The Good, The Bad, But Not Ugly…

Friday night volunteer and Shift Leader, Claudia Benfield, writes about the variety of patients she encounters during one of her shifts:

I started my shift trying to find an injured Great Blue Heron that had been hanging around for a few days in a particular spot in Albany.  The people who saw it said it had a broken wing so he was supposed be easy to catch.  When I got there I found the person who owned that particular land.  She was very nice and walked around the entire field with me for about an hour looking for the heron, but it was nowhere to be found.

Great Blue Heron, Photo Credit: Audubon

When I got to the clinic, a Wild Turkey was being treated for what looked like some pretty extensive and serious injuries.  I have always thought of them to be a very beautiful bird.  When you get a closer look at them you see all of the different beautiful colors on them.  This turkey had lacerations on his leg and chest area.  One of the chest injuries in particular was very bad and when staff examined the injury, they knew that the best thing for him would be to give him mercy and end his pain.  He was very beautiful and it is always a difficult decision to make.

Wild Turkey, Photo Credit: Audubon

The final patient of the night is actually another one of my favorite birds. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was in for a surprise…We got what I had thought to be our normal Northern Flicker that had been caught by a cat.  He had a severe injury on his wing.  I cleaned the wound as best I could and wrapped the wing.  I hoped that he could be rehabilitated.  At that moment I was mainly concerned about his injuries and how to make him comfy for a night. What I didn’t know was that I was overlooking the type of Flicker he was.  All I knew at the time was that he was squirming a lot and that it was difficult to wrap his wing!  When a patient comes in we try to quickly assess the injuries and make them comfortable so that the patient can have time to de-stress. The stress of everything going on alone can kill them, so it’s important for us to always keep that in mind. I also know that the Animal Care Directors will follow up with a more thorough exam once the patient has had the time to rest.  My job was to make the Flicker comfortable.

I didn’t think he was such a rare bird for our area!  The next morning I found out that he was a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, a rare migrant to the Willamette Valley and that they are usually found on the East Coast and in the forests of Canada and Alaska.  Our area usually has the Red-shafted variety.

So it was another amazing evening indeed!  Maybe it was good that I didn’t find the Great Blue Heron.  And, yes, it was a bad ending for the Turkey.  But there’s no ugly in this story… that Northern Flicker was so beautiful and I can only keep the hope that he can be rehabilitated.


Busy Season at CWC!

You may have heard the term “busy season” thrown around before, particularly if you’ve called into Chintimini Wildlife Center’s clinic anytime between early spring and late fall. Have you ever wondered what it really meant though?

Many people experience a busy season in their line of work – think of accountants or real estate agents. Gardeners, domestic animal shelters, and even school teachers may experience busy seasons. Here at Chintimini Wildlife Center, busy season means an influx of patients (babies in particular!) and a decrease in volunteer availability. It means more emergency phone calls, ‘round the clock feedings, and extended work hours.

A nestling Red-tailed Hawk with a fractured wing was in our care earlier this year.

Chintimini relies heavily on the help and support of volunteers, many of whom are students attending college at Oregon State University. When the term ends and summer begins, many students return home and are thus unable to continue volunteering. This inevitably leaves the clinic short-staffed, just when the patient load begins to drastically increase. This year alone we have already admitted over 1,200 patients – during busy season we average about 5-10 new patients every single day!

Two orphaned Grey Fox kits. Photo Credit: Gazette GT

So, why the increase in patients? For the most part, it is injured or orphaned baby animals we are caring for. Occasionally, we have a well-intentioned person unknowingly remove a young animal from its family and environment. In that scenario, we do our best to try to reunite them with their parents. But overall, we receive hundreds of baby birds that fall from destroyed nests, are injured by outdoor cats, or are orphaned for unknown reasons. These baby birds must be fed every 15-20 minutes from sun up to sun down. This is no easy task! We assign at least one volunteer to the baby bird room on each of the three daily shifts, seven days a week! We also care for baby mammals, all of which require bottle, syringe, or tube feedings with specialized diets.

