A Very Lucky Hawk (cool video!)

On November 28, on US 101 where it winds through the gas stations and fast food joints of Eureka California, a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) was in hot pursuit of a Sparrow. She caught the Sparrow but was hit by a car in the heavy traffic. A quick-thinking, kind-hearted man saw her get hit, saw her lying on the ground at risk of being hit again and pulled her from the roadway. The Sparrow was dead.

A staff member from our clinic, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, met him at a nearby restaurant – he’d found a brown paper bag to put her in.

During her admission examination we found no broken bones or any other major injuries, just a small laceration near her mouth. She was stunned and disoriented. We gave her a mild anti-inflammatory pain reliever and moved her to our raptor aviary. She immediately flew to the highest perch. We left her  with food for the night.

The next morning her food was gone and she was flying restlessly around her enclosure. After another examination we determined that she was fully recovered – in fact she was going drive herself crazy and maybe even injure herself. Captivity was no longer helping her. We released her later that day, a few blocks from where she was found.

We may think of the wild as a place we might visit. It’s hard for some of us to see the dumpster behind a restaurant or the overhang of a gas station as habitat for the wild. But it is. The wild has no boundaries. The wild is where we all live – hawks, sparrows, people. The Wild is everywhere, always.

Your support provided everything that the kind, quick-thinking man needed to save this hawk’s life. Without your support there would have been no one he could call – no one to provide medicine, no one to supply an appropriate aviary for this hawk to recover from her ordeal. Your support makes all of this possible. We’re counting on you!!
Print(Want to help us meet our end of year fundraising goal? Click here to donate now!)

Giving Tuesday

For the past 5 years, after Thanksgiving in the US, after ‘Black Friday’, after ‘Cyber Monday’, people and non-profit organizations have been launching year-end fundraising appeals with #GivingTuesday…

Each year that Humboldt Wildlife Care Center has participated, we’ve raised approximately $1000! A big help!

If you’d like to help us end our year on strong footing, please, give today, #GivingTuesday.

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Phalarope Beats the Odds!

A week ago, a young woman attending Humboldt State University found a small bird struggling in the middle of the street where she lives. As a wildlife student, she recognized the bird as a Phalarope, a sandpiper-like bird, smaller than a Robin but larger than most Sparrows.  She also knew that the bird was in trouble.

Once admitted for care, we identified the bird as a Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius). From a distance distinguishing between the different species of Phalarope when they aren’t in breeding plumage can be tricky, but we’ve sadly gotten a lot of recent “in the hand” opportunities to identify these birds. This is the eighth Red Phalarope we’ve admitted this month.

This patient was thin and weak and also had a deep laceration on the underside of her right wing. Fortunately for her, she also had a ferocious appetite and a strong desire to get on with her business. Within 5 days she’d completed her course of anti-biotics, within 6 days her laceration had healed well enough that we knew it wouldn’t be a problem for her and within 7 days she’d regained her missing body mass. We released her this morning back to Humboldt Bay, in the same locattion one of our staff had seen Red Phalaropes successfully foraging the previous day.

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The women who brought this bird in to our clinic were very grateful that we were here –  grateful that there is some place to take an injured wild animal. People who find injured wild animals often express this relief that we are here – they often say they don’t know what else they would have done, just that they couldn’t let the injured victim of our human-built world suffer. Often they have no money – and they’re relieved again that we don’t charge them for taking the animal into care. Frankly, it feels great to be thanked for the work we do – to know that being here is making the world a little better. And that’s why we ask for your support each time.

[Want to help us meet our critical goal of $7000 in November? Click here to Donate Now!]

Thank you for making wildlife rescue in Humboldt County a reality! Thank you for making all of our work possible. When people thank us for being here, they’re thanking you!
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All photos: Laura Corsiglia / Bird Ally X

Aquatic Birds in Care

Every year, as our busy wild baby season comes to a close, aquatic birds, who breed elsewhere, come back to the Pacific Coast to overwinter. The famed Aleutian Cackling Geese, Brant, Grebes, Loons, seaducks, dabbling ducks, all use our relatively mild winters with historically food-rich waters to while away the hibernal months.

At Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, the arrival of wintering aquatic birds means a dramatic change in our caseload. Already this Autumn we have provided care for dozens of adult and juvenile aquatic birds.

For adult birds, this season is a time of comparative ease, without the responsibilities of rearing young. For this year’s young, this is their first season in the world of adults, a time of learning – learning to hunt, where to find food, learning their way around the real world, becoming independent.

The real world naturally holds threats – not every juvenile bird lives. Adults die in storms. They are caught by predators. Old age takes its toll as well. Still, it’s rare that we admit patients suffering from these natural calamities and processes.

Most patients are admitted in poor body condition – emaciated, anemic and dehydrated – obviously suffering from starvation.

This year, the usually “productive” California Current is not providing the quantity of fish needed to support the wintering population. As we noted earlier in the year, Common Murres, who raise their young on the North Coast experienced complete colony failure this year due to the absence of appropriate prey fish. (Even at our clinic we are struggling to stay in supply of food to feed our patients, due to this shortage!)

There are other causes of injury. Some of our patients this season were entangled in derelict fishing gear, and no doubt we will treat more. Derelict fishing gear is a global problem that makes itself known locally everywhere.

Typically each year we treat waterfowl, geese and ducks, that have been legally shot by hunters, but not killed, that have been found later by someone else. And sometimes we admit aquatic birds with traumatic injuries that we can’t ascribe to any particular cause – wing fractures, leg fractures  that may be from collisions with human infrastructure, boats, battering surf – we just don’t know.

In all cases, however, our trained staff and purpose-built facilities allow us to provide excellent care for aquatic birds – noe of which would be possible without your generous support. So as we continue through this season, scroll the photos below to see some of our recent and current patients. And get out and enjoy our wintering wild aquatic neighbors! And as usual, if you can help us meet our mission with financial support, please do! We need you!

nosh-nov-2016-5-of-19Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)in care, moments before her release evaluation, demonstrating that explosive flight is well within her capabilities.

nosh-nov-2016-7-of-19Female Northern Shoveler during her release evaluation exam

nosh-nov-2016-8-of-19 Northern Shoveler wing, extended for examination. Note her delicate blue and green speculum.
nosh-nov-2016-13-of-19Northern Shoveler flies free!

wegr-11-18-16-1-of-17Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) feet! Very awkward on land, in the water, these feet become propellers, as the bird swiftly pursues fish for her meals.
wegr-11-18-16-2-of-17Western Grebe wing.
wegr-11-18-16-11-of-17Each bird receives nutritional support, is treated for parasites and given supplemental vitamins while in care.

wegr-11-18-16-15-of-17Like many aquatic bird species, Western grebes are social and seek the comfort and safety of a like-minded community.
wegr-11-18-16-17-of-17Even a Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) can be part of the gang!

rel-susc4Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) being released after two weeks in care, regaining lost body weight and strength.

rel-wegr1Another Western Grebe released.
img_4651This Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) collided with a building suffering very little injury. Still this male needed a few days to recover. Upon release in his home territory at Big Lagoon he immediately circled around calling and joined a female, his likely mate.

img_4658An incredible moment as the Kingfisher flew a circle around his caregivers immediately after release.

img_4654Belted Kingfishers, like all aquatic birds, require specialized care. Bird Ally X was founded as a means to bring quality aquatic bird care to the more remote areas of our coast where experience and resources are scant. This male’s care and release at Big Lagoon is a testament to that mission.
palo-rel-21-11-16-2-of-15In an awesome update to a recent story, this Pacific Loon, who was found by HWCC staff on the beach in Samoa entangled in a discarded fishing net, was just released today!
palo-rel-21-11-16-6-of-15  palo-rel-21-11-16-12-of-15Releasing any patient is an immeasurable reward, but in another way we have a direct measure – your support. This Loon’s second chance was bought and paid for by your donation! Thank you!


