Behind the Scenes with Rose
by Rose Augustine, Wildlife Specialist
Juncos are common in DuPage County this time of year, but this is the only time we’ll see this northern species. They arrive in November after migrating south from summer breeding grounds in Canada or higher elevations in the U.S. They spend winter here foraging, sometimes in large flocks with other types of sparrows, but return to their northern homes come spring.
Juncos are easy to identify. They have dark gray to brown feathers on their backs and white outer feathers on their tails, which you can spot when they’re in flight. The slate-colored juncos we have here in northeastern Illinois also have white abdomens. This one looks slightly different with the streaky brown feathers on its abdomen, but these are only leftovers of its juvenile plumage. Most birds molt all of their body feathers as they reach full maturity, a process that can last five to 12 weeks, but it can take longer, which would explain why this bird still has some immature plumage.
This raccoon was found in Burr Ridge, hanging around a police department parking lot, moving slowly and obviously not feeling well. A visual examination quickly revealed the raccoon was suffering from sarcoptic mange.
Mange is caused by microscopic mites that burrow in the skin. Mites cause an inflammatory response similar to an allergic response, and the skin becomes extremely itchy. As the animal scratches, the itchy areas can easily become infected, and as the infection progresses, most of the animal’s body becomes affected. Luckily, mange is easy to treat with oral medications.
This raccoon had extremely crusty skin and bare spots over much of its head and torso when it arrived, but it’s already started to nicely regrow its fur and should have a full coat in time for its release back into the wild.
White pelicans have become frequent visitors to Illinois in recent years. They can be found in large numbers, often hundreds at a time, in lagoons, inland lakes and quarries as they migrate through. They’re seen most often near Kankakee and Joliet and in western Illinois. They pass through Illinois as early as March on their way to their breeding grounds in Wisconsin and Minnesota and again in October on their way to Mexico and Texas and other Gulf states.
This pelican was rescued in Bedford Park, where it was wandering around a parking lot for a few days. Willowbrook staff determined it had a lot of external parasites and was not as alert and active as expected. It was giving medication to eliminate the parasites and received supportive care. Its condition declined further over the next few days, but it ultimately rebounded and started to feel better, acting more like normal, eating well and moving around its enclosure. By this time, though, it was early December, and there were few white pelicans in the area, so Willowbrook’s wildlife specialist and veterinarian decided to relocate the bird to a rehabilitator in Florida, where it will be able to complete the rehabilitation process and ultimately be released into a flock of other pelicans.
White pelicans are large birds, weighing up to 16 pounds with a wingspan of 9 feet. One pelican can eat 3 to 4 pounds of fish a day, and its pouch can hold 3 gallons of water. Pelicans often fish in groups, floating on the water and dipping their heads below the surface to troll for fish and crustaceans. They sometimes form semicircles that face the shoreline and then use their feet and wings to corral fish closer to shore, making fishing a breeze!