A pair of Juvenile Steller’s Jays being tong fed their meal.                        Photo credit: Corvallis GT

On top of all baby care, we still admit many critical patients that are not babies. With the beautiful Oregon weather comes more human activity outdoors. More people out means more people finding wildlife in need of immediate care. We see so many animals that have been hit by cars, slammed into windows, or been malnourished for various reasons. Most days our ICU cages are at max capacity.

This Barred Owl was hit by a car and needed care in our ICU.

Aside from the intensity of the clinic, the youth programs are in full swing with their
summer camps and activities. There are many events and open houses happening all
summer long, and the Raptor Education Program is working hard, training the education raptors and attending events throughout the community.

A few representatives from our Raptor Education Program (REP) went to “Movies in the Park” in Salem for their Harry Potter film night and did an educational presentation about owls for over 100 audience members.

As you probably know, Chintimini relies on the help of the community, volunteers, and
donors to run smoothly and continue providing great care to our wildlife friends. If you are able, please consider donating to Chintimini Wildlife Center – there are many mouths to feed during busy season and every little bit helps us with medicine, medical supplies, and nutritious diets for all of our patients while they recover and prepare for life back out in the wild!

Erika, Assistant Animal Care Staff

White Bread is Quack! Ditch the Bread and Feed Waterfowl a Natural Snack.

Many bird enthusiasts get their first interactions with birds by feeding the ducks and geese at local ponds. Knowing how to provide them with healthy diets will not only be beneficial to local waterfowl populations, it will also allow future generations of people to enjoy the same pastime.

White bread, the most common food that is fed to local waterfowl, is also the least nutritious and causes a number of health issues including a debilitating disease called Angel Wing. The Angel Wing condition is brought on as a result of a high-calorie diet, one extremely high in protein and carbohydrates, and low in Vitamins D, E and Manganese. This low nutrient diet causes the feathers to grow at a faster rate than the rest of their body, causing the bird’s wings to point out laterally, rather than resting against the body, leaving the bird flightless and vulnerable to predators.

angel wings
Cackling Goose with Angel Wing Disease

Ducks and Geese are omnivorous, meaning they eat food from both animal and plant origin. So feeding them foods high in nutrients, minerals and vitamins that would be similar to the natural insects, mollusks, seeds, grains, and plants they would find in the wild,  keep them healthy and happy. Below are listed alternatives to white bread that allow you to enjoy a day of feeding the waterfowl at your local park!



– Melanie Ripley, Wednesday AM Shift Leader


Level 2 Training

Every year CWC offers volunteers a chance to gain hands-on experience with additional training beyond what they normally encounter on shift. Considered a “beyond the basics” course, volunteers practice performing initial examinations, administering subcutaneous fluids, tube feeding, and wing wraps for wing fractures. We use deceased patients so volunteers can be more thorough and not have to worry about time constraints.

Here’s a look at one volunteer’s experience at the Level 2 Training that took place earlier this year:


A Hawk in Pink

Emily Anne Martin, Sunday AM Shift Leader

Where the heck did all of these people come from?!

I inwardly exclaimed as I turned my car into the parking entrance for Chintimini Wildlife Center. I’d just arrived to complete the Level 2 Volunteer Training and was thrown for a loop when I realized that for the first time since I began volunteering in 2016, I may not be able to find a parking spot. On the other hand, it was rather refreshing to take a break from my previous thoughts; I’d spent most of the drive trying to wrack my brain as I struggled to remember medical techniques or animal handling methods  I had been taught in college. Apparently there is some truth to the old phrase “use it or lose it.”

I wasn’t discouraged though. Refocusing on the task at hand, I hurried down to the yurt and joined some of the dozen or so individuals milling around the building. I glanced around and didn’t immediately recognize anyone. Still, it was exciting to get to interact with some of the other shift volunteers and I immediately began chatting with one lovely young woman until we received the call to come inside the yurt.

