The welcoming committee was slightly outlandish.

21 09 2014

In early July, on the beach at Big Lagoon park, a young Common Murre (Uria aalge) was found struggling in the surf. Too small to be in the ocean, certainly too young to be alone, without rescue certain death awaited the young bird.

Common Murres, like most alcids, spend their entire lives on the sea, coming to land only in Spring for the annual rites of renewal. Found all around the Northern Hemisphere (circumpolar), Murres nest in large colonies on rocks, seastacks and remote cliffs that are safe from predators. Before they can fly, when their wings are still quite undeveloped, parents, typically their fathers, lead the chicks from the colony out to sea and good foraging areas.

The ocean is a big place, though, and for any number of reasons, a chick can become separated from her or his parent. Without a father, the only hope these young birds have is to wash up on a beach and be found.

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After a week in care, still sporting the nestling fuzz

Weighing in at 159 grams on his/her first day in care, a heatlamp and food were offered, as well as a quiet place to become accustomed to this sudden turn of events. For the time being, there would be no parent, no rolling swell of the North Pacific, no live fish freshly delivered. For the first two weeks in care, we had to put whole fish in the young seabird’s mouth to ensure s/he was eating.

While the Ancient Mariner’s complaint of  “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” may be true for humans, seabirds do drink salt water. A special gland – the salt gland – filters out the excess salinity. Exposure to salt is important for this gland’s development. For this reason, among others, we provide a salted pool for young, growing seabirds.

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Salting the pool

Provided that a juvenile Murre is healthy enough to be housed in the pool without losing waterproofing or body temperature, then treatment is a relatively simple matter of periodic examinations and a lot of fish. This young bird, who at adulthood will weigh a little under two pounds (about 900 grams) ate two-thirds of a pound of fish each day, or about 40 pounds over the course of her/his care.

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In the big pool for the first time

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A growing baby after 8 weeks in care

From less than 200 grams to release, our youngster had to gain nearly 800 grams! Common Murres are wing-propelled “pursuit divers.” This means that they chase down fish underwater, using their wings to move – essentially flying beneath the surface of the sea! When s/he began diving in the pool we offered live fish, so that s/he could begin learning to hunt.

At last, on September 8, the young bird was as ready as s/he’d ever be for release.

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Netting the Common Murre from the pool for release evaluation.

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Rehabilitator Lucinda Adamson evaluates our patient for release.

Humboldt Bay opens into the North Pacific through a channel kept open by constant dredging. Not only does this allow a wide range of vessels to the bay, the channel, known locally as the Jaws, is used by seabirds of many species. At this time of year it is very common to see Common Murre fathers and their young foraging here. We chose this place to release our Murre so that s/he’d be close to his/her own kind, with the hope that they would finish teaching all that we couldn’t. (A 2500 gallon pool in Bayside is not the Pacific Ocean!)

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The “Jaws” connecting Humboldt Bay to the Pacific Ocean. A “feeding frenzy” awaits our patient!

When we got to the rocky bank of the Jaws, the tide was out and the water was unusually calm. Rehabilitator Lucinda Adamson and volunteer Jeannie Gunn made their way down to the edge. A hundred yards out, a large group of birds was feasting upon an unseen school of fish. Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), Double-crested and Brandt’s Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus and Phalacrocorax penicillatus, respectively) Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia) and, most happily, hundreds of Common Murres were all diving and calling. A symphony of Murre calls, as fathers and their young stayed in contact, rang out, louder than all else.

Here’s a short video from that day:

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Out of the box, into freedom.

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Back in the Ocean, our patient takes a moment to see “which way the wind blows.”

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To sea!

Soon after hitting the water, our youngster swam out from shore, toward the large group. A pair of Murres, an adult and juvenile approximately the same age, swam up to our bird. Immediately they began diving together, one of them surfacing with a fish. And then they melted into the group and “our bird” was ours no more. Now s/he was her own bird, just as s/he always had been.

