Mount Vernon Songbird Sanctuary specializes in small migratory songbirds. We focus our expertise on warblers, flycatchers, orioles, waxwings,hummingbirds, woodpeckers, swifts, swallows, woodcock and killdeer. Many of these species are facing a decline in population due mostly to habitat loss on both their wintering and nesting grounds. In addition; Our experience also extends to birds that have specialized feeding methods/diet or housing needs.
Chimney swifts are probably the most unique bird we care for. They are sometimes described by people as a flying cigar with wings. Chimney swifts are arial insectivores which means that they eat only while in flight. Their bill design does not allow them to pick up food with their bill. They can be heard "chittering" in flight and can fly up to 500 miles a day seeking out food. They have a toe design that does not allow them to perch, but instead cling to vertical surfaces. They roost and nest in unlined chimneys and smoke stacks and occasionally in large hollow trees, which is what they used until the Europeans settled in America. They build their nests with saliva and tree twigs, which are broken off in flight. Their saliva acts as glue adhering a saucer shaped nest to the inside wall of a chimney. We mostly receive chimney swifts into rehabilitation after heavy rainstorms, which dissolve the saliva causing the nest to fall down. Young swifts can also lose their grip on the small nest and fall. They are mostly seen flying above older cities with older homes that have suitable chimneys for nesting. With more and more Chimneys being lined and capped chimney swifts are losing nesting sites.
While in rehabilitation swifts have to be hand fed once every 30 - 60 minutes depending upon their age for 12-14 hours each day, sunrise to sunset. We have a large flight cage for them to practice their flight and a real chimney for them to roost in, and fly in and out of. Chimney swifts learn from other swifts, therefore they need to be released at a roosting site where swifts are gathering socially and can learn where to feed and drink and to follow the chimney swifts when migration begins.
We specialize in all swallow species, Barn, tree, bank, cliff, and northern-rough wingedswallows.
All of these species of swallows have long, pointed wings, and are acrobatic flyers, catching insects in flight. Barn swallows are our most commonly admitted swallow. They make mud nests adhered to the inside walls and ceiling of wooden barns, garages, sheds and porches.They are usually admitted due to falling out of the nest. Swallows share the largest flight cage with the chimney swifts at our facility because they need such a large area to practice their acrobatic flight as do the chimney swifts.
Immature ruby-throated hummingbird
The only hummingbird to breed on the east coast. Hummingbirds have a very high metabolism and require a specialized diet. They are most commonly brought into rehabilitation from window strikes, nest falls, and being caught by a cat. When being prepared for release we enrich the flight cage with nectar producing plants and live fruit flies, so they can become adept at foraging for nectar and flycatching.
Occassionally during the fall and winter months vagrant hummingbirds are found in CT. We have cared for several Rufous hummingbirds over the years.
Woodpeckers and sapsuckers
We handle all woodpecker and sapsucker species found in CT. This includes Downy, hairy, red-bellied, pileated woodpeckers, northern flicker and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
Our most commonly admitted woodpeckers are downy, red-bellied and northern flicker. Woodpeckers nest in hollowed out tree cavities and are most commonly admitted from their tree being cut down, or fallen down, and window strikes. Please try not to cut down trees during the nesting season. Northern flickers are commonly addmitted from being hit by a car, as they forage on the sides of roads in the sand seeking ant colonies. Please keep an eye open for flickers and other birds while driving. Woodpeckers require a huge amount of insects, the larger the bird the more insects they consume. In their flight cage we have nesting boxes to provide a cavity to roost for the night. We also have live and dead trees in the cages so they can learn to climb and forage in tree bark to prepare for release.
Yellow- bellied sapsuckers are admitted mostly during spring and fall migration prone to striking windows. They make a living drilling tiny holes in live trees to drink the sap and eat the insects it attracts. In captivity we use diluted pure maple syrup and live insects to feed them. They are uncommon in rehabilitation and are always a treat to care for!
Killdeer are considered a shore bird, but are very commonly found throughout inland areas. They can be found in parks, golf couses and other open land areas with short grasses. They nest directly on rocky ground, sometimes in gravel driveways or flat gravel rooftops! They are precocial, meaning they are born with their eyes open, covered in down and can feed themselves soon after being hatched. They still require assistance from their parents for the next 4-5 weeks until they are fully feathered and capable of flying. They are commonly admitted as orphans. More uncommonly adults are admitted from car strikes.