Recent WildCare Patients

Recent WildCare Patients

Baby Western Grebes

This pair of hatchling Western Grebes was discovered alone in a Bay Area reservoir by a local boater who scooped them both up and kept them safely in a bucket while he paddled back to shore, packed up, and drove them to WildCare.

Our Med Team provided a basic intake exam and made sure they were stable before contacting the waterbird specialists at International Bird Rescue (IBR) in Fairfield for advice on what kind of specialized care they would need next.

Part of responsible wildlife medicine is knowing when the job at hand is better suited to someone with more expertise, and this was one of those times! Nestling waterbirds like grebes have incredibly specific needs, including, but not limited to, needing the opportunity to swim twice every hour throughout the day! These tiny, amazing babies deserved the best possible chance to grow up healthy and strong and we knew that would be with the waterbird specialists at IBR.

As tiny and delicate as they were, we needed to arrange emergency transport from WildCare to IBR later the same day. If you find injured or orphaned wildlife it can be incredibly tempting to want to care for them yourself, but it’s always best for the animal when you get them to the experts as soon as possible… even if you’re used to being “the expert” yourself!

Baby Western Gull

This superbly spotty Western Gull chick came to us from Alcatraz Island, where so many of our local gulls make their nests and raise young every Spring and Summer. This youngster had fallen into a very thorny bush and during the struggle, sustained some pretty severe lacerations that would require medical attention.

After the boat ride off the island and car journey to WildCare, initial examinations in our Wildlife Hospital revealed some mild dehydration and at least one wound that was serious enough to require surgical sutures.

The first week of healing was a little touch-and-go, as it tends to be with injuries around joints and all the complexity of tendons, ligaments, and other intricate internal structures involved. However, it wasn’t long before this tough little gull had turned a corner and was self-feeding and standing and walking using both legs.

Noting the gull’s well-healing hock and healthy, continuous weight gain, WildCare’s Med Staff knew he was out of the woods and on the road to recovery!

Anna's AND Allen's Hummingbird Babies in Care

Two of these young hummingbirds are siblings. They are Allen's Hummingbirds, and they and their entire nest were found on the ground in the city of San Francisco. The third baby is an Anna's Hummingbird who was found lying on a tennis court, too young to fly.

These three similarly-aged baby hummingbirds will grow up in care, receiving (every 20 minutes!) the nutritious and highly-specialized formula we make for our baby hummingbirds. They will learn to fly and catch insects in our Hummingbird Expert's special enclosures, and be released back to the wild as soon as they are old enough.

These three babies remind us that wildlife baby season is far from over! In fact, hummingbirds (and many other bird species) are just now hatching their second brood of babies! WildCare's Living with Wildlife Hotline 415-456-7283 is once again being inundated with calls about baby hummingbirds.

Like these Wildlife Hospital patients, many of these tiny birds have been found on the ground. Any hummingbird (adult or baby) on the ground is in trouble and needs immediate care. Be sure to pick up the bird and ALSO pick up whatever he's sitting on... hummingbirds have incredibly fragile toes that break easily. Lifting the bird along with whatever his toes are attached to will help prevent additional injury.

The Hotline is also fielding calls about hummingbird nests cut from trees or shrubs. Please remember to Respect the Nest, and delay trimming and pruning until after wildlife Baby Season! Hummingbird nests are incredibly small, and hummingbird parents deliberately camouflage the nest to evade predators. This strategy works, until humans come along with chainsaws!

People also call our Living with Wildlife Hotline because they fear a nest of baby hummingbirds has been abandoned. Our Hotline team does a great job reassuring these callers that the parent hummingbirds come in an out so quickly, that even a keen observer may miss it. They also caution that the parent hummingbirds don't want to give away the location of the nest to a predator (the human watching!), so standing close to the nest and staring at it may cause the baby birds to not get fed. It would be an incredibly rare event for a nest to be abandoned, and the only reason would be if something bad happened to the parent birds.

Red-tailed Hawk Fallen From His Nest

WildCare will go to great lengths, and, it turns out, great heights to do what's best for our wildlife patients!

This fledgling Red-tailed Hawk fell from his nest in Golden Gate Park. A local bird watcher and photographer found him, and called Craig Nikitas of Bay Raptor Rescue for help.

Craig knew that young raptors of this age (called "branchers" because they're leaving the nest and learning to hop-fly on the branches near the nest) often tumble to the ground. While they don't usually injure themselves in their fall, it's a long way down, so a checkup in WildCare's Wildlife Hospital is always the best choice. Craig brought the young hawk to WildCare.


Our team took x-rays and did blood work, both standard procedures for a baby raptor who falls from the nest. These tests indicated that the bird was healthy. Over the next few days, as WildCare's Raptor Reunite Team looked into returning this baby to his nest near Cal Academy, the young hawk ate well, devouring everything placed in his enclosure. He has gained weight and will be well-fed (and probably feisty!) for his reunite.

WildCare admits anywhere from 4 to 15 baby raptors every year, and our goal is always to return them to their parents' care. This is due to the benefits to the baby and the parent birds of reuniting the family, and also because of the difficulty and cost of raising young raptors in captive care.

Raptors nest high in trees, and the baby birds face a precipitous fall from the moment they hatch. Although WildCare occasionally admits fluffy nestlings, most of the young raptors we admit have reached the stage where they're standing up in the nest, balancing on its sides, or exploring the branches nearby. One poorly-timed wind gust, and an uncoordinated baby bird can easily be blown off his perch.

Interestingly, most baby hawks and owls do not injure themselves in their tumbles from the nest. Although they don't yet have flight feathers or flight skills, they are light enough to come down gently, and they most often hit the ground without injury. Many baby owls can actually climb their way back up to the nest using their talons and beak (it's amazing to see!) but hawks like this little Red-tail can't. This baby hawk's location in such a public area means he was at risk from people, cars and other hazards..

Golden Gate Park and the area around the California Academy of Sciences offers great habitat for a family of Red-tailed Hawks, but these birds still face the dangers of an urban setting. Primary among these is the risk of secondary poisoning from eating poisoned rodents. Although there is currently a moratorium on the general use of second generation anti-coagulant rodenticides in California, there are certain public health-related exceptions that still allow their use, which puts urban raptors still at high risk of exposure.

This young hawk's story was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle! Read the article here, and then enjoy the "Red-tail's-eye" view of the 100-foot high nest tree to which volunteer arborist Jim Cairnes of Small World Tree Company returned the baby!

Spotters continue to monitor this Red-tail family, and reports confirm that the parent hawks are feeding their prodigal youngster and all is well.

Stories, videos and photos by Dion Campbell and Alison Hermance