Your support for our work during every season is critical. We have nearly a dozen aquatic birds in care right now, in addition to our other patients. We anticipate more to come. Each month brings us new challenges – some predictable, like the return of wintering seabirds, others less predictable, such as failing prey fish populations, sudden storms, and other emergencies. Being able to rely on you allows us to prepare for both. Your donation (click here) to help us meet our November goal of $7000 will go directly to the care of these remarkable birds who live so near to us, but whose lives are so different. Thank you!!!

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Tangled Up and Bruised

How this bird was ever rescued was the product of the two ingredients we rely on the most: the unlikely timings of coincidence and intuition combined with the intentional timing of preparedness. Early in the morning last Tuesday, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center staff rehabilitator, Lucinda Adamson, woke up early from a dream about seabirds. Now Tuesday is Lucinda’s “Saturday” – the first day of her weekend – and getting up in the early hours of the day and heading to the beach might not be the first thing she wanted to do, but she thought she might as well go have a look. So off she went, equipped wth towels and a net, in case she found any seabirds stranded.

The surf has been rough and the waves large for most of November – and our clinic has been admitting more seabirds. We currently have several in care, recently released several more and will likely see many more seabirds before the end of the year.

[Yes, we need your help! Every day of every week of every month of every year we are here for the injured and orphaned wild neighbors. From Chipmunks to Pelicans, we are ready to help who ever comes through our door! Help us meet our critical November goal of $7000 ] 

As soon as Lucinda got to Samoa Beach she found a bird. A Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) tangled in a lost scrap of fishing net. Scooping the bird up she brought him into the clinic just as staff was beginning the workday. Some mild teasing about working on her day off was in order, as we moved to admit the entangled loon.

img_4922On the beach at the moment of rescue -, any loon on a beach is a loon with a problem. If you see something say something!


Derelict fishing gear, improperly discarded fishing line, hooks, and lures are estimated to kill thousands of wild animals each year along California’s coast. At Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, we don’t see many birds entangled, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. This Loon was found early in the morning, when the tide was low, during inclement weather on a deserted beach. That he was found at all is incredible.

Fortunately, although both feet, both wings and even the bird’s head and neck were caught in the net, no injuries except for a few mild abrasions were noted. The net slipped off easily. After a quick examination, we realized that bird was indeed very lucky – no serious injuries, thin but not yet dangerously thin, and still very alert and strong. After the exam we put the Loon in our new seabird pool to test his feather condition. Again, he was in better shape than many – waterproof, immediately diving, able to stay in the cold water and thrive. Now all he needs is time to regain lost weight.

img_3640The small scrap of net that had very nearly killed this Pacific Loon.

palo-11-18-16-2-of-3A moment during the examination after three days in care.

palo-11-18-16-3-of-3In our pool, waterproof and doing well – with a good prognosis, this loon is beating the odds.


This Pacific Loon is one of the luckier victims of derelict fishing gear. Most die at sea. Loons that make it to shore are often so debilitated that their chances for recovery are poor. Less than 50% of our patients impacted by  are able to be released. If it wasn’t for your support – none would be. You provide the resources that enable us to take care of less common patients like this Pacific Loon, as well as pay staff members like  Lucinda, who’s dedication and willingness to follow her early morning intuition rescued this bird from certain death. We rely on you, now and always.  Thank you for your support!
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Pumpkins, Squash and Apples Make Healthy Raccoons

Last week we put out a call on Humboldt Wildlife Care Center’s Facebook page seeking donations of pumpkins, squash, fruit and more to help us feed the orphaned juvenile raccoons still in our care. And people have responded! Right now, with 18 Raccoons in care, we are feeding over 20 pounds of squash each day! And we still have over a month of care to provide. Your donations are helping a lot! Thank you! Here are two members of the always awesome California Conservation Corps dropping off a load of pumpkins!

