RELEASE & RENEST
Once birds are admitted to our care, they go directly to the Rehabilitation Hospital for evaluation and treatment. During Baby Bird Season this work largely centers around hand-feeding babies and juveniles and preparing them for release once they are old enough. Before they can be released, sick or injured birds may require more extensive care including physical therapy, often for a longer period.
Larger birds, especially raptors (birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and falcons), need to build up their flight muscles after a long hospital stay. This flight conditioning, which involves the bird being attached to a long tether in an open field, is called creancing. Several flights a day for a week or two gets a bird ready for release and gives staff a chance to assess flight capability.
After devoting compassion and expert care to each bird, release is always the best part of the job! Here at BRC, we utilize various forms of release to safely return birds to the wild depending on their needs.
Types of Release
We are currently looking for additional release sites!
Since there has been a loss of overall breeding and suitable habitat sites due to the fires in our area, we are in need of safe spaces for all species of birds to be released back to the wild. If you don't think you have time to volunteer in the hospital or as a raptor handler but want to provide hands-on assistance, please consider your yard as a potential release site.
Some things to consider:
• We cannot release birds into areas of active outdoor cats or nearby cat colonies.
• Since you'd be working with wildlife, you would need to read and sign our Memorandum of Understanding with the state of California as well as be an active member of The Bird Rescue Center.
If this is a way you feel you can help our bird populations, please start taking note of the species currently in your yard as we do not want to introduce species that are not already present OR overburden an area with too many of one species. Then call our front desk at (707) 523-2473 so our release coordinators can be in touch with you to evaluate the release space.
Raptor Renest Program
During Baby Bird Season (April—September), we admit 80 to 100 raptor babies, including owls, hawks, falcons, accipiters and osprey. They can be a challenge! Raptors nest considerably higher in trees than other birds, and falling from the nest often results in significant injuries, including broken bones, beaks and internal injuries. Some of these babies are orphaned while others can be reunited with their biological families. For those who can’t join existing families, there is another challenge prior to release: they need to be taught hunting and survival skills. The Bird Rescue Center has developed specialized skills in live prey training; in fact, our sister organizations often use us as an expert resource with knowledge in how to slowly expose various bird species to different types of prey to allow them to learn to hunt before release.
With each case, our Raptor Team works out the myriad of time-consuming details necessary to assess each baby’s nest; discover if there are parents present; ascertain the bird’s requirements to heal and grow; and test each one’s hunting abilities so that we can increase their chance of survival and their ability to fulfill their role once back in our ecosystem.
Renesting is a term to describe putting a baby back with its biological family while they are still nest-bound. At times the poor condition of the nest is the reason the baby has come in for care and we must create a suitable replacement nest for the family before putting they baby back into the nest. Reuniting refers to the ability to put a baby back with its biological family, whether that is in a nest or within the nesting area. Wild Fostering is when a baby is placed with a non-biological family. This happens in many instances when the family of one baby cannot be located. Either the information regarding the nesting area is unknown or something unfortunate has befallen one or both parents.
Each year on average we reunite 27 biological families.
We wild foster an average of 4 babies per year—all successfully! (Little known fact: Great Horned Owls typically make great foster parents!)
Once a baby raptor comes in for care, our Raptor Release Coordinator begins the hours-long reconnaissance required to determine if a nest exists and, if so, whether we might safely reintroduce the youngster back into it. We evaluate the nest’s condition, its height from the ground, and the tools we will need to access it—some of the most common are ladders, tree climbers, and even a cherry picker. It is important to ascertain if there are siblings nearby because this greatly increases the chances that parents will still be in the area. We must also evaluate the surroundings to determine any potential hazards, including what other birds are present. Each answer provides a piece of the puzzle that tells us how much time we have to put a baby back with his or her parents, a process we call “reuniting”. Reconnaissance work requires an average of three assessment visits, an additional visit for the actual reunification of the family, and at least one follow-up visit to ensure all is well. Sometimes simply the drive to the nest requires a commitment of an hour or two. The drive is followed by several hours at the site and then drive back.
Our Raptor Release Team consists of staff members and an amazing network of a dozen dedicated volunteers. Last year, our Raptor Release Coordinator alone drove over 10,000 miles just in renesting babies! Overall, our volunteers collectively log over 60 hours per week caring for raptor babies plus additional time caring for adult raptors. We also work with trained arborists such as Merlin’s Arborist Group to make the ascent into the trees possible!