Le Nichoir, the largest rehabilitation centre for aquatic and songbirds in Canada, received seven baby Canada geese this summer. Caring for these birds is difficult because they easily become attached to humans and if that happens, it is impossible to release them into the wild, which is Le Nichoir’s mission.
Luckily, a short time later, the centre received a slightly injured adult female Canada goose.
The staff recognized that this bird had been looking after her own young prior to having been injured.
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Knowing that Canada geese will care for goslings not their own, they were able to treat the newly formed “family” until they were ready for release.
The birds were brought to the edge of a nearby pond, the cages were slowly opened and the adult and the goslings walked toward the water together, swimming quickly away with the “mom” in front and seven goslings in tow.
In its first year, Le Nichoir cared for 478 injured birds. Almost 20 years later, it cares for 1,500 birds that are brought to them and fields 5,000 telephone calls a year from people wanting to know what to do if they find a baby bird, or hear chirping in their chimney. There is no charge for their services.
“People bring birds to us for a variety of reasons,” says Susan Wylie, the centre’s executive director. “ A bird can fly into your window, or be accidentally hit by a car, or become orphaned. But even after being injured, if they break a wing or leg, in 10 days they can walk or fly, depending on their size. It’s phenomenal.”
Wylie says bird populations are declining in all categories, including waterfowl, nighthawks, birds that eat only insects and songbirds.
“One of the issues is that so many insectivore birds have to change their diet because of temperature change. When they come back from South America, they don’t find the same insects.
“Climate change is real. Breeding patterns are different.”
If you are planning to feed birds this winter, Wylie cautions that you clean the feeder about once a month to prevent the spread of disease, and that you do not include bread in the birds’ diet.
“When you’re feeding birds bread, it’s like junk food, it’s filling but not nutritious.”
Besides rehabilitation, Le Nichoir focuses on education, teaching schoolchildren about the birds in their backyard.
“A lot of children are sensitive to nature and animals. Many already know something about birds and are extremely enthusiastic,” Wylie says.
Le Nichoir, which survives mostly through public funding, has launched its annual fundraising campaign.
There are many ways to support the centre and there is much to be discovered about the fascinating world of the birds around us.
Learn more: lenichoir.org, 450-458-2809.