Mango update: The countdown begins

According to a story about the Green-breasted Mango on NPR’s All Things Considered (whose original title referred to it as a “S. American” hummingbird), the bird was transferred to the Brookfield Zoo on Saturday for a 30-day quarantine before it will be released into the zoo’s free-flight aviary, in which another hummingbird currently resides. (Wow! Another hummingbird! The Brookfield Zoo obviously has extensive success keeping hummingbirds in captivity!). So the countdown begins: We have 27 days to convince the zoo that release in Texas is the most humane and ethical fate for this bird.

The NPR story consists primarily of an interview with Anne Oiler, the zoo’s Associate Curator of Birds. Ms. Oiler admits the choice to incarcerate the bird was controversial but repeats the unfounded conclusion that the bird’s evident disorientation would prevent it from surviving in the wild. Apparently the zoo consulted with “other institutions that have done more rehabilitation work with hummingbirds” and were advised against release because the bird has “shown some problems with his navigation issues” and “there’s no saying it wouldn’t happen again.” Yes, there is saying it wouldn’t happen again – I’m saying it wouldn’t happen again, and I’ve got the science to back it up. Too bad All Things Considered isn’t All Sides Considered.

Oiler’s comments implied that zoo officials believe that the controversy is as much anti-zoo as it is pro-mango. This could not be further from the truth, at least in my case (being a former zoo bird keeper), but this may be why I received no response to a voice mail message to Kim Smith, Vice President of Animal Care for the Chicago Zoological Society. The headline of an article in the Chicago Suburban News dated August 8, described Smith, a graduate of Arizona State University, as “working on updating zoo.” Hmm…I can think of a policy change for animal acquisitions that would give the zoo a fast ride into the 21st century.

To be fair, I did get a call from someone in the zoo’s PR department, but of course she couldn’t answer any of my questions about who made the decision to accept the mango and why and on whose advice. She promised to get someone to call me to answer those very important questions, but so far nothing. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with journalist Susan Kuczka, who wrote the Chicago Tribune’s original story on the mango. She had not heard about the mango’s capture and transport to the zoo and was delighted to jump right on the story.

It’s late and there’s nothing more to be done tonight, so for now it’s time to, in the words of Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, hang it up and see what tomorrow brings. But before I do, I want to thank bloggers Mike McDowell of birddigiscoping.com and The Birdchick herself, Sharon Stiteler, for covering the issue in their blogs and linking to my post. Thanks in large part to their loyal readerships, my hit count almost doubled in 24 hours. And kudos to all the other bloggers who’ve weighed in, and everyone who’s heard the call and spoken up in favor of release in Texas. It can still happen folks. We shall overcome!

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8 thoughts on “Mango update: The countdown begins

  1. For what it is worth, I wrote to the NWF and asked if they would consider getting involved to help get the Green-Breated Mango released. I also received a 2nd email from Scott Diehl of the WHS. Here it is in its entirety:
    “has a policy of NOT issuing permits to transport wayward hummingbirds back to
    their normal range.

    In years past, we used to capture Rufous Hummingbirds here in WI in November
    after freeze-up. We would send them to a hummingbird rehabilitator in CA. She
    would keep them over-winter and release them the following spring. A few years
    back though, the USFWS changed their policy and refuses to allow for the capture
    and relocation of wayward hummers.”

    Scott Diehl

  2. OOPS! The first part of the email was cut off. Here it is again.

    “The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,
    has a policy of NOT issuing permits to transport wayward hummingbirds back to
    their normal range.

    In years past, we used to capture Rufous Hummingbirds here in WI in November
    after freeze-up. We would send them to a hummingbird rehabilitator in CA. She
    would keep them over-winter and release them the following spring. A few years
    back though, the USFWS changed their policy and refuses to allow for the capture
    and relocation of wayward hummers. ”

    Scott Diehl

  3. Found your posts on the Green-breasted Mango from Mike’s blog. Thanks for taking the time and energy on behalf of the Mango and all future wayward hummers.

    We had a similar situation happen with the New York City Calliope Hummingbird that was found at the southern tip of Manhattan. A “rehabber” set up a trap to capture this hummingbird in order to have it winter over in the Bronx Zoo. Luckily the “rehabber” was unsuccessful.

    Ben Cacace

  4. Sheri,
    Howsabout letters to the editor of the Chicago Tribune requesting relocation of the mango to the Lower Rio Grande Valley ?
    Could that be something the rest of us could do while you and other pros deal with the zoo?
    Peggy Siegert
    Slidell, LA

  5. Thanks to everybody for taking an interest in this situation. The negotiations continue and are at a critical stage right now, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping that I can ask the mango’s supporters to write letters thanking the Brookfield Zoo for giving him a second chance, so please sit tight until I hear back from the zoo administration.

  6. hi, Sheri, so what’s the latest? will the mango be strong enough upon release? do hummingbird flight muscles atrophy in aviaries? is the mango on public display at the brookfield zoo? if tranferred to Texas, should it be held again in an aviary, and if so where and for how long, to ensure that it is strong enough to survive? would appreciate your thoughts, and good luck! oh, is the bird now banded–if you know? -ken in alabama

  7. Pingback: Rods and mango redux « Life, Birds, and Everything

  8. Pingback: “Rescuing” baby hummingbirds « Life, Birds, and Everything

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