As spring begins, hundreds of baby birds are expected to hatch across the UC Santa Barbara campus in the upcoming months.
Some community members, including Claire Garvais, the communications and development coordinator at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN), are working to raise awareness and inform UCSB students about ways to help birds that fall out of their nests.
Garvais graduated as a music major from UCSB in 2018 and has since worked to help local animals in need.
“Right around now, early March is when we start getting hundreds of baby birds. Usually, it’s about 200 baby animals in our care at a time. That can also be baby mammals like bunnies and squirrels and raccoons,” Garvais said.
Garvais explained that March 1 is the unofficial beginning of baby bird season, when birds including mockingbirds, towheess, sparrows, finches, crows and seagulls begin to hatch from their nests.
She also emphasized the difference between birds in the hatchling, nestling and fledgling stages of development, as they should each be treated in a different way.
“Hatchlings are straight out of the egg, within the past couple days. Nestlings have a couple of feathers, but are still mostly naked and are around a week old. Fledglings are fully feathered, and they are almost ready to fly,” Garvais said.
If found on the ground, hatchlings and nestlings should be returned to their nest if possible. However, it is normal for fledglings leave the nest as they mature.
“They do spend some time on the ground for a little while once they are fully feathered, hopping around and learning how to fly. That’s normal. Their muscles are still developing for a couple of weeks,” Garvais said.
“We are trying to instruct people not to kidnap animals that don’t need to be saved. The best way for any baby to grow up is with their parents, so if you see a baby the first instinct shouldn’t be ‘I need to get this out immediately,’ it should be ‘I need to call for help.’ ”
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Additionally, Garvais encourages residents who own cats to put breakaway bell collars on them, as doing so prevents them from hunting and injuring birds. “Breakaway collars are safe. As soon as they are snagged, they just break off so the cat can’t get injured,” Garvais said. According to Garvais, cats are the top danger to birds in the area, injuring over 200 birds in the Santa Barbara area each year.
If a bird seems injured or orphaned, or if the nestling’s nest cannot be found, Garvais encourages students to contact SBWCN’s rescue hotline at (805) 681-1080.
Once under the care of SBWCN, the rescued animals will receive attentive support until they are ready to be released back into the wild.
“For hummingbirds, we feed them special nectar that we get from Denmark. It’s specifically the best hummingbird nectar that you can get,” Garvais said.
Songbirds are fed a mixture of mealworms, yogurt and vitamins that are blended together like a smoothie. They are fed by volunteers every 20 to 30 minutes.
Garvais hopes to debunk common misconceptions students may have about treating injured birds.
“There are all these myths associated with baby birds that if you touch one then its parents won’t be able to recognize it anymore. That is totally false. We don’t recommend that people touch the animals more than they need to be, but in order to renest a baby bird, it can be put back,” Garvais said.
Garvais herself first learned about SBWCN when her friends brought an injured duck into her dorm room while she was living in San Miguel Hall. After a quick Google search, she discovered SBWCN and decided to take the duck over.
“I actually got an Uber and brought the bird to them. It was really cool to know that this resource exists,” Garvais said.
Unfortunately, Garvais feels that many UCSB and Isla Vista residents don’t know about SBWCN, especially due to the constantly changing population of college students. Garvais hopes to raise awareness so that more animals are able to receive the help they need.
“Just like [how] people save the CSO number in their phones, we are hoping that people can save our helpline, because you never know when you are going to find an animal in need,” Garvais said.