Songbirds include a variety of bird species known by their singing abilities and also for being passerines or perching birds. They have three flexible toes pointing forward and one backward that allow them to grip comfortably on tree branches.
There are over 400 species of passerines. Here is a fun website that lists each bird with it’s own unique song.
Some commonly known songbirds in America include thrushes, wrens, orioles, sparrows, finches, mockingbirds, catbirds, grosbeaks and tanagers but we have a couple songbirds that are native to Florida. Sadly most of these native residents are being threatened because of habitat destruction, fragmentation, and degradation from development and agriculture.
Florida native songbirds include:
- Bachman’s Sparrow
- Bachman’s Warbler (endangered)
- Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (endangered)
- Cerulean Warbler
- Eastern Bluebird
- Florida Grasshopper Sparrow (endangered)
- Florida Scrub-jay (endangered)
- Kirtland’s Warbler (endangered)
- Marian’s Marsh Wren (endangered)
- Painted Bunting
- Scott’s Seaside Sparrow (endangered)
- Wakulla Seaside Sparrow (endangered)
- Wood Thrush
- Worthington’s Marsh Wren (endangered)
We were very busy this Spring taking care of baby songbirds. Sadly most of these babies have come to us after being “kidnapped”. We call “kidnapping” when someone picks a baby bird from the floor and takes it away from its parents unnecessarily. People do this with good intentions, thinking the bird fell from a nest and needs help, without realizing that this behavior is totally normal among fledglings.
A fledgling is a young bird that has grown enough to acquire its initial flight feathers. When the bird reaches the fledgling stage, it is normal for it to jump from the nest in an attempt to fly and land on the ground. They are not actually abandoned by their parents, the parents stay on the trees nearby and come down to feed them on the floor until they learn to fly, which usually takes a couple days.
Not every bird you see on the floor needs assistance. Most are going through a normal phase in their lives learning how to fly. In order to avoid taking a fledgling away from its parents unnecessarily, you could do the following:
- Keep an eye for parents coming down to feed the baby. Birds feed their younglings every 15-30 minutes. Observe the bird on the floor for a couple minutes and notice if there’s a parent coming down to it. If you see this, that baby bird is fine and healthy. Leave it on the floor, the parents will take good care of it until it learns how to fly.
- Check the bird’s feathers. A baby bird’s life goes through two stages, nestling and fledgling. A nestling is going to be tiny, almost bald, maybe it hasn’t even opened its eyes yet. A fledgling is bigger in size with tail and wing feathers that have a short and thick appearance. It could still look a little bald but this is normal, feathers can take some time to grow and even after the bird learns how to fly they will keep growing for a little longer. If you find a nestling, try to locate the nest that it fell from and put it back or give us a call further assistance. If you find a fledgling, let it be.
- Observe the bird’s behavior. A fledgling has already learned how to use its muscles and feathers. It will try to jump and walk around the floor. If the bird is not moving, check the legs. If you see blood, an open wound or a hurt leg, it definitely needs help. If it is jumping and moving around, leave it alone to have a little practice.
If you are afraid that something could happen to the baby for being on the floor, try to get it to perch on your index finger and place it on a tree branch nearby. This is not always necessary, only do this if you’re afraid that something could happen to it for being on the floor. It’s expected that the bird will end up on the floor again, you just gave it another chance to try to fly with altitude. Don’t restrain it and don’t take it away, remember parents are around and will come back to feed it.
Back in May, ABC Action News interviewed our brilliant director, Kris Porter, about fledglings. It is a good read if you’d like to learn more about what you can do and should not when finding fledglings.
Songbirds are absolutely beautiful birds. They tend to be small or medium sized, like crows. They sing through Spring and Summer to attract mates, claim territory or to simply communicate. Their singing is melody to our ears, accompanying our morning coffees and afternoon routines. We love them!
This is a very diverse group of birds but we mostly see blue-jays, cardinals and mourning doves here in Florida. However, this year we’ve had the privilege or rehabilitating some other amazing songbirds like the Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Shrike, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, and the Tufted Titmouse.
May was one of our busiest months! We had baby blue-jays, cardinals, downy woodpeckers and even some red-headed woodpeckers. (Woodpeckers are not songbirds but they also know how to attract mates and claim territories by drumming.) Take a look at this video at feeding time for the tiny babies at Owl’s Nest. https://www.facebook.com/320875748102069/videos/2320718221283402/
Also during May, we got to release a Rose Breasted Grosbeak, a Tufted Titmouse and a Back-throated Blue Warbler. https://www.facebook.com/320875748102069/videos/589873808183738/
Calls kept coming in June, another busy month! We had carolina wrens, a Cardinal, bluebirds, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Mourning Dove. And even an unidentified little nestling that the only thing we knew about was that it was hungry.
Listen to the beautiful melody of a Northern Parula!
In June we got to release a Blue Jay and a Shrike (plus a pair of Northern Flickers that are not songbirds but are equally beautiful!)
One of our last releases, in June these pretty Flycatchers got to return to the wild.
This one was not a baby but a songbird nevertheless! Back in February we got a call about a bird stuck in moss hanging upside down in a tree. It turned out to be a beautiful American Robin.