Posting for Mitch Leachman, St. Louis Audubon

To Rescue or Not to Rescue a grounded heron/egret chick

We (St. Louis Audubon) asked Chrissy McClarren to create a short "checklist" on what to do if you're visiting the heron rookery on Olive and encounter a baby heron/egret on the ground. We think you will find it helpful.
THANKS Chrissy!

1.  First, don't feel bad about whatever choice you make regarding rescuing a chick or not, for whatever reason.  It's a personal choice, but if you see a chick on the ground and decide not to rescue that chick, please call/text Mitch Leachman at 314.599.7390 that a chick is down and exactly where it is located.

2.  Second, if you decide you want to assess whether a rescue is needed and are willing to rescue a grounded chick, here is my advice.  Rescue any chick on the ground - see exceptions:  

A. There are cats, dogs, and other predators, including human, everywhere in that area.  
B. Young chicks cannot climb back up a tree. If old enough, they can climb branch to branch, but that's about it.  
C. A chick might wander into the street. 
D. A chick can quickly become dehydrated. 
E. A chick might be injured and you may not be able to assess that, but a rescuer can.  Observe the chick.  Do you see signs of injury, flies, ants on the chick, signs of trauma or weakness? Is the chick not moving, but breathing?  
F. Even if the chick seems fine and you could get the chick back up onto a tree limb, you'd probably injure the bird in the process if you are untrained at handling chicks. 
G. The likelihood of the chick falling from the branch again is high, especially since it is now likely exhausted as well as weak, likely dehydrated and possibly even sick.
H. If the chick is really large, see if that chick can fly. If the chick can actually fly WELL, leave the bird alone.  However, if the flight is more of a hop and erratic, there is probably an injury or the bird is not ready to fly and will not make it back into the tree.
3.  Have gloves, a box (or bag) with air holes with you to put the chick into, and a few t-shirts for comfort. DO NOT FEED OR GIVE WATER to this chick. Place the chick in the box or bag lined with t-shirts and close the lid or bag so it's dark. Keep the environment quiet.  

4.  Take the bird to Wild Bird Rehab on Midland in Overland. The current summer hours are every day, 7am-7pm. Call them at 314-426-6400 to make sure someone is there if you are rescuing a bird after hours.  Make as large a donation as you can, as these birds are expensive to rehab. 

5.  EXCEPTION TO THE RULE OF RESCUE:  There is one rare situation in which I would NOT rescue a bird. If I felt I had the training on how to pick up a wild chick and not injure this chick, if I felt that a branch was reachable, if I felt that this bird could easily move from branch to branch without falling, then I'd put the bird up on a tree limb nearby, NOT a bush. The bird has to be out of reach of predators.

6.  I know that most of you think it is better to have a parent care for their young. You would be right. However, in the case of a grounded heron/egret chick, the parents are not likely to feed it while it is on the ground. It is too dangerous for the adults to do so, and they have other chicks to feed in the tree. The chick may have 2-3 weeks or more of development before fending for itself (versus days for the average songbird you see out of a nest). Clearly, these are not songbirds and take longer to mature. Hence, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Your only real choice is to rescue the bird - or not, and call someone else who will. 

Chrissy McClarren
w/edits by Mitch Leachman

Lisa Saffell
St. Louis

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