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Birds Babies in Rehab: Rescued Herons and Egrets Start A New Life

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Snowy egret chicks are cared for until they're old enough to fly at IBR, then released in the wild.  Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck.

Snowy egret chicks are cared for until they’re old enough to fly at IBR, then released in the wild. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck.

Rehab is often in the news, but it’s most often associated with some celebrity figure. This time, though, the celebrities were 22 orphaned egrets and herons from Santa Rosa, CA. Twenty-one of the 22 media darlings were from the Ninth Street Rookery. Young egrets and herons that leave the nest before they’re fully flight-ready are usually taken care of by the parents on the ground or climb back up into the trees on their own. But this rookery, which sits in the median of a very busy street, has many cars and other urban threats that could potentially harm its birds.

Black-crowned Night Heron chicks, snug in their nest at IBR.  Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck.

Black-crowned Night Heron chicks, snug in their nest at IBR. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck.

A partnership of agencies and plenty of volunteers ensure a happy ending for many of these young birds. The wonderful volunteers from the Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa keep a close watch on the rookery, ready to collect any young birds that need a helping hand. Then they’re transported to the International Bird Rescue (IBR) in Fairfield, which specializes in caring for waterfowl. The Sonoma County Fish & Wildlife Commission provides funding to IBR, and every year IBR helps hundreds of young egrets and herons from around the Bay Area. (View a video of IBR Los Angeles’s rehab operation at work in the video below.)

Even with last week’s release of the young birds, IBR in Fairfield still has 41 more snowy egrets and 23 black-crowned night herons that will require care until they’re ready to be returned to the wild.

Last week’s rehabbed fledglings were released “en masse” in the Laguna de Santa Rosa, which is in the same watershed as the Ninth Street Rookery. They wear a numbered red leg band so scientists can try to track them through the years. Perhaps they’ll join the Ninth Street Rookery in the future or maybe they’ll disperse to other locations. If you notice a heron or egret with a red band on its leg, try to look for a number (usually a spotting scope or telephoto lens is required) and report it to IBR. You may be able to help contribute to the life story of one of these rehabilitated birds!

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Category: Biology

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About the Author ()

Sharol Nelson-Embry is the Supervising Naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center & Aquarium on San Francisco Bay in Alameda. Crab Cove is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the largest and oldest regional park agencies in the nation. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Natural Resources Management and an epiphany that connecting kids with nature was her destiny. She's been rooted in the Bay Area since 1991 after working at nature centers and outdoor science schools around our fair state. She loves the great variety of habitats stretching from the Bay shoreline to the redwoods, lakes, and hills. Sharol enjoys connecting people to nature with articles in local newspapers and online forums. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.