A young girl with magical powers dwells in Hatteras village.
Haley Rosell realized for the first time that she “really had a way with birds” when she bonded with a newly hatched chicken. That little peep followed her everywhere she went, and Haley loved it.
“But Turk was the first bird I really, truly bonded with.”
She found the little heron last summer while fishing in the pond across the road from her house. She was catching minnows for her fish tank, when she heard a little “plop” in the water about ten feet away.
She at first thought it must be a turtle, but then she spotted “this grey thing that almost looked like a rag flopping around in the water.”
It was too far for her to reach, and about four feet from the shore, but she wanted to help him and scooped him out with her dip net.
That is when she realized it was a baby Green Heron, so she immediately called Lou Browning of Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation.
Lou advised her to place the heron back in the nest, but it was too high for her.
So, she set about building it a new nest! She placed it close to the original nest, but the mother never returned.
That was the beginning of a great passion. He was her first bird, and the first wild bird she took care of.
That little bird began to treat Haley as he would his parents, going wild with excitement whenever he saw her coming towards the nest as he would call for food.
Haley named him Turk, originally Turq and short for Turquoise, because of the amazing color of the skin on his head beneath the down – an aqua-blue/turquoise shade.
At first, she didn’t really like the name, but when she got to know him, she decided it was a perfect fit for his cute and playful personality.
Turk “hangs out” with Haley. I have seen him riding on her bicycle with her, and walking along the docks. When she stops to chat with family and friends Turk stays right there with her.
She has since adopted other birds, including two adorable budgies: Kiwi is a green-colored female and Cobalt, a blue male. They love to sit on her shoulder and make the most precious, colorful, living Christmas tree ornaments when they perch on the sparkling decorated tree!
So how does she train them to remain close?
Haley says, “It is not really training as much as it is trust. I’ve spent time with all of my animals, learning about them and letting them learn about me. They don’t have a reason to be afraid when I am around, so they don’t have a reason to fly. More good things come from me than bad. And I don’t have a reason to fear them flying away because I know they trust me. Most people think that’s dangerous for the bird, but trust and love is stronger than any rope.”
There have been other wild birds since Turk, too.
She found a baby starling in her yard, but managed to locate the nest and return it. Later the same day, Lou Browning brought her a Eurasian Collared Dove. It had been hit by a car the previous week and was on the mend, but couldn’t be released because it was an invasive species. So, Haley happily agreed to take him in.
She had settled the pretty little bird in at home when she got a call from a neighbor telling her about two baby starlings that had fallen from their nest. They had placed them back in the nest, but the birds fell out again.
Haley went to help, and estimated that the birds were about 6-7 days old – too young to leave the nest. Since they wouldn’t stay there, she took them in too!
Sadly, one of the babies had broken its leg, probably in one of the falls. She tried to save him, but his leg got worse and he wouldn’t eat, so they had to euthanize him.
His nest-mate, now about 15 days old, is strong, healthy, active, and very hungry!
His name is “Chirp,” although she usually just refers to him as “Little.” He will not be able to be released either, as starlings are also an invasive species, but she wouldn’t be able to release him anyway because of his strong bonding with her.
I asked Haley what she feeds her feathered babies. She recently had put out an appeal for worms. But she said she has now taken Chirp off of worms and onto dog food! “Yes, I know that sounds weird,” Haley explained, “but it is actually more nutritious than worms.”
He does get worms for a treat, though. And she has just received an anonymous gift of 500 mealworms, mealworm feed, and bedding and a very good brand kit. “Chirp absolutely loves it, and so do I! Thank you!”
Her other birds eat seed, mostly finch seed, but they also get treats. There are also the odd greens, like mustard plants, or fruit.
You can tell what birds eat by “looking at the shape of their bills. For instance, a budgie’s bill is sharp and hooked for eating plants and opening seeds high in the trees, while a starling’s beak is long and narrow for poking into the grass searching for insects.”
“Seed and bedding is actually probably the most expensive part for these guys other than housing, but I build custom enclosures for my birds.” As for bedding, she uses sand or kitty litter for the bottom layer, and tops it with either mulch or pine wood shavings.
Do you have any fear, I asked?
She responded, as expected, “I don’t fear many animals because I know how to read them and know if they are dangerous.” For example, she has also studied snake behavior and she is easily able to tell if a snake is defensive or aggressive or feeding. She can avoid getting bitten by knowing when they will strike.
It is a strategy she uses for most animals, but admits there are some animals she can’t read as well, like cats and amphibians, and these are the ones she is cautious around.
Haley unselfishly credits Lou Browning for much of what she knows about birds and wildlife in general. “Lou, I would definitely consider a mentor. Most of my questions, I go to him, and he doesn’t just tell me the answer – he actually explains why something is that way.” His patience and time are truly well spent.
“I don’t really understand my satisfaction from [birds.] I want to learn about them so I can teach others about them. But I think mostly I just love knowing that I’m making a difference in the life of a living animal, that they know me and I know them. The feeling of having a life relying on me for survival … it’s a major motivation.”
Haley Rosell, daughter of Maria and Paul, just celebrated her 16th birthday. She is a student at Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies and works in one of her family businesses, Happy Belly Ice Cream, 57204 Hwy. 12 in Hatteras village.
Her parents are understandably proud of her. Her mother told me when I sought permission to write this story, “Yes, that would be great, Lynne. She has a passion and follows it!”