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Looking of fish

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A colleague!

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An adult in background

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A fish for a youngster?

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Happy wildlife caregivers enjoying the beauty of their work

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An adult Brown Pelican does a flyby

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Sandpipers on the wing across the Jaws

Your help is needed. The specialized care that seabirds require is made possible by your contribution. Please help us help wild wild animals in distress. Give today.


all photographs: Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X

Idaho: Blain County says no more wolf killing

16 09 2014


Some good news about wolves from Idaho! Pleasantly Surprised!

Originally posted on Coalition for American Wildbirds:

Gray_wolf : Gary Kramer USFWS

By Defenders of Wildlife


Date: September 16, 2014

Contact:  Suzanne Stone:; (208) 861-4655

Melanie Gade: (202) 772-0288

Blaine County Says No More Wolf Killing

KETCHUM, Idaho – The City Council of Ketchum in Blaine County unanimously passed a resolution yesterday requesting that the State of Idaho use nonlethal tools – guard dogs, strobe lights, electric fencing – over lethal tools – aerial gunning, hunting and trapping – to manage wolf and livestock conflicts in Blaine County. The resolution requests that the State of Idaho “recognize the importance of recreation, tourism and wildlife to our citizens and economy, not expand lethal control of wolves within Blaine County, reconsider its estimates of a viable wolf population, and to work cooperatively with the Wood River Wolf Project.” This is first time a town in Idaho has passed a resolution against the use of lethal control on wolves…

View original 520 more words

Two gulls together.

3 09 2014
Two Western gulls, one adult and one who’d hatched this year, were in care for most of July and August. If life hadn’t thrown each of them a curve ball they may have never met.

Thank you everyone, our August fundraising drive is over! But it’s not too late to help push us over $5000. Your donation goes directly to the Rescue and Rehabilitation of the North Coast’s injured and orphaned wild animals as well as humane solutions to keep wild families together and the use non-lethal methods to resolve human/wildlife conflicts. Thank you for donating today!

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As they come out of the box, a brown/gray juvenile Western Gull meets beach sand for the first time while a white adult scrambles toward freedom.

The young bird was found on a rock off the coast of Crescent City. Typically, this would be where you might find a gull fresh from the egg. Western Gulls rear their young on the seastacks and remote headlands all along the California coast. Less than two weeks old, the bird still had hatchling feathers. We offered him fish and safety and as soon as s/he began to fly, the company of other gulls.

WEGU baby young
The adorable nature of hatchling gulls can sometimes test the resolve of  professional caregivers. “Please can I keep him?” says the smitten rehabilitator. “No!” says Mother Earth, and she quotes Henry David Thoreau, “All good things are wild and free!”

Four weeks after the hatchling Gull was admitted, an adult Western Gull was brought to our clinic who was unable to fly. Upon admission we discovered the bird’s right ulna was fractured near the wrist. As with our arms, the wings of all birds have a shoulder, a humerus between shoulder and elbow, and from elbow to wrist, two bones in parallel, the radius and the ulna.

If you have to break a wing, this sort of fracture is among the easiest to treat. The uninjured radius serves as the perfect splint to stabilize its partner, the ulna, while it heals. The fracture being close to the wrist did cause some concern, but the chances for a full recovery seemed good. We immobilized the wing and checked its progress periodically.

One of the remarkable things about birds compared to mammals is the speed that they heal – a broken bone in a mammal can take 6 weeks or longer to mend, while most fractures in birds are stable after 12-14 days! This gull was no different and after 13 days the break had healed and the stabilizing wrap was removed.

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In our aviary, wing fractured healed, the adult Western Gull shows off some skills.

At this same time, the young Gull, fully grown, with flight feathers in (no more cute spots!) was ready to be housed with the adult birds in care. While the adult re-conditioned for flight, the fledgling was discovering flight for the first time.

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While trying to catch the adult for an examination, the youngster insisted on being included.