We blinked as our eyes adjusted to the dim interior of the yurt, while all of the students crowded around the tables. I became intrigued as I looked over the odd assortment of syringes, gauze, and tubes within each container. Our attention was called to the center of the room as Jeff, the Executive Director, stepped up to the stage and introduced himself and the other workshop leaders who came to help out. We were given a general overview of what would be covered during the workshop. They told us that we would be learning how to assess and evaluate a patient when it is first brought in, how to administer subcutaneous fluid treatment and specialized feedings, and finally, how to bandage and stabilize broken bones or fractures.

I felt a sense of déjà vu as Mary and another staff volunteer proceeded to start the PowerPoint. Sitting there at the small table, with my notebook and pen in hand, it almost felt like I was back in college. Once the workshop began however, my eyes were glued to the screen and my pen scribbled furiously over the paper.

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In the beginning, we concentrated on the impact of stress to a patient’s well-being. The staff emphasized that minimizing auditory, visual and physical stress from handling is critical from the very first minute the patient arrives at our doorstep.  For shock, a loss of proper circulatory function, can set in rapidly and unexpectedly. Because of this, sometimes the best thing to do for a patient is to simply leave it alone for a few minutes and give it some time to decompress. This surprised me as I had always thought that you should go into a case at full charge, ready to administer treatment and save the day for the animal.  Then again, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve probably watched way too many veterinary and medical TV shows over the years.   

Next, the staff members began to open up the four or five tubs set up near the tables. We were told that inside of the bags were deceased birds that had been brought to Chintimini and unfortunately succumbed to their injuries or had been euthanized.

These past patients however, were going to help us learn how to provide medical treatments to future patients.

Even though we focused on avian patients and the vast majority of our patients are birds, the skills we were learning would be transferable to animals of all shapes and sizes.

I was amazed, for I had thought that we would be learning and practicing medical procedures on stuffed toys.  After each of us received a bag we proceeded to open them up and familiarize ourselves with our deceased “patients”. Birds of every shape and size from House Finches to Great Horned Owls appeared in front of each student. Each bird came with a tag that described the animal’s cause of death as well as any injuries it had. As they began to explain to us about performing examinations and assessments on newly arrived patients, a challenge was thrown out to the students: to see if we could correctly diagnose our patient’s injuries.

I’ve always been a girl who liked a challenge, so I was eager to test my abilities.

It was stressed that in order to minimize any mistakes or oversights, exams should be performed in the same manner each time. Just like that old song about working your way up from the leg bones to the neck bones, each patient should be examined in the same head-to-tail manner. Staff explained the importance of exams lasting no longer than 30-60 seconds and that in an ideal situation, two people should perform the exams to ensure that nothing is missed. I pictured the massive talons on some of our Great Horned Owls and I immediately agreed with the notion.

We turned to our patients on the table and began to conduct our examinations. I turned to my Red-tailed Hawk, and under our instructor’s guidance I began evaluating the body condition by feeling the amount of muscle over the keel. The sharpness of the bone helped me determine that the bird had been underweight, giving him a body score of 1 out of 5. I then began assessing the bird for any injuries or trauma, but I didn’t see any abnormalities. I looked at his feathers, and while I see signs of lice, the overall condition of his feathers seems fine to my untrained eyes. But as I felt the bones of his neck, the floppiness convinces me that he must have a broken neck.

 Ah-hah! I think. I’ve solved it!

But when I informed one of the staff members about my discovery, I was very gently but abruptly brought down from my brief moment of glory.

“His neck is completely fine. That floppiness, well that’s normal when they’re dead. ”

Oh…Okay then. I turn back to my Red-tailed Hawk and sigh. Back to the drawing board, I think.

I quickly recuperated and re-started my examination. Eventually, with the staff’s help, I realized that what had appeared like a small contusion was actually a contact burn from an electric shock. Apparently the bird had come into contact with an electrical line and succumbed to the burns and broken wing he suffered as a result.   I’m amazed to realize how significant a small injury can actually be and I determine that I’ll never underestimate such a small wound again. My table mates and I exchange our patients so we can examine the other injuries and traumas that are present at our table.  After about twenty minutes or so, we are then called back to the front to begin the next phase of the workshop.

