Rescued, Raised and Released – Woodpecker Babies Home Again!

In May, five young Downy Woodpeckers nestlings, not yet ready to fly, were rescued on a stream off the Klamath River, near Happy Camp, nearly three hours north-east of our clinic. Their tree had fallen in the river, their nest waterlogged. (read original story)

Each of the five nestlings had been contaminated by the inappropriate diet that their rescuers had fed them after looking for help on the internet. (Please, call us or your local wildlife rehabilitator if you find an orphaned or injured wild animal. Rehabilitators have the knowledge and the facility to provide the proper care, feeding and housing!) These young insectivores were fed a mash of wet cat food and raw egg! Remnants of the food was dried and caked in their new feathers, putting them at significant risk of loss. Loss of feathers would have greatly increased their time in care. We gave them all baths in warm soapy water.



DOWO-juv1Our young patients, still wet from their bath, drying in a warm incubator.

The cleaning process is very stressful, potentially life threatening, and is only undertaken by trained staff as a last resort. Fortunately, each bird survived being cleaned.

Because of concern for their feathers and our uncertainty that they could withstand the rigors of being housed outdoors, we kept our fragile young patients inside for several days misting them with clean water multiple times each day to encourage the inexperienced new feather owners to preen (the process by which birds keep their feathers in good shape, clean and tidy). Soon they were ready for an outdoor aviary. Although confident that each bird could fly, we housed them in a smaller “fledging box” outside but under cover. We needed to be sure they would stay warm and dry before we could expose them to rain. As you can see in the video, they occassionally escaped from the fledging box into the bigger aviary.

After ten days in the aviary, they had demonstrated beyond doubt that they were ready for release. Self-feeding, clean, dry and nearly impossible to catch! It was time to take them home.

DOWO-happycamp-1The road to Happy Camp CA. BAX/HWCC is the only licensed all species wildlife rehabilitation facility in an area the size of New Jersey! We are on the road a lot!


DOWO-happycamp-3BAX/HWCC staff rehabilitator, Lucinda Adamson prepares to release the five young Downy Woodpeckers.

DOWO-happycamp-9Freedom Now!
DOWO-happycamp-19Back in their forested mountain home, enjoying their second chance!

Every case, every animal, every story has all of the worries, all of the joys many of the frustrations of our profession. Treating these young woodpeckers was an honor that our staff won’t ever forget. Successfully returning them to their free and wild lives, which had very nearly been cut quite short, is the happiest outcome we could have imagined. Your support made this success story possible.

Right now we have nearly 100 young wild animals in care. Your help providing their care, in the form of financial support, in the form of sharing our work, and as a volunteer in our clinic or as driver across our vast territory is appreciated more than we can say. Thank you!


All photos: Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X