ABC7 salutes Sonoma County Songbird Hospital

August 12, 2011 7:45:38 PM PDT
Around the Bay Area there are many places you can take wounded wild animals. Most, however, are not equipped to deal with tiny songbirds that may need urgent care. Fortunately there is a songbird hospital in the North Bay to handle such feathered emergencies. It is run entirely by volunteers.

Orphaned song birds were brought in to the Sonoma County Songbird Hospital abandoned and hungry. They would likely have died in the wild if they were not cared for at the hospital.

Veronica Bowers runs the avian hospital; she leads a team of volunteers who spend hours caring for the wounded and abandoned birds.

It is the only songbird rescue and hospital in Northern California.

"My story is that I found what I thought was a nest of baby cliff swallows; they actually turned out to be baby house sparrows that had fallen off the eve of our house and I brought them to a local rehabilitation center and they were desperate for volunteers," Bowers said.

Fifteen years later, she has converted much of her two acre home in Sebastopol into a hospital for injured birds.

"I don't take care of birds that eat birds, or birds that eat fish, no water birds, no fowl, nothing like that, just the songbirds," Bowers said.

The little birds have big appetites; they need to eat every 20 minutes. In fact, they will go through 200,000 meal worms a week.

"We have to carefully pry the mouth open and put the food in," Bowers said.

Songbirds come to the hospital from a variety of places -- some have fallen from trees or lost habitat, others have been hit by cars or run into windows, some are prey for other animals.

"Over 50 percent of the 500 or so birds I take care for a year are caught by a cat," Bowers said.

Bowers relies on the generosity of a local veterinarian for the more extreme cases injuries; the rest are cared for by hand at her home.

Funding for the Songbird Hospital comes from the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, a non-profit rehabilitation center for wild animals.

"All the songbirds, those are the little birds, they go to Veronica," Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue spokesperson Danielle Mattos said.

The rescue relies on the hospital to take care of the birds they cannot.

"A lot of animals eat them; for them to be around animals that would normally eat them would be highly stressful for them so they need a quite safe place where they could go," Mattos said.

The Songbird Hospital is about to become its own non-profit. Separating from the rescue will allow them to do their own fundraising and develop more programs to save song birds.

"If can help undo some of the damage that us humans are doing out there in the natural world then I feel really, really good about that," Bowers said.

So tonight, ABC7 salutes Veronica Bowers and all the volunteers at the Sonoma County Songbird Hospital in Sebastopol for keeping nature's musicians alive.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel


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