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Your help, in the form of donated food items, blankets, sheets, towels and other necessities are always appreciated! Financial support is awesome too – it helps us buy medicine and pay our utilities, rent and other bills that require good old-fashioned legal tender! If you can help us meet our goal of $7000 in donations this month, click here!

Thank you for helping us help wild animals!

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Standing with Mother Earth

The results of the 2016 Presidential election surprised a lot of us. As conservationists, as lovers of the Wild, as passionate defenders of Mother Earth, many already felt that our government was not being authentically responsive to the gravity of our situation – the rising seas, the dying seas, the disappearing species, the endless stream of loss. And now we are facing an administration that has thrown what slender legal protections our natural world currently has in question; for example, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Power Act. Even if many of these protections were not enough, stripping them is certainly no improvement.

Even more disturbing is the apparent rise in cruel and hateful acts since the election. Each of us likely knows someone who has been accosted or assaulted, or who has seen strange and ersatz displays of triumphant power – from ignorantly scrawled racist graffiti to images associated with genocide and other crimes against humanity – nazi swastikas and confederate flags – on proud display. Even US flags, overlarge and billowing from the backs of pickup trucks, seem to announce a new reign of bullies in ascendancy.

In the days and weeks before the election, it became undeniably apparent that for many Americans, sexual assault, bragging of sexual assault, and blatant misogyny – the hatred of women – were not disqualifications to hold the highest office. For centuries now the connection between destruction of the land and the violation of women has been conclusively established. For those actively engaged in the protection of Mother Earth, dismantling misogyny has been integral to our work and imperative for our success.

Coupled, the stripping of legal protection for the wild and the unrestrained rise of the bully will have a negative impact on wildlife and wildlife care.

And yet even the cure may have serious repercussions for wildlife and wildlife care. While the work of large organizations to protect and strengthen federal laws that protect the wild is important; there is a real possibility that the efforts to protect what we love at the national level will absorb limited resources, sucking the oxygen out of the room, stranding small organizations who operate on the slimmest of budgets – the truly grassroots – which is where the wild lives and has her babies.

In our work, trauma, recovery, death and healing live side by side. Everyday, a gull might fly from her caregivers, free again, while another is admitted with a wing severed, hanging at the shoulder, wet, red bone under an exam light, fear in the gull’s eyes, a return to his ancestors the only hope.

People who work for the environment, for Mother Earth, have struggled a long time with the knowledge of how our society is destroying the world, destroying what all that we love depends on… Many of us were heartbroken long before this election – by the senseless destruction, the avarice, the cold calculations that value the fool’s gold beneath the forest more than the forest.

We’ve watched in horror while the losses have mounted – Mother Nature has been on the run since long before the 1970s. It’s seemed that nothing we’ve done has changed the world – a victory here, a victory there, while the machine only gets bigger, more costly, more destructive. And politics can seem a useless tool against this machine. Each president in his turn has sacrificed our collective future to some open grinder, a mountain range torn apart here, an ice sheet collapsing there…

We all know it and feel it – in our bones that are made of earth, by Mother Earth.

We must ensure that wildlife rehabilitators around the country are not stymied by the flow of support to large national organizations, even as we support their work. We will still need, especially in a world where callousness, where brutality, where thuggery, and hatred for mother earth are elevated, we will still need compassion for the injured, for the orphaned, and for the marginalized… and no one is more marginalized than wild animals… just drive down any road in your town and see the raccoon dead on the shoulder lying there bloating with not a resource turned her way.

Many people in our line of work shared emphatically their sense that this was our last shot at correcting the horrifying course that we’ve been on for decades, even as we likely all knew that we couldn’t stop this machine by replacing its operator.

Now, even inside the nausea and the fear that many of us feel, there is a way forward. There is a revolution underway – a revolution led by grandmothers, as it should be. This revolution is not for supremacy or for power. This revolution is for Mother Earth, for the wild, for the water, for the air, for the forests, for the deserts, even for us, humans of every color, of every gender, of every language.

