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The Nuttall's woodpecker in rehab. Cambria Wells/California Wildlife Center photo
Heather Patrice Brown, Development Coordinator, California Wildlife Center
Heather Patrice Brown, Development Coordinator, California Wildlife Center
6:12 am PDT June 17, 2020

On May 27, California Wildlife Center in Malibu received a fledgling Nuttall’s woodpecker, rescued in Altadena. Radiographs revealed the woodpecker had a leg fracture on the bone equivalent to the human shin, as well as some tissue damage on the leg. Veterinarian Dr. Stephany Lewis splinted the broken bone with wooden dowels and prescribed pain medications.

The woodpecker is recovering well and after six days, Dr. Lewis was able to replace his hard splint with a soft splint made of tape. Lewis notes that the bird is so small that she can make a cast out of just sturdy tape that will immobilize the fracture and allow the bone to heal. The splint is changed every three days because young birds grow rapidly and bandages can become too tight very quickly.

On the patient's progress, Lewis commented, “Young songbirds are some of the fastest healers, so I anticipate only needing the leg to be splinted for about 10 days. I anticipate he should be able to go outside in about two weeks, and released (to the wild) in a month to 6 weeks.”

Nuttall’s woodpeckers are found in Northern and Western California and Northern Baja California. They inhabit oak woodlands and use their strong beaks to probe into the bark of trees to prey on insects. The woodpeckers are cavity nesters and the nests they excavate are used by other species once the woodpeckers are done with them.

One of the greatest threats to Nuttall's woodpeckers is the loss of oak woodland habitat. Support habitat conservation to protect this beautiful species.

If you find an injured woodpecker, get a box with air holes and line it with crumpled paper on the bottom. Pickup the baby songbird by the body and place it in the box and close. Do not offer any food or water. Place the box in a quiet, dark location (for example, a bathroom) until you reach hospital staff. If it’s a young bird, place a heating pad set to medium under the box.

California Wildlife Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides medical and rehabilitative care to more than 4,300 sick, injured and orphaned native California animals every year. To donate, click here.