MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Natural Resources Environmental Affairs office rehabilitated and released four birds back into the wild behind the Combat Center’s Desert Winds Golf Course July 30.
The birds, which included a Cowbird, Red-tailed Hawk, and three Great Horned Owls, were captured from various areas aboard the base and surrounding community to ensure their safety from vehicles and humans.
Two of the owls were found in Landers, Calif., and were given to NREA to be released aboard the base, which is closer to their natural habitat and safer for them to nest.
The third owl was found June 16 behind the house of the Combat Center’s commanding general. The owl fledged too early and fell out of the nest. NREA ensured it was cared for until it was old enough to fly and feed itself.
The Red-tailed Hawk was captured June 13 at the Combat Center’s golf course after it was hit by a golf ball and injured by the impact. NREA took it to the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center, where it was nursed back to health before being returned to NREA.
The Cowbird was found July 30 underneath a vehicle. The bird was dehydrated, but healthy enough to be re-released without rehabilitation.
NREA is the only organization aboard the base that is allowed to handle migratory birds. They have a special permit that gives them permission under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to handle and capture migratory bird.
All birds expect the House Sparrow, Rock Dove and starlings are protected under the MBTA which means it is illegal to hunt, capture, kill, sell, purchase, transport or receive any migratory bird, part of the bird, nest or egg.
“We have a permit to move these birds,” said Brent Husung, NREA’s natural resources specialist. “We would hate to have a Marine trying to help out and get caught holding a bird and get in trouble.”
MBTA also states that it is illegal to feed wild birds, which NREA explained may cause safety problems, especially in residential areas.
“When people put up bird feeders the birds spill the seeds everywhere,” said Brian Henen, NREA’s ecologist. “Rodents are attracted to the seeds, and the rodents then attract the bigger predators such as bobcats and snakes. You pretty much create a food chain in your backyard.”
The staff working at NREA has become well-educated in the species of birds native to Twentynine Palms, Calif., which gives the bird the est chance of survival if needed to be captured by NREA.
“Sometimes it is difficult to identify species, which has a big impact on how to handle them,” said Steve Selser, NREA’s biological sciences technician. “If someone captures a bird but doesn’t know what species it is, they can be trying to feed it seeds when its main diet is mice.”
NREA urges people to call them if a bird is injured or has become a nuisance aboard the base. Other animals such as snakes, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and mountain lions should be reported quickly to ensure the safety of all personnel aboard the base. To report any of these animals contact NREA at (760)830-7396 or (760)830-5720.