There’s never really been a way for the USA to lead this revolution – the USA is largely responsiblefor the revolution’s necessity, through its policies that place corporate greed over the needs of the environment (i.e., wolf-eradication, fracking, mountain top removal coal mining). That USA is one of the revolution’s targets. The people of the USA have an obligation to take the necessary steps to protect the lives their government threatens.

As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said nearly 50 years ago – this country is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” This election was the voice of that America’s violence. It’s not our voice. Now we’ve got to stand with those who protect the water, protect the air, protect the wild, protect the people.

We can honor life. We can tune the life within us to the life outside us. We can join the grandmothers, the water protectors – we can #StandwithStandingRock

We can support those who provide the care that the victims of the onslaught of violence need. Wildlife rehabilitators everywhere are a first line defense against barbaric cruelty, against totalitarian indifference to life, against the crude callous disregard for the rich and central inner life of each of us.

Mother Earth does not forget the individual. Mother Earth works at the individual level. It is individuals  who are born, who live, who dream, who study the rain-cleaned air, who gaze from the high rock over the plain, who hunger and thirst, who dance and who mate, who build and create, who suffer and die. It is only individuals who can actually stand. And we stand with Mother Earth.

She really is our only hope.
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Please, in these perilous times, wherever you live, remember your local wildlife care providers. We all need you.

Shocked Yellow-rumped Warbler Thought Everything Was Clear! Didn’t See the Glass!

Last Friday a compassionate young man at his job site off Myrtle Avenue in Eureka found this Yellow -rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) on the ground beneath a window. After giving him a safe place to rest realized the bird needed care.

How alarming it is to see the passage ahead, the clear sky, the chosen path and believe it so much that you move in that direction without question, only to come to a hard and brutal invisible barrier. Window strikes kill hundreds of millions of birds in the United States each year!

This little guy was lucky. He was quickly brought into care and received anti-inflammatory medicine and  a safe place to recover. Three days later he was released! (see video below of him back in trees, looking for insects)

If a bird strikes your window the first thing you should is move him gently into a box and call us. While a bird may fly off after an hour or so of rest, we don’t know that they are truly able to survive without care. It is surmised that many birds die of cerebral hemorrhging in the first 24 hours after the collision.

For ideas on how to prevent window strikes, check out this site.

As always, we are here to help wild animals who are innocently caught in the many pitfalls, traps and obstacles our modern world puts in their path. Your help ensures that we will always be here. Thank you for your generous support!

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A Personal Letter from one of our Co-founders – Why We Need You.

Dear Supporters and fellow Wildlife Lovers;

I feel a pressing need to address you directly, as a person, as a wildlife rehabilitator, as someone committed to correcting the injustices our built world consistently inflicts on our wild neighbors, and also, and perhaps most significantly, as the person who is most directly responsible for communicating our work, our goals, and our needs to you, our supporters, followers and fellow wildlife lovers.

Talking about our work is easy. I am deeply committed to it. I love what we do. I feel privileged to be able to work so closely with wild animals. I am grateful for all that having been so close to unfettered freedom has taught me. Standing up in front of a room, putting my thoughts on paper, posting on the internet, is natural for me – as natural as rising early every summer morning and crossing the Arcata bottoms on my way to Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, our clinic in Bayside, to prep food for a couple dozen orphaned raccoons, offer mealworms to nestling songbirds, and return calls from people who’ve found an injured wild animal, or help them resolve a conflict with an animal who has wandered across one of our arbitrary and unnatural lines we’ve drawn between our world and theirs.

[You can click here to Donate Now]

My comfort zone includes some pretty awful things – broken wings, a car-smashed Opossum mother with babies still in her pouch, a thrush torn apart by a housecat and still breathing. My training and experience have taught me how to set aside immediate feelings and take action. It’s what I do. It’s what all wildlife rehabilitators do – every day of the year – here at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, and in every other clinic – from well-funded organizations with a million dollar budget to the garage and shed of a “backyard rehabber” – which is by far the most common.

