Hot Sparks of Life* – Four Squirrels Go Home

 *”The [Douglas Squirrel] is the brightest of all squirrels I have ever seen, a hot spark of life, making every tree tingle with his prickly toes, a condensed nugget of fresh mountain vigor and valor, as free from disease as a sunbeam. He seems to think the mountains belong to him. How he scolds, and what faces he makes, all eyes, teeth, and whiskers. If not so comically small he would indeed be a dreadful fellow.”  John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra

On almost any day that you decide to take a walk in Arcata’s Community Forest, you’ll likely be scolded by a small gray backed, rusty bellied squirrel who will run headlong down a giant redwood to tell you exactly what you are doing all wrong!

Douglas Squirrels (Tamiasciurus douglasii) are notorious for their harsh critique of the anthroposphere throughout their range of the Pacific Northwest. Has any human, or human’s pet, met with their approval? No.

Although easily seen in broad daylight, another of Muir’s observations remains true: “He is, without exception, the wildest animal I ever saw, –a fiery, sputtering little bolt of life.”

However, when something disturbs their den site, all the wildness in the world can’t save squirrels who are too young to survive on their own.

In the case of the four young Douglas Squirrels who we admitted in early August at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, a kind man found them scattered and struggling around the base of a tall Redwood deep in the Arcata Community Forest. We don’t know what happened to their nest, only that no parents were seen and the young Squirrels were lethargic and barely moving. He scooped them up and carried them to our clinic a few miles away on his bicycle.

Too young to be on their own, cold and dehydrated, we admitted them for care. Soon, after receiving fluids and spending some time in an incubator, they were active and looking for food. We started them on mixture of milk replacer and ground seed. Within ten days they were strictly eating whole seed plus a lot more!

After a few weeks in care, the four sibling Squirrels were moved to outdoor housing to gain the benefits of exercise and some relief from constant proximity to human care providers. 

After being weaned from a milk replacer, the youngsters were provided a varied diet that consisted of foods similar to what they would eat once they were free – a mixture of seeds, berries and mushrooms.

Rounding up Douglas Squirrels for routine exams is always a challenge!

We never underestimate the power of an angry Squirrel. Rodent teeth can really hurt!

After four weeks in care, our Squirrel patients were ready to go home – here is their living room. The person who found the Squirrels originally gave us detailed directions that allowed us to find the exact location – one more piece of the puzzle that will help ensure that these Hot Sparks will thrive in wild freedom.

Is anything more precious than a box of Squirrels? An HWCC volunteer prepares to unleash the fury!

The first Squirrel to leave the box scopes out the scene.

[Your donation makes the care we provide to injured and orphaned wild animals possible. Over 95% of the animals we treat were directly and negatively impacted by human society and its machinery. Your generosity goes directly toward helping right that wrong. Please donate today!]

The satisfaction of helping the wild survive alongside the harsh realities of human civilization is a reward like no other.

The face of wild freedom running fiercely through the Community forest.


Upon release, our volunteers noted that there were several adult squirrels in the immediate area. We are sure that we’ve successfully returned these youngsters to their family. Now with their second chance, which was possible because of your support, these youngsters will carry their fiery torch forward. Next year, they’ll have babies of their own and the seasons and our lives roll on. Thank you for providing us the resources we need to be able to help whoever it is that comes through our door. Our wild neighbors in jeopardy, whether an injured adult or displaced orphan would have nowhere to go without your generosity. If you’d like to donate, click here, – every little bit helps!

all photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX

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Fawns of 2017!

Each year we are the only resort several Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) fawns have. Orphaned by trucks, cars, and sometimes dogs, young fawns are brought to Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, our wildlife hospital in Bayside, California. A young fawn, often traumatized by the death of her mother, requires specialized care. Typically, young fawns are uninjured and their health is compromised only to the extent that they have been without maternal care. The sooner we receive orphaned deer, the better their chances for survival.

