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In The Midst of Red Flag Warnings, BRC's Work Continues


Windy weather and red flag warnings notwithstanding, work continues at BRC. In fact, for the first time in months, we can hear our own thoughts without the cacophony of jays, finches, and towhees peeping and endless crows cawing. That's because, after months of the hospital bursting at the seams, we are down to just a few straggler baby goldfinches in our ICU. These little guys are just now learning to self-feed and will be ready for release soon.

Roughly one month ago, our Hospital Manager Katie officially declared the end of Baby Bird Season 2021! We're now planning our final releases as this season of newly hatched babies draws to a close and looking back with gratitude at all we accomplished.

A HUGE thank you to our dedicated volunteers whose support spanned our longest official season yet: almost a full five months—April 19th through September 12th.

Here are a few of this year's stats for the season:

  • 1,885 birds admitted

  • 103 species

  • 140 raptors

  • 1,264 songbirds

  • 114 waterbirds

We've seen a total of 2,535 birds since the beginning of the year. We started the year with a 30% increase over 2020 in the number of patients admitted, and are currently 200 patients ahead of last year's total, so it's still a record-breaking year.


THE SMALLEST IMPING YET! This screech owl may be small and well concealed, but that didn't stop him from becoming a neighborhood favorite in Sonoma! Residents have been monitoring him and his family for a long time and found great joy in watching over them throughout the pandemic. When they noticed he had a newly injured eye, they called Bird Rescue right away. Clinic Supervisor Julia went out to the property and was able to scoop him up and bring him in for treatment. (Photos pre- and during rescue courtesy of rescuer)

Upon arrival at the hospital, we discovered scrapes on his toes, a deep laceration to the cere (the fleshy area at the base of the beak), and blood in the back of the left eye. Most of his injuries indicated some form of head trauma. We removed the damaged tissue on the cere so Dr. Rupiper could stitch it back together, and after two weeks of healing time, we took him to animal ophthalmologist Dr. Rebecca Burwell. She determined the left eye had a luxated (dislocated) lens, but everything else was normal so removing the eye was not necessary. It was about this same time that this small but mighty owl regained his energy and began bouncing around in his enclosure, wrecking his tail feathers in the process. Now we had another problem to contend with! After weeks of anticipating a full molt of the tail, we resigned ourselves to the fact that his tail had probably already molted and it was the new tail that was now damaged.

What now? It could take six months or more for another molt and he couldn't be released until he had a fully functioning tail...

Clinic Supervisor, Sarah, and Executive Director, Ashton, looked at one another with determination. While imping (replacing damaged feathers with healthy donor feathers) is one of our specialties—they were going to attempt something that had never been tried before at BRC—imping a bird as small and delicate as this little Western Screech Owl!

Thanks to our Raptor Release Coordinator, Natalie, we had better technology to help us with this process than ever before. She had procured a new imping kit that included tools to clean the canal of the feathers, bio-compatible glue to hold the feathers and fibers in place, and flexible fibers that create a bridge between the old and new feathers. These fibers (similar to fiber-optic cables) made it easier to insert the feathers, decreased the amount of time it took and provided more flexibility—just like the natural feather!

Now that he had a new tail aligned and securely attached, we were able to live prey test our feisty owl. He proved to be an avid hunter and we released him back to his adoring fans. We've since learned all is well with him and he's been spotted back at the nesting hole ever since his return!

At BRC, we have been imping for about ten years now. This process allows us to release birds back into the wild months earlier than we would be able to when relying on natural molts. Earlier releases not only reduce the amount of time these birds are in our care, they reduce the amount of stress birds have to endure before returning to their homes in the wild. Our expertise with this procedure has grown over the years and we have shared it with other rehab facilities, helping them learn the skills necessary to help their patients.


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