Good rule of thumb when encountering a wild, predatory bird: don’t pet it, don’t snuggle it, and definitely don’t get in its face for a big wet kiss.
You might just get a huge chunk ripped out of your lip, like the unfortunate Florida chap who tried to lay a smackeroo on a male kestrel -- a small falcon a little larger than a robin -- that he found in his yard on Jan. 15.
The man, whose name has not been released, had good intentions, Rick Chaboudy, executive director of Palm Harbor-based animal rescue group, Suncoast Animal League, told The Huffington Post.
After seeing the kestrel in his yard and noticing the bird didn’t fly away when he approached, the man feared the bird was injured. He took him inside and, finding that he was acting strangely calm, thought maybe he would turn his new feathered friend into a pet.
“The bird sat there and acted tame, and he’s like, ‘Well, it really likes me,'" Chaboudy said.
But Chaboudy said he suspects the bird -- which had no immediately visible injuries -- was in a daze from flying into a window, or some other head injury. Wild animals, he said, will sometimes act bizarrely tame following an injury, only to go back to their old selves after they recover, he said.
Since the Southeastern American kestrel is a protected species in Florida, keeping one as a pet is not only a bad idea -- it's also illegal without a special permit. Someone who saw photos of the new “pet” on Facebook alerted the Suncoast Animal League, who contacted him to explain he needed to give the bird up.
When a Suncoast volunteer headed over to collect the bird on Tuesday, the man came to the door with a huge, bloody chunk missing from his lip. He had tried to give his beloved pet a kiss goodbye.
“I think it was the bird’s first kiss,” Chaboudy said. “He didn’t know what was happening. He probably thought the guy was coming at him to eat him or something.”
Chaboudy said his organization cared for the bird for a few hours before turning him over to Tampa Bay Bird Rescue, which will more thoroughly assess the bird’s condition. The ultimate goal is to release him back into the wild.
Chaboudy emphasized that when the man thought the bird was in trouble, his first course of action should have been to contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission for assistance. He also said that sometimes well-meaning people trying to help birds can actually hurt them more. Forcing a bird to drink water, for example, can cause the bird to inhale liquid into its lungs, which can be deadly. And people often don’t know the appropriate foods to feed a bird.
“The best thing to do … is keep them [in the] dark and quiet and then find a [wildlife] rehabber,” he said.
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