Convincing a fawn that a bottle of formula can replace his mother is no easy trick. And the danger, of course, as with all wild babies, is that our close contact will habituate the orphan to people, who will come to see people as non-threatening. Again, as with all wild animals, this is a dangerous condition. It is simply a fact that wild animals who do not have a fear of humans and human activity are at much greater risk of being injured and killed by people. So steps are taken to disguise the caregiver and as quickly as possible, help the fawn adapt first to the bottle, and second to a bottle rack. Once fawns makes that leap, we sharply reduce our interactions with them until it is time for them to be released, and they make the leap to freedom.

[Help us help wildlife! Your support is needed to care for fawns, swallows and all our wild neighbors in need! Support our work here, today! Thank you!!!]

Bottles are delivered at scheduled times, gradually increasing in amount as the fawns grow, and then decreasing as we wean them from milk replacer to greens. It takes a lot of leaves to raise a healthy fawn!

From admission at a few days old in May it usually is the end of August or early September before they are old enough to join a herd without a mother of their own. This year we released four fawns. Following are pictures from their care and from their big day of new freedom!

Just admitted. Despondent and still following mom’s instructions: Pretend you’re not there and they wont see you.

In care for a month, the gang of orphans form a indisputable bond.

At least twice a day fresh “greens” are offered. It takes a lot of effort to replicate Mama Deer and Mother Earth!

Release day! 



“The last you’ll see of me!” 


For next year we need to greatly expand our available fawn housing. This year we got lucky in the low number of orphaned deer we admitted. In the past we’ve had as many as 14! We’ll be increasing our capacity, but we’ll need your help. Housing that is large enough and protected from predators will take community support to build. As always, we ask you to please help us help our injured and orphaned wild neighbors. You can donate here to support our work, including preparing a better facility for 2018! Thank you!

All photos: Bird Ally X/Laura Corsiglia

our photographer:

Laura Corsiglia set up for the fawn release. (photo by Carol “the Deer Lady” Andersen)

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Little Brown Bat: from Tiny Baby to Freedom

When the tiny, barely furred baby bat was found on a sidewalk in Eureka, it seemed that his barely begun life was already at its end. The kind-hearted people who found him, scooped him up, cold and non-responsive, and brought him to Humboldt Wildlife Care Center in Bayside, California.

A Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) just a couple of grams in weight, we first stabilized him with warmth and fluids. Initially we hoped to return him to his colony and his mother, but we had no idea where that colony was. His rescue location left no clues. It would be up to us to raise him.

This species of bat matures fast and can be independent as early as four weeks old! Our task was to get him there!

Feeding the little bat in the early days of his care.

Getting older, his ears are large and his fur is soft! 4 grams of magnificent mammal splendor!


In this video you can see how much he liked his milk replacer!

It wasn’t long from this time that he was weaned from milk to mealworms. First we let him lick the guts out of dead worm. He rejected worm guts in no uncertain terms, seemingly with an indignant air: “I am a bat and bats like milk!” Within a week he singing a different tune. “Give me worms, lots of worms and forget about that milk!” 

After five weeks in care he began to fly. Our time with him was nearing the end. At his release we provided a small shelter with worms inside incase he needed them.

The moment before we opened the door…
The joy of seeing a young mammal take his first flight is a rare one indeed, but less so if your patient is a bat!


After several laps around the open pasture where he was released, we lost sight of the little fierce hunter of night insects! 


All bats, including Little Brown Bats, are often villified. While it’s true that bats are a vector species for rabies, the percentage of bats that actually test positive is very small! Most bats are perfectly healthy! Still, if you find a bat on the ground, or in a strange place, call us before you handle him. While it’s unlikely that she or he has rabies (no bat that we’ve sent for testing in the last 7 years has come back positive) if you are bitten or scratched you may be exposing yourself to that terrible virus and in either case we have to have the bat tested, which costs the bat his life. Call us before you act, and if you can’t call us, always wear protective leather gloves. Never let children or pets near a bat that you think might be sick.