Within two weeks, the youngster was following the adult around the aviary, mimicking flight and asking to be fed, and the adult was flying with grace and agility, as a gull should.

Releasing a young orphaned bird is a challenge. Although our young patient was able to recognize appropriate food and forage independently, it is still preferable that young birds have adult guidance. Now that our adult patient was fully recovered, it was a fortunate coincidence that we were able to send our youngster out into wild freedom with an older bird.

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The adult sprang from the carrier into flight and never looked back…


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Circling the area after release, the young Western Gull demonstrates his flight skills.

We took both Gulls down to North Jetty on the Samoa peninsula. The adult burst from the carrier and off across the water. Meanwhile the young Gull took some time to become acquainted with freedom. Soon anothe youngster came by and eventually both took off together – free, wild and at the beginning of a hopefully long career.

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Beautiful new feathers holding up a beautiful new bird.

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A colleague is discovered.

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Our former patient with a new friend explore the possibilities of endless wild freedom!


Your support makes success stories like these possible and gives injured and orphaned wild animals a much deserved second chance. Thank you for being a part of this life-saving work.

Thank you for your donation.


(all photos: Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X)








Passenger Pigeon on the 100th Anniversary of Extinction

1 09 2014


© Louis Agassiz Fuertes

On September 1, 1914, The last known Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), who had been given the name Martha by the Cincinnati Zoo, died in captivity. She was 29 years old. She’d never raised young. When she died, so did the species. As the bumper sticker reminds us, extinction is forever. After 100 years, Passenger Pigeons are just beginning to be extinct. 100 years before the death of this last female, the Passenger Pigeon may have been the most numerous bird species on the planet.

Numbering in the billions these beautiful and highly social birds filled the skies and the dense deciduous forests of the East. Now the skies are filled with satellites, aircraft and far too many parts per million and the forests are shattered.

For North Americans born in the 20th or 21st centuries, our childhoods are filled with stories of the days when this or that species was so abundant that you could walk across the river on their backs, or it took days for the flock to pass, or the herd stretched from horizon to horizon, or the sun was darkened by their shadow. We hear these stories and wonder what they could mean. Our world is so much emptier now, we can barely imagine this – yet these stories are largely true. The American Buffalo (Bison bison), Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis), Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) – each of these species were once common, some so common that it was inconceivable at the time that they could ever be threatened with extinction. This is the important fact. In our time we protect (if we do) the threatened and the endangered species, but as we see, it’s the common species, the ones we take for granted, who’ve been driven to extinction by the thoughtless machine that grips us. 

On this sad anniversary, why not take a vow to break free of the machine’s soulless grasp? Vow to be a bird ally, a wild ally. Live an authentic human life in the blaze of reality. What else is there?

To learn more about these species, and the terrible history of industrial civilization, start here:

Opossums Like Life.

29 08 2014
Our August fundraising drive is almost over! It’s not too late to help push us over $5000. Your donation goes directly to the Rescue and Rehabilitation of the North Coast’s injured and orphaned wild animals as well as humane solutions to keep wild families together and the use non-lethal methods to resolve human/wildlife conflicts. Thank you for donating today!

Every spring and summer at Humboldt Wildlife Care, we admit dozens of baby Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) for care. As with all of our patients, none arrive by pleasant means. Each of these youngsters is an orphan, their mothers killed. Cars and dogs are the two worst threats, it seems, for Opossum mothers.

opossum weight checck and feeding 8:20:14 - 27Just weaned, a young Opossum explores his new outdoor housing.

The name Opossum is derived from the Algonquian word, Wapathemwa,  or “white animal.”(1) Opossums are the only marsupial found in North America. Like Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats and others, female Opossums have a separate pouch where their young continue their development after a short pregnancy. Born tiny (10 grams!), pink, and nearly helpless they crawl into their mother’s pouch to nurse and there they reman for the next 7-10 weeks.(2)  A litter of twelve is not uncommon!

