California Wildlife Center Turned 25 this Year

The Canyon ChronicleBy The Canyon Chronicle

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California Wildlife Center Turned 25 this Year
The CWC is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of native California species, who otherwise would be left to suffer from the effects of human encroachment, habitat destruction and environmental damage. A Bird of Any Other Name Would Sound as Sweet Across the board, America has been wrestling with the names of well-known organizations and places like the “Cleveland Indians” and the “Washington Redskins,” and many have opted to change their names in order to show sensitivity to groups of people who were previously marginalized. While there are still thousands of sites in the U.S. that contain racist or pejorative words, the U.S. Government proposed changing 660 place names last year, as they contained a derogatory name for a Native woman. In the animal world, we are doing the same by looking at the names of species and evaluating if they are the best possible names for that animal. As new species of birds were “discovered” by European settlers, they were originally named for either their physical appearance, who found them, in honor of someone, or where they were located. In recent years, this practice has been questioned as their names have been, at times, linked to problematic historical figures. Recently, the American Ornithological Society (AOS) announced that they will be renaming 70-80 bird species in the U.S. and Canada. Scientists have been working to find names that reflect the species physical characteristics rather than relying on someone’s proper name. Some of these birds were originally named in the 1800’s at conventions with exclusionary membership policies. As the names were created during a time of racism and prejudice, the AOS wants to move away from any names with negative connotations. The AOS began developing this project in 2021 after a number of nationally publicized cases such as the death of George Floyd and the Central Park incident involving birder Christian Cooper brought attention to movements fighting against racism and injustice.
The Common Poorwill is a nocturnal bird that nests on the ground enters a state of “torpor” in cold weather, a natural survival mode that can last for weeks. Finders often think they need help.
Around this time, a group called “Bird Names for Birds” wrote to the leadership of AOS to demand name changes for any species associated with racism and slavery. It is their belief that titles that are associated with some species’ names perpetuate colonialism and racism. The Cooper’s Hawk and Anna’s hummingbird are two such species that we regularly see here at California Wildlife Center and are both listed to have their names changed. While not all birds have a name connected to a negative figure such as these two species, it galvanized the movement to change any name that is a proper noun to one that is for a physical attribute for the bird.

After two years of discussion, the AOS decided to take action. Their goal is to make birding and ornithology as welcoming and inviting to as broad a group of people as possible. Birds who were named for early collectors who thought that Native people were inferior and robbed their graves to collect skulls, do not encourage a diverse group of people in the field.
The renaming will begin in 2024, and while the group initiating the change understands this will not end racism, it is a step in a positive direction.

California Wildlife Center supports focusing on each birds’ unique traits that distinguish them while providing visual reference. We look forward to moving forward together!

The Common Poorwill
The California Wildlife Center reports that the Common Poorwill is not a bird they see on a regular basis.

So far this year we have only received nine of this fascinating species in comparison to some of the other birds that we might receive in the hundreds. However, what is common is that this bird is often mistaken for a baby owl.

Common Poorwills are a member of the nightjar family, who are all nocturnal. Their bodies are compact and about the size of a dove, and their plumage is shades of browns and grays that camouflage into their wooded surroundings. They nest on the ground and easily blend into fallen foliage. They forage on insects such as moths and beetles that they typically find on the ground, or even leap into the air to catch.

When the weather is cold and their food is not available, this unique bird has an exceptional ability to enter a state similar to hibernation called torpor. During this time they do not fly and stay very still to conserve energy. They control their body temperature to acclimate with weather conditions and to avoid hypothermia and starvation. In addition to a lowered body temperature, their heart rate also drops, breathing is slower, and their metabolism is decreased to go into this natural survival mode that can last for weeks.

When Poorwills are in torpor, sometimes finders think they need help—a reasonable assumption as they are not moving and on the ground. If they are cold to the touch, it’s possible they are in this state. Always contact a wildlife rehabilitation center if a Poorwill is found on the ground. Rehabilitators will be able to assess the situation and determine if the animal needs to be brought into care.

Such was the case for a patient we recently received. A rescuer brought in the bird, and after our staff thoroughly examined and ran some tests, they found that the Poorwill was in good health and able to be returned to the rescue site.

Another Common Poorwill we received late last month was brought to us from a local animal control center. While this adult male was in torpor, he was also in need of help. He was severely dehydrated, emaciated, lethargic and depressed, all of which the technicians suspect was due to lack of food. Our technicians found all testing results for disease to be negative and nothing more of concern. Over the next couple of days inside our warm hospital, he came out of torpor and was alert.

Other positive signs noted were that he was vocal, swaying, and fluffing his feathers. Providing water and nutrition, technicians found his appetite was good and he began gaining weight. He was moved to an outdoor aviary during the day, and our staff established that he was well-flighted. After 15 days in care, he was finally released back into his habitat.

If you come across a Common Poorwill and are unsure if the bird is in need of assistance, please call California Wildlife Center or your local rescue center and we will advise the best steps to take.

You can do even more to help our local wildlife.

Your donation makes a difference. CWC does not receive any regular funding from federal, state or local governments and relies on the public to keep our doors open to the animals who need help.
For more information: California Wildlife Center, P.O. Box 2022, Malibu, CA 90265.
Hotline Phone: (310) 458-WILD (9453); admin@cawildlife.org
The Canyon Chronicle

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