Orphaned babies get helping hand
by Alison Hawkes on April 06, 2012
A nest of mourning dove chicks get a head start on life at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum's rehabilitation center.
Photo by Lindsay Wildlife Museum
Springtime is the season for babies. They’re busy emerging into the world by whatever method they come — by hatch or by birth.
With their arrival, some of the youngsters will also need help. The Lindsay Wildlife Museum’s rehabilitation center in Walnut Creek has about 200 babies under its wing right now and expects the number to shoot up even higher in the next couple weeks.
“It will get really busy with babies,” said Lindsay Wildlife Museum’s spokesperson Julie Ross. “We’ll start seeing jays, crows, raccoons, house finches, and a variety of other baby songbirds like sparrows and towhees.”
At the moment, the rehabilitation center is handling baby squirrels, doves, and hummingbirds. One of the leading causes of their arrival is nest disturbance from tree trimming (November and December are the only safe months to trim). Sometimes a whole nest of babies arrives.
“This morning we got four baby squirrels that fell out of a palm tree,” said Ross.
The rehabilitation center sends the mammals to live with one of its trained volunteers in the hopes of limiting human contact to as few people as possible. As they grow up, baby birds go from the incubator to a beginner cage to a flight cage and then out to the aviary when ready.
“When they feed on their own and fly on their own, they’re ready for release,” said Ross.
During a release, the staff tries to take the animals, especially the mammals, back to where the animals came from. The survival rate, up until that point, is more than 50 percent, Ross said.
The success stories are the result of a lot of hard work. Some of the babies need frequent feedings, as often as every two hours in the case of baby squirrels. And the teeny hummingbirds chicks — a half inch in length and weighing in at 2-4 grams — need a nectar-protein solution every 20-30 minutes.
“The baby hummingbirds are portable. Our volunteers carry them in plastic containers and bring them to meetings,” said Ross.
The whacky weather this year – drought followed by sudden rains – might have been a prescription for orphans galore. But apparently so far, the numbers of stranded babies are not out of the ordinary. Ross said the center expects to take in about 5,000 animals (babies and adults) by the end of the year.
This grey fox kit is 6 to 8 weeks old. Photo by Lindsay Wildlife Museum.
This fox squirrel is approximately 5 to 6 weeks old.
Barn owl chicks, like these 5 to 6 weeks old, started coming to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in March. Photo by Lindsay Wildlife Museum.