Experts advise bird rescue best left to professional, permitted wildlife rehabilitators

Tom Ricardi of the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway feeds a days-old baby screech owl.

Tom Ricardi of the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway feeds a days-old baby screech owl. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

A 3-week-old barred owl sits in a plastic bowl nest at the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway.

A 3-week-old barred owl sits in a plastic bowl nest at the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Tom Ricardi of the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway holds a baby barred owl  that he hopes to release as soon as it is ready.

Tom Ricardi of the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway holds a baby barred owl that he hopes to release as soon as it is ready. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Snowy owls rest in an enclosure at the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway.

Snowy owls rest in an enclosure at the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Tom Ricardi of the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway feeds a days-old baby screech owl.

Tom Ricardi of the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway feeds a days-old baby screech owl. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

A trio of barred owls in an enclosure at the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway.

A trio of barred owls in an enclosure at the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Conway. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-15-2024 4:58 PM

Modified: 05-15-2024 6:48 PM


CONWAY — As spring continues to bloom and birds migrate back toward the region, folks should remember to leave bird rehabilitation and rescues to professional, permitted wildlife rehabilitators.

Local experts and the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) urge anyone who comes across what looks to be a helpless or injured animal to leave it alone and call a wildlife rehabilitator, as caring for wild animals is a difficult job and, if done improperly, can negatively affect their development.

“They think they’re doing the right thing and they’re not,” Tom Ricardi, a raptor rehabilitator with the Conway-based Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, said of people picking up birds. “The first thing I would suggest is leave it alone. … If they think there’s a problem, [Mass] Audubon or MassWildlife ... they’ll make the decision whether that bird or animal should be taken or left alone.”

Ricardi said he’s picked up several birds in the last few weeks and is now caring for about 60 at his facility, where he rehabilitates owls, eagles, hawks, falcons and other birds of prey. In the case of owls, he tells people that if they see one on the ground, they should wait to see if it is still there the next morning.

“Ninety percent of the time they never call back,” he said of those who report the owls. “When a bird’s learning to fly, it ends up on the ground.”

If a baby bird looks helpless, MassWildlife recommends trying to return it to its nest or creating an artificial nest. If people find a fledgling — a young, fully feathered bird — it should be left alone as it is likely learning to fly. The same also applies beyond birds, as human interference in early stages of life can cause the animal to grow attached to people, which can in turn cause these wild animals to wander into populated areas where they could be attacked by domestic animals, hit by vehicles or pose a danger to people.

“Well-meaning people who take young animals out of the wild are actually harming the animals’ chances of becoming normal adults,” MassWildlife states. “Animals that are taken by people and later released into the wild are at a disadvantage, as they lack the skills needed to find natural food and cover.”

MassWildlife keeps a database of wildlife rehabilitators and their phone numbers that people can call if they find an injured animal. Rehabilitators volunteer their time and services and are not compensated by the state for their work. If they are unable to answer a call, leave a message and they will return it as soon as they are able to.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Former NMH dorm head admits to having sex with minor; charge stems from 1975
20 years strong: Gill’s Wagon Wheel Restaurant marks decades of perseverance
Talks on noise mitigation at Greenfield grow facility to continue Aug. 15
Real Estate Transactions: July 19, 2024
In wake of damage from 62 mph winds, hundreds left without power
Greenfield resident to lead Northampton Building Department

In Franklin County, Ricardi specializes in birds of prey and is authorized for migratory bird rehabilitation. Julie Anne Collier of Wingmasters in Leverett also specializes in birds of prey and is authorized for migratory bird rehabilitation. There are also a handful of mammal rehabilitators located around the county and in the North Quabbin region.

The map, as well as additional information about wildlife rehabilitation, can be accessed on MassWildlife’s website at bit.ly/4dFUVH4.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.