Of course, when a dog or a car kills a female Opossum, she may be a mother with babies in her pouch. At HWCC we take these babies in when they are found. Providing a good diet (which includes a specially prepared Opossum milk replacer) warmth, safety and as they age, an increasingly challenging environment to offer both mental and physical education.

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A periodic quick exam assures us that this young Opossum is doing well.

Adept at living around farms, roadways, industry, and cities, Opossums find shelter and food easily, but are exposed to the risk that all wild animals who live near civilization face. Excellent climbers, Opossums have a prehensile tail. While it’s not true that Opossums can hang by their tail (ouch!), they do use it to grasp branches, fence posts, and sometimes, the beltloops of their care-providers!

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All of our orphaned patients are weighed regularly to monitor their growth.

As their common name suggests, Virginia Opossums are not native to California or the west, but were introduced in the late 19th century by immigrants from eastern states. Unlike many non-native species, Opossums have little negative impact on the ecosystem they now call home.

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Opossums  are opportunivores! They eat whatever they can find. We are careful to present orphans with a wide variety of natural foods: insects, fruit and vegetables, rodents, fish make up their diet. Not only do their meals sustain them, but they also must continue to teach. “What’s this?” each item asks… the answer: It’s Opossum food.

Yet still, these gentle, unobtrusive animals are persecuted. Opossums are frequently hit by cars and sadly, sometimes this is intentional. (Want to see how normal it is to disrespect an Opossum family? Click here for an LA Times story from 1994.) Routinely trapped, killed, even tortured, Opossums face myriad threats in their daily lives. Opossums are reckoned to live not much more than two years.

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Berries and mealworms buried in a tray of potting soil await discovery! Each orphan we raise must have basic survival skills. Our housing is our most effective tool to help these little ones learn. This is the sad reality of orphans of any species, what your mom and dad would have taught you you have to pick up elsewhere, with varying degrees of success..

If an Opossum is being a so-called nuisance, you can be sure that something is attracting that animal. Feeding pets outdoors and failing to secure garbage are the most common practices that draw wildlife into conflict with humans. For far too many wild neighbors these conflicts end with death. Perceived as disease-ridden by people whose connection with nature was damaged or severed long ago, even in our laws it is hard to find any but the most vague anti-cruelty ordinances that protect Opossums. (The 20 year old news story linked above is still relevant. Click here to see how poorly the University of California addresses conflicts with Opossums.)

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Preparing housing for our patients requires imaginative inhabitation.

HWCC treats injured and orphaned Opossums all year – adults and babies. We encourage everyone to say a good word about Opossums, who live their short, mysterious lives to the fullest and teach lessons in how to love the ‘blaze of reality’ that burns through us all.

Your donation supports the care of these and all wild neighbors who need help. Thank you for making the North Coast and beyond a nicer place to be wild and free.
opossum weight checck and feeding 8:20:14 - 32
Opossum: rhymes with awesome. Coincidence? We think not.

All photos Laura Corsiglia/BAX


1. accessed 16:32 29 Aug 2014

2. accessed 17:23 29 Aug 2014


In an Infinite Universe, Size is Irrelevant (but you still need to find your mom and dad)

16 08 2014
A Young Hummingbird’s tale

5:19 hummingbird re-unite - 05A question we are often asked: The bird is so small, do you bother taking care of them? The universe is boundless, how can you  tell what size anything actually is? None of us are any closer to the edges than anyone else, no matter our relative sizes! So, please, bring that injured hummingbird to our clinic!

Now in this particular case, it turned out the young Rufous Hummingbird was just that – young. She was still learning to fly. (click on the link to learn about this common bird who is also showing steep declines in population)

So we gave her some fluids to slake her thirst and packed her up and returned to the riverside trail in Orick (about 40 miles up the road) where she’d been found.

Re-uniting a songbird, or any animal, with his or her parents is a lot easier if you know what you are looking for – or listening for. “Please let the adults be present,” you wish fervently, “Please let our little guy cry for them so they know she’s around!” If the adults don’t come, the baby can’t stay. Re-uniting babies with parents can be a stressful operation.