It was  a joy to raise and release this healthy baby. It’s a joy and a privilege to help any wild neighbor. All it takes to make it possible is your support. In our busiest season, with our demanding caseload, we need you everyday! Please help us provide what our patients need. If we weren’t here this young bat would’ve been left to die a cold lonely death, on a sidewalk in the middle of bat-nowhere. Thank you for helping us help him!  Donate HERE

photos: Laura Corsiglia and Bird Ally X

A great way to help us help wildlife! and have a darn good time doing it too! Barntini!!!!

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An Orphaned Jay’s Second Chance

As the only permitted all species wildlife hospital that serves  Humboldt, Trinity, Del Norte and northern Mendocino counties, we admit patients from across a wide region that includes many isolated communities. We treat patients from Blocksburg, Ettersburg, New Harris Store, Weitchpec, Capetown – from the Oregon border to Willits, from Hayfork to the sea. Often we are brought patients from deep in the hills, and we never learn where they actually were found.

In June we admitted an uninjured Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) nestling from someplace near Leggett. We have no idea where exactly or how far from the highway she was originally found. We were told that her nest had been destroyed, but not where it had been located. Ordinarily we’d want to try to reunite a healthy nestling with her parents.

In this case, that would be impossible, so the poor little nestling, not yet two weeks old, would have the misfortune of being raised by us, not her own family. Of course, at this point, we were her lucky break.

,(We don’t actually know what sex this bird is – we’re calling her female for the writer’s convenience and our refusal to call a living being ‘it’.) 

Admission day. Getting a first exam and an i.d. bracelet. Her feathers are growing in.

For her first ten days in care, she was hand fed a regular diet of insects, berries, and small bits of fish. As soon as she was able to feed herself, after nearly three weeks in care, our schedule was reduced until she no longer wanted anything to do with the food we offered by hand.
In our aviary, after 5 weeks, she is the size of an adult, with all of her feathers, self-feeding, and fully flighted!

The last time she’ll be handled! She passed her release evaluation with flying colors!




After 5 weeks in various sized boxes, from transport carriers to aviaries, she is at last free again, enjoying a second chance. Does she know how close she came to leaving this world before she’d really entered it? Who knows. But now she surveys her wide world from the safety of high and distant branch in a grove of Redwoods.
Ruth, our volunteer coordinator surveys our young champion surveying her new freedom! Would like to help a wild animal get a second chance? Submit an application through our website and Ruth will contact you to get you started as a volunteer at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center!


With your support, this Jay and the hundreds of wild animals, injured and orphaned, that we treat each Spring and Summer are given a second chance. Right now we are deep in our busiest time, and resources are as scarce as ever. We need your help now. Please donate today if you can. Thank you!

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Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Baby Skunks!

This story comes with recommended listening, Cornell Dupree playing Joe Zawinul’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy:

It happens and you don’t even know why. Suddenly – you’ve just learned to walk, just learning to find bugs, just seeing the night sky – you’re alone. Your siblings too. Maybe your mother was hit by a car. Maybe she was trapped and killed or taken far away. But no matter what happened, she didn’t come back ever again. A day goes by, then two, then three. Before you know it you don’t want to run anymore and then, if you’re lucky, one of those people finds you, picks you up, puts you in a box. If you make it to a wildlife rehabilitator, you’re going to be in boxes of one kind or another for a little while. But if all goes well, you’ll be free again.

***

Last week at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, we admitted our first baby Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) of the season. 3 youngsters were found in a backyard in Eureka. They’d been seen for a couple of days, but no mother was observed at any time. When one of them was found not moving, all 3 were captured and brought to our clinic.

Right on the edge of weaning, they are old enough to eat solid food and can be housed in our outdoor small mammal housing. But they are far too young to be on their own with no protection and no one to teach them how to find food, how to hunt.

For the next 8 weeks, these distant cousins to the otters (and even more distant to ourselves) will learn to forage for insects, find prey, and recognize the foods that will sustain them in adulthood. We’ll measure their progress and keep a distance between to protect their wildness and preserve their healthy fear of human beings.

We’ll need your help.

What follows are photographs from their first day in care. Now they are housed outdoors, in privacy. We’ll post more photographs as we can get opportunity during health checks over the coming weeks. Right now, they are gaining weight and using their new little teeth very well.