The next phase is for us to learn how to administer subcutaneous fluids to our patients and conduct tube feedings. We learned that mammals get their fluids administered near the scruff, the loose skin located above the shoulder blades. Birds on the other hand get their fluids in the inguinal region of the groin. We are told to be careful when picking the size of needle to use as using a giant needle on a bird as tiny as a swallow could have some very painful consequences for the patient. Once we had our needles selected for our patient we filled the syringe with saline fluid and placed them in a pitcher of warm water to warm them. By pinching the loose skin away from the muscle, I was able to gently fill the small epidermal layer of skin with the warmed saline solution. But what looks like an easy procedure is anything but easy. Many of us accidentally went straight through the skin and into the muscle, or pushed the needle right through the other side our birds’ skin.

My hopes that the tube feeding would be easier to do were quickly dashed. One would think that sliding a tube down the animal’s throat and into the stomach would be a fairly straight forward and simple procedure. In actuality, it is anything but simple. As I prepared to open my bird’s beak up and slide the tube down, I was thrown by the sight of the bird’s throat. It was difficult for me to determine where exactly the esophagus and trachea split off and I’m hesitant to proceed. I don’t want to intubate the trachea and then drown my patient. The lovely staff once again came to my rescue and gently guided me through the procedure, assisting me in identifying the correct passage.

Finally we get to the last session in our workshop: temporary stabilization of fractures. We first learn how to differentiate the various types of fractures and then were challenged to see if we could identify the types of break or fractures we observed in various photos. Once we had familiarized ourselves with these kind of breaks we then proceed to learn how to create bandages to stabilize our patient’s fractured bones. Unfortunately, we only had time to practice wrapping a bird’s wing to the body in order to stabilize a fractured wing. But it’s clear that wrapping a fracture can be a bit of an art form depending on the type and location of the fracture. It was also clear that measuring the vet tape, a kind of sticky gauze, is also an art in and of itself. All too often my table mates and I would end up almost completing the wrap only to realize that we were a few inches too short. But even so, we managed, and five birds in multicolored bandages soon appeared upon the table. The sight of all these birds in pink and red bandages makes me smile.

As the workshop came to an end, I was pleased to see just how much I had learned in the just two hours.  I came to the workshop knowing very little about providing medical treatment to wildlife, but now I’m feel comfortable and capable of handling any medial situation that may occur during my shift. I feel calm knowing that now I have a sense of what I can do to help my patients and excited to think that now I’ll be able to be more hands-on with all of the duties at Chintimini Wildlife Center. As I walked up the road to my car, I smiled and thought about my next shift.

I can’t help but hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to practice stabilizing a hawks broken wing.  I even know what color tape I’ll use.

Though She Be But Little, She Is Fierce.


An owl sits in a tree, her large round eyes searching for her prey. She sits quietly, patiently. Suddenly she spies a shrew crawling around underneath the leaf litter below. Waiting for the opportune moment, she shifts her weight, launches…and misses. Landing on a nearby branch tries again. She sits, waits, listens…

Chances are when you thought of an owl, you pictured the stoic Great Horned Owl, or the majestic Barn Owl. Few would think of the Northern Pygmy Owl. Compared to a Great Horned Owl length of roughly 20 inches (or around 50 centimeters), the Northern Pygmy Owl stands a whopping 6.5 inches (or 16 cm) with a 12 inch (30 cm) wingspan. One of the smallest owls in North America, adults can weigh around 2.5 ounces (70 grams) which is about the same as ½ cup of fresh blueberries, 3 AAA batteries, or 28 pennies!

Although they are small, Pygmy Owls are ferocious hunters. They will typically feed on small songbirds caught in flight. In addition to songbirds, Pygmy Owls feed on small mammals and insects and have been known to prey on birds up to three times larger than they are including the Northern Flicker or California Quail.

These owls are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They lack the asymmetrical placed ears and flattened facial disks that most owls have to help them hear, which may make the Pygmy Owls rely more on their sight. During the evening, when most owls wake, Pygmies are returning to their nests in tree cavities such as those carved by woodpeckers. They are non-migratory birds and stay in the same general location year-round, however, they will move up and down in elevation with the seasons. Winter brings them down to the Corvallis area, and this past winter, Chintimini Wildlife Center saw two Northern Pygmy Owl patients.

