When an orphaned pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) fledgling arrived at the WRA in early June, rehabilitation staff knew they had a challenge on their hands.
While the Care Centre sees a handful of these woodpeckers each year, fledgling patients are extremely rare.
Pileated woodpeckers enjoy a longer-than-average “childhood” and typically spend 10 months in the care of their parents before they gain their full independence in the wild.
It is standard operating procedure in the Care Centre for staff to limit the time the animals are kept in captivity. In this particular instance, they needed to find a way to accommodate the woodpecker’s extended adolescence.
Fortunately, the fledgling, which was found in Burnaby, was in excellent health so staff were able to focus on getting her to self-feed and learn to fly.
On arrival she was hand-fed every 45 minutes, her indoor aviary was outfitted with lots of logs, and food was hidden to encourage her to forage.
After a week, she was eating food from a dish and as the feeding schedule lengthened, she started to pick at logs in search of food.
She was first released in the yard of a WRA volunteer living in Burnaby. When the bird was found soon after in a neighbouring shed it was brought back to the WRA for a slower transition into its natural habitat.
She spent another two weeks in an outdoor aviary with as much hands off care as possible before being released into the WRA’s Wildlife Garden.
For the first few days she stayed close to WRA buildings and called out to people around the grounds. She also had access to an open aviary at night to smooth the transition.
As time goes on there are fewer sightings of the woodpecker, she spends more time in the trees and staff are hopeful that she will be fully independent by late fall.