Alyssa Mechler

Summertime brings lots of exciting things to the community, including fledgling season! A fledgling is a juvenile bird that is learning how to fly and survive on its own. At the beginning of August, people often find fledgling Mississippi Kites on the ground.

A Mississippi Kite is a small raptor that is mostly gray and black, a fledgling will vary in color and have some brown and white spotting on the belly. Finding an animal in its natural habitat can be very exciting. At the zoo we often see all sorts of native animals along with our zoo residents! It is important for us not to rashly intervene with wildlife; we can observe from afar, but the animals usually don’t need our help to survive. Interacting with wildlife can often be more harmful than helpful. If you happen upon an animal, you can ask yourself some questions to determine if it needs assistance.

The first thing to ask yourself, “Do I see the parents around?” If you can locate the parents, the fledgling is in good hands, and you should leave it be. Mississippi Kites learn to fly from the ground up, so even if they are on the ground, it is okay. If you can’t locate the parents, can you find the nest? Safely return the bird to the nest if possible, especially if the baby is a nestling. Nestlings have very few feathers and need to be returned to the nest to survive; he still needs help from mom and dad.

If you can’t find the parents around and can’t see the nest, observe the bird for signs of obvious injury. This can be done without touching the bird. Is the bird struggling to stay on its feet? Is it holding its head up? Is it bright and alert? If the bird is holding its head up, staying on its feet and alert, it is most likely fine. Leave it be and bring your cats and dogs indoors, so the area is safe. Check on it later to make sure it has left the area. If you answered no to these questions, it is time to find a local rehabilitator or KDWPT. Find a list of rehabilitators by going to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks,

If you are unsure about whether a bird or any wildlife needs help, call a wildlife rehabilitator or KDWPT. and they will be happy to help you determine what is best for that individual. Until then, always remember interacting with wildlife should always be done with great care and forethought. Remember to always give wildlife their space when playing outdoors.

Alyssa Mechler is a conservation education aide at Lee Richardson Zoo.