and parents too far away to find their chicks.

Windows are always a threat to birds. If you find that birds are flying into your windows, you can either purchase or create a bird cutout of a flying raptor bird profile, like a hawk.  We did this when we moved into our new office and saw that birds were flying into our windows and the trick truly worked.

Also, if a bird is constantly fluttering around your window, particularly a robin, it sees its reflection as another bird-nobody said they were smart-it’s trying to tell that bird to leave its territory. A cutout or a temporary object like a wind chime hanging from a suction cup is a simple solution to stop the nonsense.

Two great resources for questions or concerns you may have on our local birds are Tri-State Rescue and the Maryland Department of Natural Resource Wildlife and Heritage general wildlife line at 410-260-8540. 

Smith is the Development and Marketing Coordinator. 



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