Image Source: https://www.nwitimes.com/
Two endangered baby birds now call Indiana Dunes National Park home after being rescued from a window well in Cedar Lake.
On July 2, two 11-year-old girls, Lily Alexander and Aria Alfonzo, found the two chicks while checking window wells in their Cedar Lake neighborhood, said Lourdes Castellanos, Humane Indiana communications and marketing manager.
The two girls, both animal lovers, take it upon themselves to routinely knock on neighbors’ doors to ask permission to check local window wells for wildlife that get trapped in the steep walls of the enclosures. In their mission to help Cedar Lake critters, they have rescued snakes, frogs and mice that would have otherwise likely perished.
“We don’t want them to die,” Lily Alexander told Humane Indiana staff.
Majorie Alexander, Lily Alexander’s mother, said at first the girls thought the chicks were mice but when they picked them up, they discovered they were baby birds. The girls rescued the trapped chicks and brought them home, where Majorie Alexander contacted Humane Indiana Wildlife about the discovery.
“We had requested pictures of the chicks so that we could first determine how old they were, and what species they were,” said Nicole Harmon, director of the Humane Indiana Wildlife Center. “We received the photos and our team was ecstatic when we determined they were Virginia Rails, an endangered species in Indiana, and at that point, we focused on just preparing to receive them so that we could begin the process of rehabilitating them.”
On their hourlong ride to the Humane Indiana Wildlife Center in Valparaiso, Lily Alexander fed the chicks water with a syringe, but when they arrived they were still dehydrated.
“These marsh-dwellers are not only elusive, but they’re a very high stress species and require special consideration,” Harmon said
Harmon said this was the first time accepting Virginia Rail chicks in the wildlife center. Staff were able to conjure up a mix of food that would entice the chicks to eat, consisting of blood worms, mealworms and brine shrimp.
After spending some time at the Humane Indiana Wildlife Center, the chicks were able to bulk up, each weighing 82 grams. Harmon said once the chicks reached six to eight weeks old and weighed between 65 to 95 grams, they were ready to be released.
With permission from officials at Indiana Dunes National Park, the wildlife center staff released the birds on Friday at the park. The two girls and their families were in attendance to wish the chicks well and say goodbye.
“I just love animals. Animals are a big part of my life,” Lily Alexander said. “I feel like we helped out the population of them (Virginia Rails).”
Populations of Virginia Rails have greatly declined with the loss of marsh habitats and have been listed as endangered in Indiana since 2000, according to the Cornell Lab of Orinthology.
The release at the Indiana Dunes National Park Friday went well, with the two chicks hopping along the forest floor before taking flight into their new home, Castellanos said.
“It’s those kids, these little girls, who will grow up and do amazing things for wildlife,” Harmon said.