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Driven outdoors by the pandemic, Quebecers rescue birds in record numbers

Monday, April 12th 2021, 5:45 pm - Problem is, experts say, some of the birds don't actually need to be rescued.

The pandemic has sent many people outdoors: walking, cycling, and even, it turns out, rescuing baby birds.

A record number of Quebecers are calling to report sightings of eggs and injured birds near their homes as the nesting season begins.

Le Nichoir Wild Bird Rehabilitation Centre, located in Hudson, west of Montreal, receives more than 2,000 wounded wild birds a year and has seen a 60 per cent spike in bird admissions since January.

SEE ALSO: Watch for roaming animals in the age of COVID-19

"People are just outside and around more often and I think that's really what resulted in us receiving a lot more injured and orphaned birds," said Susan Wylie, director of operations at the centre.

"During the spring, especially, there are a lot of birds that are nesting, and these birds would make nests on open structures and when people would go close off, say, their patio, they would find a nest with eggs or babies in them," Wylie said.

Baby bird/Susan Wylie Experts recommend placing baby birds back in their nest or leaving them alone instead of taking them out of their environment. (Submitted by Susan Wylie)

People are motivated by compassion when they scoop up a bird and drive all the way to Le Nichoir.

After eight years volunteering at the centre, Janine Johnson says seeing Quebecers' concern for the fragile creatures still brings a smile to her face.

"Some people that come in get really emotional," Johnson said. "There was this big burly guy who came in once with a seagull, and he was crying because he was so upset and wanted to make sure that it got the appropriate help. You don't expect that kind of thing."

But Johnson and Wylie urge well-intentioned bystanders to think twice before picking up a baby bird they find on the ground as parents are usually perched on a branch, foraging food for their young.

"We get a lot of birdnaps this way," Johnson said.

Baby birds/Susan Wylie Baby birds found hopping on the ground are often in the process of learning to fly, says Susan Wylie, director of operations of Le Nichoir. (Submitted by Susan Wylie)

Fledglings, Wylie says, can spend up to two weeks hopping until they take flight for the first time.

"When baby birds are in the nest, once they get a little bit bigger, either the parents will push them or even a sibling will or they'll jump out on their own" Wylie said. "This is a very critical period for a bird because they're learning, they're exploring their environment, they're learning about hiding from predators."

FLAP Canada (Fatal Light Awareness Program) recommends that people who find an injured adult bird should contact a local wildlife rehabilitation like Le Nichoir.

But for baby birds, they recommend leaving them alone or gently placing them back into the nest. For more information you can check out this website.

Thumbnail courtesy of Susan Wylie.

With files from CBC Daybreak, the story was originally published on CBC.ca.

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