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Patient of the Week: Ladder-backed Woodpecker – Nestling

This baby Ladder-backed Woodpecker was brought to Tucson Wildlife Center three weeks ago as an underweight orphan whose nest or mother could not be located. Covered in down with a few feathers, and not yet able to fly, he was unable to survive outside the safety of his nest.

While not physically injured, the nestling was emaciated and dehydrated. He was moved into a warm incubator and received fluids. TWC animal care specialists and volunteers began hand-feeding a specialized diet. Insects were then added to his diet so he could begin learning to capture them on his own. Once the woodpecker is ready to fledge, he will be moved to an outdoor aviary which will allow him to strengthen his flying muscles and learn to forage for himself before being released.

With baby season upon us, it is important to know what to do if you find a baby bird on the ground. If you think that the bird is not sick or injured, then the next step is to determine whether the baby is a nestling (covered mostly in down and too young to fly) or a fledgling (has most of its feathers and is trying to fly). Nestlings need to be renested and fledglings need to be left alone unless there are obvious injuries. NEVER start feeding them. Watch from a far distance and observe for 24 hours to see if the parents come back. If they do not, call TWC at 520-290-9435 for help.

For more information on what to do if you find a baby bird on the ground, check out TWC’s handy guide on our website,

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Check out the video above of this cutie!

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