Baby birds admitted still inside tree trunk

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Four nestling downy woodpeckers were among the 116 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

The four newly hatched downy woodpeckers were brought to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital in the portion of the tree trunk that contained their nest cavity. The homeowners hadn’t realized the tree contained an active nest when they cut the tree down and they were extremely distressed when they realized what had happened.

A downy woodpecker nest is inspected by von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff. Homeowners transported the section of tree containing the four babies to the wildlife hospital after they cut down the nest tree.

The four baby woodpeckers were examined and appeared unharmed during the tree trimming. Hospital staff asked if the homeowner could return the section of the tree with the nest and attach it to a tree near the location where the nest tree once stood. Our goal was to allow the parent woodpeckers to return and care for their babies.

A member of the Conservancy’s Facilities department used a chainsaw to saw off part of the tree so the nest cavity section was more manageable. The homeowners wired the nest cavity section to a nearby tree and watched for several hours until sunset. Unfortunately the disruption proved too much; the adult woodpeckers did not return. The baby woodpeckers were returned to the wildlife hospital for care.

Three of the four babies survived and are thriving as they rehabilitate in the nursery at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. The baby woodpeckers have voracious appetites and will be cared for at the wildlife hospital until they are old enough to survive on their own in the wild.

Please realize that we are in the height of breeding season for many species of birds. Any trimming of trees should not occur during this time unless the tree has been thoroughly examined to ensure there are no active nests. If you do have an active nest please call the wildlife hospital for guidance. We can determine the species of bird and how long it will take for the babies to fledge. It is safe to trim the tree once the babies have fledged and are no longer returning to the nest. Most baby birds grow incredibly fast so the time needed to avoid trimming may only be a few weeks.

Call the wildlife hospital at 239–262-CARE if you have any questions or concerns about nesting birds. Our goal is to prevent injuries to wildlife and provide ways for people to coexist with their wild animal neighbors.

Recent Releases — 36 Animals Returned to the Wild

  • 5 eastern cottontails
  • 7 Virginia opossums
  • 6 mourning doves
  • 2 osprey
  • 4 Carolina wrens
  • 1 gopher tortoise
  • 1 great blue heron
  • 1 cattle egret
  • 1 gray catbird
  • 1 Florida softshell turtle
  • 1 yellow-billed cuckoo
  • 1 grey squirrel
  • 1 bald eagle
  • 1 ovenbird
  • 1 anhinga
  • 1 common yellowthroat
  • 1 northern mockingbird

Opportunities to Help

Learn about all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida at our website at Your volunteer time, as well as memberships and donations, are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Want to help wildlife?

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see