An exam of each skunk was made. One of them, the male of the three, was cold, lethargic and dehydrated, the two sisters were in much better shape. Each was given warmed subcutaneaous fluids. The male, initially  found immobile in the grass, had to be kept in an incubator for some time, but soon recovered and rejoined his siblings.
Tail up, the weaker of the three begins to signal his recovery as he signals his alarm at waking up in an incubator.
Oh yes, these teeth are ready from something to chew on!

The two healthier sisters inside their initial housing to observe their stability, learn more about their state of health and make sure that they are eating. The brother soon joined them.

At this age, skunks don’t have much ability to spray. Still the siblings stamp out warnings and lift their tails in mock battle. Play leads to adulthood!


It can be a hard sell – that these skunks matter. That any skunks matter. In a world such as ours, with demons at the helm, who put every thing that matters up on blocks in the front yard – the chopping block or the auction block – it can seem like we’ve got more pressing matters. But we don’t. So much of what we suffer in this world is the result of a human arrogance that values its own engorgement over the very mystery that produces appetites at all. In this world, pleading the case of the wounded Robin, the orphaned skunk, the broken-winged gull can seem like too little too late. But if we’re going to have a big world worth protecting, we’ll find it the small miracles that surround us, the dense feathers of the seabird’s belly, the strong musk of an evening’s encounter.

Please help us care for these beings whose lives are their own, who determine their own value, victims of our thoughtless creations. Donate (here) if you can. Thank you.

photos: Bird Ally X/ Laura Corsiglia

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Wild fostering…

Admitting a wild baby for care immediately poses questions that must be solved. First! Is this baby an orphan? Wild babies are better off with their families. If the family is intact, our first task is to reunite the baby with parent or parents. For some species this is easy, for others less so … Finding a mother Mallard(Anas platyrhynchos) who’s lost one or more of her chicks is nearly impossible, while getting a mistakenly grabbed Raven(Corvus corax) chick back to her parents is one of the easiest things you can do.

But often the family is gone, a parent killed, or their whereabouts unknowable (a dog drags a fawn up to the front porch, uninjured, but who knows from where…). However hope for a real wild upbringing isn’t completely lost. In some cases we can “wild foster”,  a technique in which orphans are placed in a wild family of their own species although not related. For some species, including most raptors, this can be easily done. (check out the work of  The Hungry Owl Project, one of the organizations that helped spread the use of this technique for raptors in California.)  We attempt to wild foster our young orphans whenever we can, or is necessary.

If re-uniting and fostering are not an option, we still have our faithful standby: we raise the orphans ourselves. While not ideal, successfully raising orphaned wild animals is done every day across the world by compassionate people, mostly volunteers, who take the business of being wild very seriously. We protect the wild nature of our patients fiercely, as well as their absolute right to freedom. To successfully prepare our patients for their adulthood means to provide them an upbringing that will give them the opportunity to develop the necessary tools for surviving and thriving – meeting their rightful destiny.

It may same a strange activity, but taking care of babies not even of your own species isn’t just humane, it’s natural.

Consider how tenderly this Bald Eagle(Haliaeetus leucocephalus) feeds this Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis) chick at this eagle nest. How this hawk found his way into this nest we may never know, but we do know this: This eagle is giving this hawk a second chance! Just like we do. One feeding at a time.

In this remarkable video, Bald Eagles in their nest at Roberts Bay, near Victoria, British Columbia are seen feeding a Red-tailed Hawk nestling. Apparently raising orphans of a species not your own is a perfectly natural endeavor! [EDIT: more information on this nest here.]


As with all aspects of our work, raising wild orphans requires specialized skills and a facility that is flexible enough to meet the shifting demands of our caseload and the diversity of our wild neighbors – raising Common Murre(Uria aalge) chicks and Raccoons(Procyon lotor) do have some similarities, but mostly they have a multitude of differences!

