Halfway through August, we have just under a month left of Baby Bird Season 2023. As usual, it's been busy. In July alone, over 350 new patients entered our hospital, all sick or injured, all requiring care. The good news is that we have experienced a number of happy endings and can't wait to share some of them. Baby Western Screech-owl Returns to the Wild!
Unlike their name suggests, Western Screech-Owls don’t typically screech. They do, however, make a variety of other sounds. This tiny owl trills, hoots, and—when attempting to appear threatening—clicks. On the evening of June 22nd, owners of a home in Forestville heard that clicking coming from inside their home. Fortunately they investigated!
Apparently, a young, pre-fledge (not yet able to fly) Western Screech-Owl had sauntered inside. Seeing humans, he made his presence known by clicking as he puffed himself out to look bigger.
The following morning, the youngster was admitted to The Bird Rescue Center. His first few days in rehab consisted of careful examinations, especially of his right shoulder and wrist. The asymmetry of his wing beats and the drooping right wing appeared to be the result of inflammation around his right coracoid and bruising surrounded his shoulder. Thankfully, all bones were structurally sound, which meant that, with the right medication and a cozy owl box full of yummy owl treats to help pass the time, this was an injury that could resolve on its own.
Watching this young owl take flight inside a large mew just eight days later was a beautiful sight to behold! His bruising and inflammation were now gone, his medication had been discontinued, and the little guy looked as though he had never felt better! To fully prepare him for release, we scheduled several weeks of daily fight practice that also incorporated assessment of his hunting skills. During this time, he was housed with a buddy, another young Western Screech-Owl who had taken a fall early in life and survived a fractured furcula (aka wishbone). Together, the two owls practiced flying and hunting.
After 20 days in care, our patient was ready to go back to the wild. Watch as this once vulnerable little Western Screech-Owl comes shooting out of his transport box and disappears into the black night back where he belongs. It was truly a cause of celebration for finders and BRC staff alike.
Note: his buddy also recovered and was reunited with his family.
Baby Bird Season Isn't Just for Babies...
Not all the birds we receive during Baby Bird Season are babies. We received this adult Northern Mockingbird after the finders discovered her immobilized in a sticky trap intended to curb a rodent problem. Fortunately, they rescued her and we were able to intercede.
Sticky traps can pose a serious threat to our local avian friends. Birds can starve to death after getting stuck or sustain significant injuries while struggling to get free. In addition, the sticky substance that remains on their feathers can be a death sentence if not treated properly. Fortunately for this beautiful lady, that was not the case.
An initial exam showed she was missing some of her tail feathers, but thankfully she had not sustained any broken bones from struggling against the trap. Other than mild dehydration, she was plump, alert, and in overall good physical condition.
Our main source of concern was the sticky residue on her remaining feathers. Leaving it on the feathers would compromise her ability to fly, maneuver and successfully hunt and forage.
Washing a bird may sound simple, but it requires specific concentrations of safe cleaning supplies and multiple rounds of bathing while giving the bird enough down time in between each bath to recover from the stress. There is also post-cleaning care required to ensure the feathers remain waterproof and are able to protect against the elements once the bird is back in the wild.
In the case of this Mockingbird, after multiple bathing sessions, her feather quality was perfect. We moved her into an outdoor aviary for further monitoring while we waited for her missing tail feathers to regrow, which in a healthy bird, takes roughly 4-6 weeks and requires a lot of calories. If her missing feathers were going to successfully regrow all at once, we would have to feed her a high-quality diet—and lots of it!
Once her tail feathers were all accounted for and fit for life in the wild, she was taken back to the Healdsburg neighborhood from which she came. She was met with a chorus of welcome-back trills from her fellow Mockingbirds, and she soon joined in the celebration by daintily pirouetting upon a nearby telephone pole. Have to admit, we did a happy dance of our own!
Quail, Quail and more Quail!
BRC is the only facility in all of Sonoma County offering care for native quail. As a result, during June and July of this year, we received over 100 California Quail, the most common quail species in our area!
While the majority had been orphaned or found trapped after they were unable to keep up with their families, some actually arrived as unhatched eggs. Unfortunately, these eggs had been taken and incubated by people who tried to get them to hatch on their own.
Remember it's illegal to try and care for wildlife at home no matter what age. This includes eggs.
Caring for wildlife requires permits from State and Federal Fish and Wildlife Departments and separate permits are required for incubating any native eggs. No matter how well intentioned, please do not attempt to care for any wild animals you may encounter. Contact those who are properly licensed and trained to deal with the situation.
Here at BRC, the quail in our care have grown up in groups of 20 or more! The average stay for young quail is nearly two months as that is the amount of time required to grow into more robust birds as well as bond with the covey we create for them while in care.
While they're with us, they enjoy greens, a special quail diet and worms—lots of worms! We've been ordering nearly 100 thousand worms per week to keep up with the demand of these growing birds! Now you know where some of your donation dollars go!
Once each member of the new covey is old enough to successfully forage, the entire covey is released into a suitable habitat. When they arrived at BRC as orphans, they were alone. (California Quail covies usually have 12 to 16 babies.) Now, they have a new family unit to explore their new habitat with as they begin their lives in the wild.