A Challenging Year at Bird Rescue Center


<photo> Baby Golden Eagle 

By Mary Ellen King – BRC Volunteer 

Just as for Oakmont residents, 2020 was a daunting year for the Bird Rescue Center. The pandemic, economy, and wildfires created challenges no one could have anticipated. Designated an essential business,” we struggled to continue rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing birds as COVID impacted the ability of many valuable volunteers to be at the Center. 

Still, we finished up our 44th year admitting just over 2,400 birds, with 1,852 coming in during one of our most active Baby Bird seasons (April and September). This included nearly 1,500 songbirds, 241 waterbirds, and 121 raptors. We also almost smashed our record of most birds admitted in a single day 44 admits on June 16! Despite all the obstacles, together we maintained a stellar survival rate of nearly 81%. That’s a lot of wings returning to the wild!     

We had some “firsts” in the hospital.  

Described as a “mystery bird,” a Chipping Sparrow arrived from another center. Our biggest challenge was finding a release spot, but luckily we were able to find a suitable habitat. We took in our first adult Lazuli Bunting. We had our first nestlings in 2018 after the 2017 wildfires when we discovered this species takes advantage of post-fire habitats. Also among our intakes were Downy and Nuttall’s woodpeckers. We occasionally get adults and juveniles of both species, but this was our first summer raising them as babies. And most exciting was a baby Golden Eagle that came in with a broken wing. It healed quickly, and using a Papasan chair we rebuilt the nest, and were able to return the baby while the parents were still around. We were thrilled when it fledged beautifully a short time later.   

We continue to face the need to find and fund a new facility. The Sonoma County-owned property we have called home for over 40 years is being sold. While relocating is not our choice, it does present us with an incredible opportunity. And so, we have launched our Invest in the Skies campaign to build a new, modern facility that will meet the growing needs of the five-county area we serve. This new center will enable us to treat and rehabilitate birds more effectively, expand services and collaborations with other wildlife facilities, and provide robust educational programs that stimulate curiosity and motivate learning about our natural world. The new Bird Rescue Center will be situated on 5 acres along Guerneville Road in central Santa Rosa.  

Our future is bright and busy! If you would like to become involved, there are many ways you can help. Some roles might require being on-site while others involve zero-contact work. All volunteers are an important part of our success! For more information, visit us at birdrescuecenter.org.   

Like birds and bird watching? Join the Oakmont Birders mailing list by contacting bkendrick@jps.net. Share what you’re seeing. Questions about birds? We’ll try to answer them. And we’ll e-mail you about bird happenings. Best wishes to all for happy and healthy holidays! 









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