Whether we raise these babies ourselves, wild foster them, or return them to their families, our ability to act, to weigh the considerations and have resources available so that the our best course of action can be followed. All of our work stems from your support. Without your support, none of this ever happens. Please help us now in the midst of our busiest time of the year. We have a lot of mouths to feed. Donate Now.

 

 

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Motherless Mallards Find Their Freedom!

After six weeks in care, our first wild orphans of the year, these three Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), finished their time with us this weekend and were released back to their free and wild lives.

Found in a back yard in McKinleyville, these youngsters were only 30 grams when we admitted them in the middle of April. Now over 700 grams and with their flight feathers nearly grown in, we released to one of our area’s local “duck nurseries”, a marshy location that is a smorgasbord of appropriate Mallard diet. Here they’ll finish their apprenticeships on their way to becoming successful adults.

The obstacles people have put in the way of the normal lives of our wild neighbors are extreme. Cars, dogs, cats, fences form a gauntlet of challenges that Mallard families have to pass through on their way from nest to water. If you see a Mallard family on the go, help them along by making sure they have a clear path – keep your pets away and let your kids know what’s happening so they can learn to appreciate the wild lives that surround us.

Providing care for orphaned Mallards isn’t easy. Housing requirements for all wild aquatic birds are extensive and the water needed is expensive. Keeping wildlife wild is an important component too!  You can help us provide professional care for thse adn all our our wild patients. Want o help? Donate today!

photos: Bird Ally X/Laura Corsiglia

 

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Silver-haired Bat of Trinidad

Spring came early to Humboldt County this year, but it’s a kind of Spring that feels a lot like winter. Wet, windy and cold. As a result, this year we are admitting more storm-tossed and struggling adults later in the year than usual.

Such was the case for an adult male Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) that was found on the ground struggling the last morning of April near Patrick’s Point State Park. Cold and lethargic, we don’t know why this bat was on the ground, but we do know that his struggle was real. He was unable to get himself out of harm’s way.

While it’s certainly true that most species of bat, and many other mammals, that we might encounter potentially are suffering from rabies, statistically it is very unlikely. In bats, rabies occurs in less than one percent of their population.  Still caution is necessary. Untreated, rabies is fatal. If a person has been bitten by a bat, or may have been bitten by a bat, having the bat tested is critical! If you are ever bitten by a wild animal such as a fox, skunk, weasel, or bat, immediately seek professional health care. Rabies is transmitted by bite. If you are ever bitten by a bat, or suspect that someone else, such as child, could have been bitten, the bat must be tested for the disease. If you must handle a sick bat, always wear protective gloves, such as leather work gloves.

This bat was lucky. He did not have any of the symptoms of rabies, or any other obvious injuries. He had bitten no one. In relatively good body condition, soon the bat was alert and flying.  A warm safe place to regroup seemed to be all that the silvery bat needed.

An uncharacteristically stormy and windy May delayed release – we wanted to give him the best chance out of the box. So after nine days at last we returned to this handsome fellow to his home in Trinidad.

Lifting the bat from our transport box to place in a nearby tree: these gloves don’t just protect us – they also protect the bat. If he were to bite one of us, proper human safety demands that we have him tested for rabies, a procedure that requires his death.

On the way to a stable branch, the bat jumped from staff’s hands, preferring this bit of new growth spruce; choosing his own destiny, like any self-owned, self-willed, freedom loving wild thing would do… 

Once adjusted to his freedom, he exercised it and his wings.

Away.


This bat, like all of our patients, had his own needs in care: from considerations of his natural history and diet, to likely causes of his initial problem, to human safety concerns for handling. Every animal we care for has needs that must be met. There are few blanket answers. Most injured and orphaned wild animals never receive treatment, because they are not found. For those animals that are found, it’s critical that they get the best care possible. That’s what Humboldt Wildlife Care Center is here to do. Your support saved this bat’s life. Your support directly saves the lives of hundreds of wild animals each year, and indirectly saves thousands more. Thank you!! [Donate Today!]

