Raptor Education Group declares “bird emergency” after weekend snowstorm

Robins, warblers and other migratory birds that already had arrived in Central Wisconsin are now in peril.


A robin in Wausau looks for food on the snow-covered ground Monday, April 16.

If you’ve seen a dead or dying robin since Sunday, you’re one of many, many people who’ve witnessed what a local bird expert has called a “bird emergency” following this past weekend’s storm that dumped 20–30 inches of snow across central and northern Wisconsin. And with more snow and cold temperatures forecasted for Wednesday, “The birds require your help,” says Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group (REGI) in Antigo. “They are starving.”

The unusual April storm already killed or severely weakened many migratory birds such as robins, warblers, and woodcocks; the deep, lingering snow cover has cut off the food supply for the survivors. REGI, which operates as a rescue primarily for birds of prey, is asking that anyone who sees a struggling bird or has a bird feeder to provide some help.

Gibson says the birds can’t access their normal food sources— worms and other insects—and are slipping into hypothermia. Gibson estimates REGI received 80 calls on Tuesday morning alone from people who have encountered a dead or dying bird. She advises people to call REGI at 715- 623-4015 if you see a dying bird, need advice, or would be willing to serve as a volunteer driver to transport birds to REGI’s facility in Antigo, where the animals can be treated.

In the meantime, Gibson says those with bird feeders should keep them stocked with cut-up raisins, dried mealworms, shelled sunflower-seed pieces, frozen blueberries and crumbled suet blocks. You can also put food on the ground near evergreens or rural roads.

If you see a struggling bird you can pick up, please do so, Gibson asks. Put the bird in a cardboard box with a towel on the bottom and bring it to warm area. Cover the box to create a sort of “incubator” with some live or dried mealworms or waxworms for the bird to eat. Transport the bird to REGI as soon as possible or call and REGI will try to find a volunteer driver. “Seeing people step up and take them in warm boxes in their house really, really helps until we can get there,” Gibson says.

For more details and advice, go to RaptorEducationGroup.org, or the organization’s Facebook page.