Wednesday, July 17, 2002

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Progressive Animal
Welfare Society

PO Box 1037
Lynnwood, WA 98046

See video of a Kingfisher receiving care at PAWS, and getting placed back with his siblings in his nest.

Homecoming King…fisher
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
Returning young belted kingfishers to their parents is becoming an annual event for me. During the first week of July in 2001, I reunited a fledgling kingfisher with his parents at Owens Beach in Tacoma. It was a rewarding experience and, at the time, seemed like a once in a lifetime sort of occurrence. On June 25th, 2002, however, I found myself driving to Boeing Creek Park in Shoreline to attempt to find the nest burrow of a

Kingfisher

A young kingfisher rests at PAWS while waiting to be returned to his nest burrow.

very young kingfisher that had arrived at PAWS the day before. Meeting me at the park were Cheryl Gruwell and her daughter Bea.

Cheryl had discovered the baby kingfisher in the middle of a trail that ran along a stream. The bird was clearly too young to be out of the nest and appeared to be shivering. Cheryl picked him up and took him home, keeping him warm on the way. Once at home, Cheryl made several phone calls to try to find help for the little bird while Bea kept him warm and cared for him. Cheryl was eventually referred to the PAWS Wildlife Department and transported the bird (which they had named "Twinkie") to the center in Lynnwood.

Upon admittance, the kingfisher was found to be a healthy nestling and an attempt to return him to his burrow was planned for the next morning. In the meantime, the young bird was placed in a cage with an injured adult female kingfisher. The female quickly took to him and before long was brooding him to keep him warm and becoming very protective. The pairing seemed to have beneficial psychological effects for both birds and they were both eagerly swallowing fish that were provided by their human caregivers.

Kingfisher friend

While at the wildlife center, the nestling kingfisher was housed with an adult female kingfisher. The pairing seemed to be beneficial to both of them.

On the morning of June 25th, the nestling kingfisher received a final PAWS-supplied meal before I placed him in a transport container and set out to return him to his home. I arrived at Boeing Creek Park to find Cheryl and Bea waiting for me. They were visibly excited about getting the little bird back where he belonged, and I shared their excitement. The three of us walked to the point on the trail where the kingfisher had been discovered. Slightly above eye level in a sand bank next to the trail was what appeared to be a burrow. I approached the hole and attempted to see inside. It was far too dark to make anything out and I was unable to hear any signs of life either. I wanted to be sure that there was indeed a nest chamber at the end of the tunnel and, lacking any fiber optic cameras or other such high tech devices, I used the only tool available to me. I reached my arm into the hole (please don't try this at home) and could clearly feel the tunnel drop away into a nest chamber about 2 feet in. I then felt the hard but rubbery bill of a nestling kingfisher as it attempted to swallow my finger!

With the nest site confirmed, Cheryl, Bea and I headed back to my truck to retrieve the box containing "Twinkie". Bea was kind enough to carry the box back down to the burrow for me. As I took the kingfisher out of the box and approached the burrow entrance, he became extremely active and vocal. I placed him inside the hole and he immediately ran down the tunnel and into the nest chamber. As I watched him go, my eyes began to adjust a bit to the darkness and I could make out what appeared the be the feathered head of an adult kingfisher at the back of the burrow. Apparently one of the parents had returned to the nest while we were retrieving the baby from the truck.

We left the family to enjoy their reunion in private. The next day, Cheryl reported via email that she had heard the chirping of the young kingfishers as she passed their burrow on her daily walk. Hopefully, the babies will decide to save any future exploring for a time when they are old enough to fly.

Many thanks to Cheryl and Bea Gruwell for helping to give this little kingfisher a second chance at life!

Wildlife Release tally: June 26 to July 9, 2002
46 Mallards
54 Virginia Opossums
4 Black-capped Chickadees
2 Green Herons
1 Western Painted Turtle
4 Rock Doves
5 Eastern Cottontails
12 English House Sparrows
1 House Finch
4 American Robins
4 Pine Siskins
4 Steller's Jays
7 Bushtits
9 American Crows
1 Belted Kingfisher (returned to burrow)

Wildlife Release tally: 2002 Year to Date
519 mammals and birds

All rights reserved. 2002 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

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