Photos: Laura Corsiglia/ Bird Ally X

 

 

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Orange-crowned Warbler Defies Odds

Getting hit by a car doesn’t usually end well. But when you only weigh 9 grams (about a third of an ounce) you can get lucky. At the end of April an Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)* was found in the middle of the street near downtown Eureka. Dazed and confused, the small bird, most likely hit by a car, would have been run down again if not for his rescuer. Once brought to Humboldt Wildlife Care  Center, she was already beginning to recover. Given a mild anti-inflammatory medicine, soon she was flying inside her patient housing. After 24 hours of observation, she was her old self. We returned her to Eureka where chances are good she’s in the middle of keeping eggs warm. We’re sure her partner was glad to have her back.

Out of the box and back in the game! Orange-crowned Warbler gets while the getting is good!


It is estimated that cars kill between 90 million and 340 million birds each year in the United States alone. This number doesn’t include possible secondary deaths caused back at the nest when a parent bird doesn’t return with food forever. Who knows how many young nestlings die each Spring, starving in their nest.

At this time of year most adult birds in the Northern Hemisphere are very busy finding mates, building nests, brooding eggs and raising their young. While car fatalities can sometimes be unavoidable, increased awareness of our wild neighbors and consideration for their lives can go a long way toward keeping wild families together.

When an adult is rescued at this time of year, we don’t know how many lives might actually be saved. Your support helps keep our doors open. Your support provided a second chance for this Warbler and for all of our patients. Thank you!


Want to support our work? That’s terrific because we need you! Just follow this link to make a one time donation or to become a Sustaining Member! Thanks again!

*Correction: This story was originally posted incorrectly identifying this bird as a Wilson’s Warbler. Sorry!


photos: Bird Ally X/Laura Corsiglia

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Mallard Ducklings Were Lost and Now are Found

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) mothers for millions of years have selected safe secluded places to lay their eggs. Under bushy plants, in high grasses, and not more than a day hike from a nice pond. Once her babies hatch from their eggs, they are quickly on the move. Unlike songbirds whose young are altricial, meaning they are unable to do anything for themselves at all but open their mouths and accept food, ducklings are precocial – they come into the world ready to walk around and feed themselves. Within hours of hatching, mother Mallards lead their babies to water.

[Please support our work. Your contribution goes directly to the care of injured and orphaned wild animals and keeps our doors open! We need you! Please help. You can donate here now.] 

Of course in the intervening years, human have arrived on the scene, and in the last few thousand years began the process of covering the Earth in roads and other serious threats to our wild neighbors. Now an obstacle course of mayhem stands in the way of Mallard families and the ponds where they must grow, develop and learn to be successful adults. A mother killed by a car in traffic might leaving a dozen day old ducklings scrambling for their innocent lives. An off-leash dog might scatter a family with some babies never re-grouped. However it happens, thousands upon thousands of Mallard babies are separated from their families in California each year. Every year Mallards are the avian species most frequently admitted for rehabilitation in our state. Swimming pools with no way for a duckling to get out, pollution, traffic, dogs and cats, curious unsupervised children – the threats to young ducklings in human society are nearly endless.

At Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, we see less victims of these threats simply because we have a much lower human population. Still, we raise anywhere between 20 and 40 Mallard ducklings each year.

Orphaned Mallard patients from 2016, learning about duckweed, the miracle food!

Our three young Mallards who are currently in care, under a heat lamp in our indoor housing. Soon they’ll be old enough to be housed outside.


Last week we admitted the first Mallard orphans of the year. Found scrambling though a backyard in the coastal community of Manila, these three babies are doing very well, now. Currently housed indoors until they are big enough to stay warm through the night, soon we’ll move them to our specially built duckling pond and then to our waterfowl aviary where they will continue to grow and develop in relative privacy – their wildness respected and protected – until they are old enough to fend for themselves. When they are ready, after about six weeks in care, they’ll be returned to their free and wild lives.


Right now we are entering the busiest time of our year. Every day from now through the rest of Summer we will be helping keep wild families together and raising wild orphans when we must. The workload is intense and so is our need for your support. We are striving raise $25,ooo by May 31. We have $20,000 to go. Your support makes all the difference. Please donate today. Thank you!

photos: Bird Ally X

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