When our team arrived in Orick and began to walk the levee along Redwood Creek looking for the best place to return this youngster, the sounds of adult hummingbirds filled the air.

After placing the bird on a blackberry leaf, no adults approached. Patience is important. These things, as they say, take time. And so our team waited.

Patience, yes, is a virtue. And so is action. So is believing in your own intuition. After several anxious minutes had passed, they decided to move the bird further from the trail into a more secluded location. Of course, as they approached, one of the fears of this kind of operation was realized – the bird flew on her own to a spot they couldn’t reach. Now it was up to the parents.

The team backed off and watched. The fledgling called. Adults circled above. Eventually one adult dropped down to the young bird. There was some conversation between them. The adult flew off to some nearby blossoms. Moments later, the adult returned to the fledgling. Feeding! The baby was back in her parents’ care.

An elated team drove home.

Your support makes efforts such as these possible. Keeping wild families together is the very heart of wildlife conservation. Wild families are the indivisble unit of wild populations. The seed, the growth, the flower and fruit of co-existence with – and embrace of – our wild neighbors, and therefore our own survival, is contained in the act of re-uniting a wild baby with her parents.

Thank you for supporting our work. To contribute to our August fundraiser (our goal is only $5000!) please donate here. Thank you!

Scroll down through the pictures of this bird’s return to her family.

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Taking the young hummingbird, smaller than a human thumb, from the box.
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Initially on this blackberry leaf, we waited, but no adults came near.
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And then she flew deeper into the thicket, out of reach of everything but the lens.
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A blur and blaze of beauty, the orange and green streak up and to the left of the fledgling is an adult Rufous Hummingbird who has just fed his baby. And so a small but mighty piece of the cosmos was restored. This is what your contribution supports. Thank you!

(all photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX/HWCC)

Lost Juvenile Found in Redway

12 08 2014
Hungry, Anything Helps

 Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 01
In care at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center after making some inexperienced choices.

Sometimes when you first leave home, things don’t work out as you had hoped. Take a wrong turn and, instead of clear skies and easy sailing, you’re caught in one of the traps that seem set for the wayward juvenile.

This young Brown Pelican, like all the other pelicans her age, had recently left her hatching grounds far to the south and made it all the way to the North coast. And then for some reason, who knows why, she strayed from the sea, the only place where she can eat, and wandered into Redway. She was found walking along the road.

Day 12 in our August fundraising Drive: So far we’ve raised $600 of our goal of $5000 by the end of the month. Your help is needed. Every donation helps. Thank you for being a part of this wildlife saving work!

Emaciated from starvation and very weak, with a few scrapes as badges of her courage, she was plucked from certain death by a kind woman in the area.

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 02Feeling better! Brown pelican exercises her wings in our Pelican aviary in Bayside, CA

To recover from severe emaciation, as long as no other problems are present, takes about 3 weeks. Once the young Pelican was stable we housed her in our purpose-built aviary. Each day she consumed 3-5 pounds of smelt, a kind of small fish that is safe to feed in captivity to aquatic birds because it has less oil content than other fish and is less liklely to soil very important feathers. In all species of birds, clean feathers are critical, but for aquatic birds, contaminated feathers are a fast-acting death sentence.

With routine checks performed every few days, we knew she was doing well and bouncing back to her normal weight. At each examination we discovered that her strength was returning as well.

Soon she was flying well and using the high perch in her aviary. (see top photo) When she was ready to go, her health good, her flight strong, her feathers impeccable, our interns and staff took her to a spot on Humboldt bay favored by pelicans. We were glad to see several adults in the group she joined. Hopefully they can show her a few more of the ropes she’ll need to make it in the wild world.

Your support made her rescue, rehabilitation and release possible. Thank YOU!

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 03

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 04

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 05

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 06

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 07

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 08

(All photos Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X)


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