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And Just Like That... It's Baby Bird Season Again!

While Baby Bird Season generally begins May first, by early April we'd already released our first group of baby hummingbirds and a baby Barn Owl. You might also remember reading in the Press Democrat about the ducklings rescued from a storm drain who were brought to us for care—just one of many baby bird stories BRC becomes a part of this time of year.

What you haven't heard about yet are the tiny California Scrub Jays we recently received, still featherless and with their eyes closed. Two of them are now homeless because of tree trimming on their nest tree, and one who was orphaned by outdoor cats killing the parents. There was also an adorable baby Great Horned Owl, the first of many, found on the ground below its nest with no parents in sight.

No matter the species or reason for their arrival, our team works diligently to care for all babies with the ultimate goal of returning them to the wild—ideally with their biological families. When the parents are no longer present, the focus turns to finding foster nests or, when all else fails, raising them until they can be released on their own. Red-shouldered Hawk's Second Chance


In late February, this Red-shouldered Hawk arrived needing care after being found on the ground. Our medical staff found torticollis, a condition where the head turns to one side, along with general body weakness, a non-normal threat pose, looseness in the wings and legs accompanied by muscle atrophy (degeneration of the muscles). There were other scrapes and bruises but the Central Nervous System issues (neurologic impairment causing abnormal movements and coordination) seemed to indicate trauma, West Nile Virus (WNV), or avian flu (HPAI). Thus, he went straight into our quarantine.

While it was unclear what caused these issues based on where he was found, it was apparent he was in bad shape. Some symptoms indicated new trauma while others indicated older. There was significant bruising near his right eye and the eye had a discharge indicating a possible ulcer or a more internal injury than could be assessed by the naked eye.


As his bruises faded and the wounds healed, we did an assessment of his eye using UV light and a temporary eye stain to reveal any topical lesions on the surface of the eye itself. It was deemed clear at our clinic with a follow-up to our animal ophthalmologist who confirmed no superficial eye injuries, but cloudiness in the left pupil. Luckily, his vision was not impacted.


His nervous system issues were both resolving and not progressing, contrary to what we would expect if the HPAI or WNV diagnoses were correct. Unfortunately, even though we applied protective sheaths to his tail, his lack of coordination compounded by stress resulted in a few broken tail feathers during his convalescence. We were going to have to manually replace them if we were going to be able to release him without waiting several months for a natural molt.


Feather replacement involves implanting, or 'imping', a healthy feather into the existing broken feather shafts. It requires special skills to successfully achieve the proper placement and function of each feather. And because feathers are delicate, especially with easily stressed species like this, we wait until the bird is ready for release and the release plan is in place before doing the imping.


After multiple rounds of live prey testing, the patient we believed was on death's door upon admission passed them with flying colors. After two months in care, this impressive bird was fully recovered and ready for release. With a collective sigh of relief, we cheered as he soared to freedom, ready to play his important role in balancing and protecting our environment!



We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have already helped support the launch of this year's Baby Bird Season with donations and gifts of goods and materials. We are so very grateful!


 

And it's not too late. If you would like to donate materials or supplies, check out our WISHLIST!


 

HPAI Quarantine Hospital Breaks Ground!


Thanks to the generosity of private donors and granting organizations, our new HPAI Quarantine Hospital is moving forward! While funding is still needed to ensure it remains fully staffed and equipped, currently three custom shipping containers are being converted to provide intake, exam and treatment areas, plus multiple quarantine wards. We anticipate completion in July—and none too soon as Baby Bird Season will be in full swing. Not only that, waterfowl species (those most likely the have and/or carry the virus) will be starting their migration about the same time. If you remember, it was July of 2022 when HPAI made its first appearance here in Sonoma County.

Since that time, HPAI has continued its deadly march around the globe. Since 2020, an estimated 90 million domestic birds have had to be destroyed in the US alone. The New York Times is calling it the “worst avian flu outbreak in history.” With an outbreak of this magnitude, it's impossible to know the number of wild birds who are either carrying the disease or have already succumbed. On April 22nd, Sabrina Tabernise, host of The New York Times podcast The Daily, interviewed New York Times Science Reporter Emily Anthes, who explained the history and impact of this deadly disease. Click here to listen to the full report.

Given the continuing impact of HPAI, we are so very grateful to an anonymous angel investor who, together with The Thelma Doelger Trust for Animals and The Glide Foundation, made this project possible. We look forward to sharing our progress as our new quarantine facility moves toward completion.




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