Last week, the evening of April 30, a large flock of very large birds spent a considerable amount of time flying over Willow Lake before finally settling down for the night.
In spite of their 108-inch wing span—which is significantly larger than a Bald Eagle, which has an 80-inch wing span—these huge birds are challenging to see when they are in flight.
As they circle high in the sky, they seemingly disappear to view. Then, as they circle around, they come back into view, only to disappear as they turn again.
In other words, as you watch these birds in flight, they disappear and reappear over and over again, which is fascinating to witness. It is kind of like, “Now you see them, now you don’t.”
Many people saw the flock, and the next morning, the store received a lot of phone calls wanting an identification of the unidentified flying objects.
What were those, birds?
While I didn’t see them, I received a “rare bird alert” email that evening notifying me of their arrival. Knowing their behavior of stopping at dusk to rest and refuel before lifting off the following morning, I didn’t rush out to see them. I figured they’d be there Friday morning.
I arrived at the east bay of Willow Lake shortly after 7 a.m. and they were there—all resting on the water in one giant group, drifting slowly westward. I put my spotting scope on them to enhance the view, even though they were easily seen with the naked eye. It was a giant flotilla that would be impossible to miss, 140 American White Pelicans.
I didn’t stay long, so I don’t know when they lifted off to continue their northward journey, but it was a pleasure to take in the sight. It is likely that other flocks of pelicans will pass through Prescott in the next week or two, so be on the lookout. On an unrelated topic, it is time for my once-a-year “don’t touch baby birds” rant.
Each year we receive phone calls and have individuals who come into the store wanting to know what to do with a baby bird they have “rescued.”
It happened on Tuesday of this week—a gal came into the store with a box, and in the box was a tiny baby hummingbird that she picked up on her morning walk.
Here is my advice on how to handle the situation of finding a baby bird. Do nothing. Walk away. Leave it alone. While your intentions are good, and you believe you are helping the baby bird, in reality, removing it from its natural environment and bringing it into your home is not the right thing to do.
Baby birds leave the nest when they are ready. They may appear small, they may not be able to fly very well, they may appear to be abandoned, but it is important to understand that they leave the nest when they’re ready to go. Rarely does a bird ever “fall” out of a nest. They are out of the nest because they have chosen to leave the nest.
Their parents are well aware of where they are, and will continue to feed them and take care of them. Capturing them and bringing them indoors deprives them of the opportunity to learn necessary survival skills that only their parents can teach them. Wild birds are best equipped to handle their own, so we should practice a hands-off approach when we encounter a baby bird out of the nest.
Until next week, happy birding, and be well!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona—Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.