BAX supports all wildlife rehabilitators with education and workshops. As rehabilitators we know how critical good information is to do the job that we are each so passionate about – it’s one of our three primary missions.

We also provide direct care for wild animals in distress – at HWCC, but also as responders to oil spills around our state and beyond. One of our co-founders, Marie Travers, is currently in British Columbia, Canada, working with Focus Wildlife responding to a maritime accident that spilled thousand of gallons of fuel into a pristine habitat near the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest remaining unspoiled temperate rainforests in the world.

Promoting co-existence with the Wild is another of our critical missions. This takes many forms, including what you are reading right now. We go to schools. We go to conferences. We rely on the support of local media to help us bring a voice for the voiceless.

Arguing for justice is difficult and emotionally costly work, but it is very gratifying. The desire for justice, the urge to rise to the defense of the marginalized, is common, and who is more marginalized than the skunk hit by a car and carelessly, thoughtlessly, left by the side of the road, bloating and forgotten? There is an adage among conservationists, that “every victory is temporary, every loss permanent.” We feel the truth of this each day. And by and large, we remain undaunted.

But for me, there is one task that requires me to steel my nerves, gather my courage, and plunge in. And that is asking for your support – your money – your check. It’s obvious, of course, that all of what I’ve described above – the thousands of animals we’ve cared for, the thousands more we’ve prevented from becoming casualties, the people we’ve reached, the wild lives and the human lives we’ve helped – can’t be done in our world without money. So, regardless of my discomfort, I ask for donations. I ask often. Some people might be good at it. Maybe I am, I don’t know. I just know that what we need and what we have don’t match. So comfortable or not, good at it or not, I have to do it – just like I’m doing now.

Every month I set a goal. The last few months the goal was $7000 – honestly, that’s not quite enough, and if it wasn’t for the holiday and end of year fundraising, as well as a reliable foundation grant, we wouldn’t meet our needs on $84,000 a year – a terrible crisis – we can’t spend what we don’t have. Yet, the last two months we haven’t even come close to meeting our $7000 goal. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.

Worrying about the care we provide is part of my job – I accept it – worrying about our volunteers and staff – that they’re being treated well and getting the opportunities to learn they want and need – is also part of my job. Worrying about the money? It’s part of my job, but it’s the one that scares me the most. The other aspects are in my control. Our quality of care, our intern program – those are ours to make as good as we can. The support required, well, that depends on me asking, but it really depends on our community providing. We are only as strong as you make us.

We have a relatively small budget. In our dreams, we’d have $250,000 a year to spend. We’d be able to fund every program we’ve designed and pay the staff meager salaries to get it done. As it is, we make it all work, for now, on about $100,000 per year. We have one full time and one part time staff person. Everything else goes to our patients and our wildlife ambassador birds. Right now, we are $10,000 short of our usual annual donations. So far, we are continuing to meet our mission – you can scroll though our past stories to see the work we’ve done – from returning a local Bald Eagle who’d suffered lead poisoning to the wild, to delivering our aquatic bird workshop to rehabilitators on the Oregon coast. Yet, we have expenses, such as food and medicine, still unpaid from our busy summer season. Our suppliers know that we work hard, but that doesn’t mean they give their products away.

Now as wintering seabirds and geese return to our region, our expenses will increase again. Additionally, this is the time of year when repairs and maintenance to our facility must be completed.

In short, we need your help.

As this year’s contentious election season comes to a close, and the anxiety of our uncertain future looms – climate chaos, toxic spills, international instability, here at home, no matter what happens, our wild neighbors will need us. Wild animals will still be the most marginalized victims of the hazards of the world we humans have built. And we’ll need to be here for them.

Only your support makes that possible. Which is why I fight my discomfort and ask for your generous donation. Please, we need you. [You can click here to Donate Now]

Thank you for your past support, and thank you for enduring my constant appeals.

Take care,
Monte Merrick
co-director Bird Ally X, director Humboldt Wildlife Care Center