Many would be surprised to learn that I used to be afraid of birds, mostly because I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at a young, impressionable age. But a passion for animals drove me to volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center even though the Avian Nursery had the only open positions. On my first day, I was practically terrified of the helpless baby robins, with eyes still closed and bodies covered in soft down. Luckily, I quickly learned how to handle the chicks and be comfortable with them.
I became a true “bird nerd” in one spring day during my internship at the International Crane Foundation (ICF). In addition to caring for over 100 captive adult cranes, we were busy tending to their eggs. During an afternoon check, I carefully pulled a brown speckled Whooping Crane egg from an incubator and set it on the counter in front of a speaker. I played a recording of an adult’s brood call, a quiet sound almost like a purr. After a moment, the egg started to rock back and forth. I lowered my ear and heard a muffled peeping coming through the shell. Just a few days from hatching, that chick was able to recognize a parent’s voice and respond to it!
I was amazed to witness evidence of life hidden behind the eggshell and honored to hold such an important life literally in my hands. Whooping cranes nearly became extinct: just 21 birds remained in the 1940’s. With the help of captive breeding programs like the one at ICF, Whooping Cranes began their recovery. Their population is still not self-sustaining, however, and they remain endangered.
It is because of my moment with that chick, because of the inspirational conservation work by organizations like ICF, and because of a love of birds that I am participating in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. On June 15, the Museum’s team “Namakagon Naturalists” will try to find as many bird species as possible to help raise money for bird conservation. By donating to our team here, you can support state-wide projects – like Whooping Crane reintroductions – that help Wisconsin birds. Donations to our team will also support a Museum scholarship to bring our live raptor programs into local schools. I hope you can take a moment today to think about your connection with birds and consider supporting our Birdathon team. Also be sure to check our calendar of events to join one of our birding trips on June 15!