Sunday, 25 Jul 2021

Baby birds flee the nest to escape record US heatwave

OREGON (REUTERS) – In a failed attempt to escape a record-breaking heatwave in late June in Pendleton, Oregon, more than 100 baby birds bailed from their nests.

The downy babies, mostly Swainson and Cooper’s hawks, fell up to 18 metres to the ground. Most survived and will be returned to the wild once recovered, but the Blue Mountain Wildlife rehabilitation centre had to euthanise 13 that had sustained multiple fractures.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Lynn Tompkins, the centre’s executive director. “So hopefully, next year won’t be the same. But I know that with climate change and the extreme heat and increasing heat, things like this are going to be more likely.”

The centre was inundated with calls from concerned citizens.

Putting out water and turning on sprinklers for the baby birds can help going forward, but Tompkins cautions against always rescuing baby birds that have fallen out of their nests.

“Almost all of them, the parents were still there, and we really hate to take babies of any kind away from their parents because they’re the most qualified to take care of them,” she said.

The unseasonable heatwave, driven by climate change and a lingering high-pressure system, has killed hundreds of people.

Last month was the second-hottest June in Oregon on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Temperatures in Pendleton hit 47 degrees Celsius on June 29, just short of the record of 48 deg C set in 1898, according to the National Weather Service in Pendleton.

Temperatures this week are still reaching up to 40.5 deg C and the heat has led to major wildfires in the drought-stricken state.

“This situation was totally unprecedented,” said Tompkins, who has worked for 30 years in wildlife rehabilitation.

“I can’t remember having temperatures of 115 several days in a row either. This in June, July, they just couldn’t deal with it other than bailing out of their nest to try to escape the heat.”

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