Red-bellied Woodpecker

sponsored by Kingfisher Real Estate

When people find an injured animal or a baby bird that has fallen from the nest, it is human nature to want to help. They may take it home to give it food and water or browse the internet for how to care for the animal. But caring for wildlife is not as easy as a Google search.

Injured animals can go into shock just like humans and they can be stressed or painful from their injuries. You wouldn’t offer a cheeseburger to someone who was just in a bad car accident, right? The same goes for wildlife. Young animals, like baby birds that fall from the nest, require specific nutrition and certain feeding guidelines that must be followed, just like human babies. They can suffer lasting effects from being fed an improper diet which is what happened to this red-bellied woodpecker, CROW patient #20-2303.

It was found as a very young nestling on the ground after falling two stories from its nest. The finder took it home and attempted to care for it by feeding it dog food, fruit and honey, an inadequate and inappropriate diet for a young bird of this species. When the bird arrived to CROW on May 20, it was malnourished and even though it was started on an appropriate diet right away, some damage had already been done.

About a week after arriving, issues began to arise and the woodpecker developed a head tilt and feather issues consistent with incorrect nutrition at a critical growth stage. Often, issues like these are not apparent right away and can go unnoticed to the untrained caretaker until something is seriously wrong.

“People mean well, but a lot of the time the damage that is done can’t be reversed,” says CROW Rehabilitation Manager Breanna Frankel. “They don’t realize the damage they are doing by keeping wildlife and attempting to care for it themselves until it is too late.”

“Over the next few weeks, the woodpecker made progress and began eating on its own, and its head tilt and feather issues improved with treatment and rehabilitation,” she continued. “On July 16 we were able to be release back to the wild, which is often not the case in these scenarios.”

If you find an animal that is injured or in need of help, please contact CROW or your local wildlife rehabilitator to ensure it gets the proper care that it needs.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (7/22-7/28):
There were 119 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 15 Virginia opossums, 14 eastern cottontails, 12 northern mockingbirds, 8 eastern gray squirrels, four gopher tortoises, two eastern screech owls, two Cooper’s hawks, an osprey, a brown pelican and a green sea turtle. Recent Releases include two Florida softshell turtles, two blue jays, a downy woodpecker and a laughing gull. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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