The first was a male brought to us in November after being hit by a car. He was in shock, emaciated, and suffering from mild head trauma. He was quite tiny for a male, weighing in at only 48 grams, but after four months in our care, he put on about 20 grams, healed nicely, and was just released last week!


Our second Pygmy Owl patient this winter was a good sized female who was brought in after being hit by a car. She came to us in great shape, weighing in at 70 grams. She was released at the same location she was found after two weeks of rehabilitation.


Not the most well-known owls, Northern Pygmy Owls are unique in many ways. I never realized how small owls could be until I began volunteering at Chintimini. I will be keeping an eye out for them, and an ear out for their call during my next hike. Will you?

– Emily Nicholson, CWC Tuesday PM Shift Leader

Owl You Need Is Love


As the moonlight shines down on the Great Horned Owls, hooting can be heard throughout the nesting site that they occupy. Deep clear tones are vocalized by the male, while higher and huskier tones are demonstrated by the female, who is much quieter than the male. These back and forth calls can last for minutes or hours at a time. You may have even heard these calls recently in your neck of the woods! Breeding season typically begins around January and lasts through February. 

As the Great Horned Owls prepare their nest, they clear out old debris while lining it with a layer of their own downy breast feathers. The nest was built by a previous occupant, most likely an abandoned nest of hawks or crows. Some Great Horned Owls have even been known to nest in small caves, cliff ledges, or artificial nests built by humans!

The female’s role is crucial in ensuring her offsprings’ survival. She rarely leaves the nest during incubation for more than a few minutes at a time. Yet, the male plays an important role as well by offering protection and providing resources for its mate. Like most Great Horned Owls, the pair reconnects each breeding season and will continue to throughout their lifespan.

Over the next month or so, young owlets will begin to hatch. At around six weeks they will explore outside of the nest, walk across limbs, and “practice” flying. By 10-12 weeks they’ll learn to fly. The parents will continue to feed and care for their offspring for months after the young fledge. It is wise to stay away from young owls if you see them – parents guard their nests very closely and are not afraid to attack if they feel their family is being threatened! However, if you happen to find a young fledgling on the ground, please call your local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center right away for assistance. They will be able to determine whether the young owl needs further help. Rehabilitation Centers usually have tree climbers who volunteer their services to reunite raptors with their parents when appropriate.

– Alyssa Tarbox

A Second (err…third?) Chance

Some of our patients have been through such horrendous trauma that we are unsure if they will make it through their first night at the clinic. From gunshot wounds to car collisions to fishhooks and rat poison, it’s a real miracle that some of these patients survive.

These are the stories we never forget. These are the patients that we cheer a little longer for when they’ve made it to the end and are ready to be released back to the wild.

Claudia Benfield, one of Chintimini’s guest bloggers and Friday night shift leader, writes about her experience with a very special Barred Owl:img_7743

“I had an eventful night working with wildlife. We admitted a Barred Owl that had been hit not once, but twice by a car. I am still astounded by that fact.

Hit not once, but twice by a car.

I was expecting to get a patient that had no hope but yet once again, the wildlife laughed at me. When he was brought in, they told me he was quite squirmy. They were right! I took him out of the box and he just about flew away from me! I was really glad to see how active he was. I was thinking that maybe he was going to be in shock.

We wrapped him up in a towel to secure him but he still was very feisty. I felt his wings and found no fractures or open wounds. The only thing I found was a few drops of blood on his beak. Next, we put him in a cage to rest, gave him a few mice and hoped for the best. The owl was mighty lucky to have been hit twice and lived to tell the tale. It is fortunate he was rescued right away by good Samaritans and brought to our rehabilitation center.”

Initially, the Barred Owl was mildly dehydrated but overall appeared in good health despite being struck twice. He was given electrolytes with B-vitamins, an anti-parasitic medication to treat his parasite load, and lots of nutritious food. Within a few days he’d put on some decent weight and was able to fly with perfection. By the fifth day he was given a clean bill of health and was ready to be released!