Archives > April 2016

Are robins back, or did they ever leave?

Although the majority of robins have migrated back to Alberta from as far south as southern Mexico and Guatemala, some robins actually choose to overwinter in Alberta and the rest of Canada.  That’s because robins base their decision to migrate on whether or not there is enough food to sustain them over the winter, and not as much about the weather – no matter how harsh our winters can be.

In the spring and summer when the ground thaws, robins eat earthworms and insects.  In the fall they switch to eating berries from trees like mountain ash or chokecherries. If they choose to overwinter in Alberta they spend time travelling from place to place in search of more berries.

Male and female robins look very similar, with the main difference being that female robins are a lighter coloring than males. Females have a lighter grey head and a lighter red-orange breast.

Females are the nest builders which takes them anywhere from two to six days, and an average of about one hundred and eighty trips a day of bringing grass and mud to their nesting site to do so.

baby robins colleen 07Robins may lay two to three clutches—or sets of eggs—a year, starting in late April or early May. Both females and males feed and care for three to four nestlings once they hatch, and provide each one with thirty to forty 40 meals each a day.

Nestlings fledge their nest at approximately thirteen days old, where they are vulnerable to predators like blue jays, magpies and other birds, as well as squirrels, cats and dogs until they can fly.

Another thing that is fatal to robins (and all birds) once they are able to fly, is windows.  Two reasons robins fly into windows are:

  • they do not realize the glass is there and just see the reflection of a tree or branch they think they can land on,
  • they are being territorial and think that their reflection is another robin coming toward them.

In most cases, robins don’t sing until they have arrived on their breeding territory – it’s their way of saying “I’m home”.  So give them something to sing about by doing your part to keep them safe:

  • Keep your cats or dogs inside or closely monitored during nesting season (especially if you know there is a nest nearby).
  • Place decals, stickers, sun catchers, transparent film, netting or outdoor shutters on the outside of windows.  If building a new house or replacing windows, consider screens on the outside of the window as an option.

Do you have robins nesting in your garden already?

Some of the information gathered for this blog came from:
Canadian Wildlife Federation at…/american-robin.html
Journey North at

Increased number of animals being admitted to AIWC

With the warmer weather so far this year, we have seen increasing patient numbers at AIWC. In addition, we have admitted wildlife babies earlier than normal with our first great horned owl (GHOW) nestling admitted in 2016 on March 16th. In 2015, our first GHOW baby wasn’t admitted until April 20th.

As of April 19th, 2016, we have admitted 157 patients to our centre. In 2014, 84 animals had been admitted by this date and in 2015, 74 animals had been admitted.

Our busiest times of year are from May till August and on any given day during these months we can expect to have 200-300 animals in care. In 2015, we admitted 1675 animals!

The difference for us this year is that we are getting busier a lot earlier than normal. This impacts our planning for the summer, it can take months to prepare for our busy season, and our costs are increased as we are caring for more animals in what is typically our “quieter” time of the year.

Higher than average temperatures are what we attribute to be the main reason for our increased patient numbers. Animals that have migrated back to the province are able to mate and nest earlier than normal, and larger numbers of animals are also choosing to over-winter here instead of migrating.

How can you help? If you see injured or orphaned wildlife please call us at 403-946-2361. If you’d like to support an animal in our care, we have a variety of ways you can help, visit here for more info:

Pictured: Eurasian-collared dove currently in care. 

Respecting Wildlife in Off-Leash Dog Parks

Did you know that it is illegal for dogs to harass wildlife encountered in parks and natural areas? This includes barking at, chasing, and biting other animals.

All natural areas are home to a variety of wildlife, particularly off-leash dog parks, and it’s important to be respectful of wildlife for everyone’s safety. 95% of the patients admitted to AIWC are a result of human-wildlife conflict, including being attacked by dogs. We believe every Albertan should be a stakeholder in the care of wellbeing of our wildlife animals.

Here are some tips to help when visiting off-leash dog areas with your family pet(s):

  • Ensure your dog responds well to your voice, sound, or visual commands. This will help protect your pet from wildlife, cars, and hostile dogs.
  • Make your presence in the area known to wildlife by wearing a bear bell and/or putting a bell on your dog’s collar.
  • Keep pets in your sight at all times.
  • Avoid going near areas that look like den sites and areas that have thick vegetation.

One of the most common wildlife and pet encounters is when dogs attack porcupines. Porcupines do not shoot their quills, so for your dog to be quilled, contact has to be made with the porcupine. Which means the porcupine can also be injured from the encounter. And even if they don’t appear severely injured, bacteria from our pets’ mouths can still infect them and they should be checked out by a wildlife rehabilitator, rather than assumed fine.

Following these guidelines will help keep parks and natural areas safe places for both the dogs and wildlife who enjoy them.

If an encounter does occur, please report any wildlife who may be injured, making specific note of the animal’s location, transporting the wild animal to the vet with you in a box if you have one on hand, or leaving someone behind to keep an eye on the animal while our rescue driver arrives.  After calling the vet for your pet, call our wildlife hotline for the other animal: 403-946-2361

Remember, we all have a responsibility to both control our pets and protect our wild neighbours.

It all comes down to this:

“We don’t own the earth. We are the earth’s caretakers. We take care of it and all the things on it. And when we’re done with it, it should be left better than we found it.” ― Katherine Hannigan, author.

Great Horned Owls Continue to Make Headlines in Alberta

March was been a high-publicity month for great horned owls in Alberta!

Mid-month, we admitted our first baby animal of 2016: a great horned owl nesting who had fallen out of the nest and was brought to the centre. As is often the case with nestling birds, he was found without injury and had a short stay in care before he was returned to the wild.

Thankfully, the finder made note of the nest location on the University of Calgary premises, and our volunteer rescue team was able to return him to his parents and two siblings right away.

Of course, being located on a university campus meant the owl family became instant celebrities, and you can read more about them on CBC news here, and hear AIWC talk about them on CBC Eyeopener radio here.

AIWC has been able to keep an eye on the owlets’ progression on campus and was pleased to see all three owlets fledge successfully, and they’ve been able to move on from their initial nesting site, which was too busy for them to stay too long.

Calgarians were lucky to be able to appreciate urban wildlife so closely, but the crowds they started to draw also started to become a risk to their successful growth and development.

Also making headlines were nesting owls in Kananaskis country. Alberta Parks has closed some climbing routes at Grassi Lakes to minimize disturbances, and you can read more about the closure notices on the Alberta Environment & Parks website here.

Great horned owls can have a long lifespan in the wild (approximately 13 years), but the first year is the most crucial to their survival and where they have the highest mortality rate, as they learn to hunt and adapt to their surroundings. A constant human presence at a great horned owl nest site can cause stress and distraction for the owlets and the adult owls focused on keeping them alive, and it is always best to give them a wide radius so they can be appreciated long-term.

Do you have any owl nesting sites in your area?