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Sonoma County's songbird season takes flight

  • Director Veronica Bowers whistles as she hand feeds Chestnut-backed Chickadees in order to get them to open their mouths in the bird hospital at Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol, on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Spring means warm days, fragrant flowers in bloom and migratory songbirds returning to Sonoma County. It also means more work for Veronica Bowers and her Native Songbird Care and Conservation in Sebastopol.

Bowers and her team of volunteers rehabilitate injured birds and care for babies orphaned when people accidentally or intentionally destroy nests.

Her facility, the only songbird care center in Sonoma County, does most of its work during the nesting season between April and September. Bowers and her staff can care for up to 200 birds at any given time, diagnosing diseases, treating wounds and feeding them meal worms every 30 minutes.

Native Songbird Care And Conservation

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Bowers has treated many of the 70 songbird species in Sonoma County, including bush tits, wrens and flycatchers.

"We're dealing with a huge diversity of natural history," she said. "Our whole purpose is to care for injured birds for release back into the wild."

Much of Bowers' time is spent caring for cliff and barn swallows. The birds spend winters in South and Central America and return each year to build their mud nests on bridges, under roofs and in barns.

People who don't like mud on the side of their houses or object to the bird droppings will destroy the nests and strand baby swallows, Bowers said.

"Our challenge is to let people know that swallows may be nesting on homes and tell them how to deal with them," she said.

Destroying active nests and harming migratory birds is a crime and punishable by up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine.

There are a number of ways to keep swallows from nesting on structures, Bowers said. One of the most effective products is hard plastic sheeting, called BirdSlide, that can be installed in eaves and rafters. Another strategy is to scrape the nest starts before they are fully developed.


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