Answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about the Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy. 

How do I take care of a baby bird?

If it appears that the baby bird fell out of a nest, then simply locate the nest nearby and carefully place the bird back in the nest. Despite persistent fallacies, the parents cannot smell your odor on the baby bird, and will usually accept the young back into the nest. Young birds often fall from nests after wind storms, when the nesting sites are disturbed by construction, predators, or children, or when an older sibling kicks them out of the nest. If you cannot locate a nest, keep the bird in a suitable warm container, and contact your local SPCA or a certified wildlife care facility, such as the ones below, immediately:
Wildcare (San Rafael)
Peninsula Humane Society (San Mateo)
Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory







I would like to visit the Ornithology & Mammalogy Collections. Who should I contact?

Our collections manager Maureen "Moe" Flannery would be the one to talk to and can be reached directly at (415) 379-5371 or by email at

How do you know if an animal is endangered?

In the United States, the Endangered Species Act seeks to keep plant and animal species from extinction and creates endangered species lists based on five factors, including the quantity of its habitat that has been degraded and its degree of disease or predation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature also produces a Red List of Threatened Species based on peer-reviewed scientific research, categorizing animals' conservation status on a detailed spectrum from "least concern" to "extinct."

I found a dead sea lion and called The Marine Mammal Center, but they said to call you. How do I report it?

If it is dead, call us at (415) 379-5381, and we’ll try to salvage it for research. If it is still alive, please call the Marine Mammal Center at (415) 289-SEAL (415-289-7325)—they will retrieve it and take care of it. We’ll need to know where and when you found the sea lion or any other stranded marine mammal. The Marine Mammal Stranding Network also has more information about stranded marine mammals.

I searched your database but didn't find the specimen I was looking for. Can you suggest another database to search?

How do I remove a nuisance animal from my yard?

In urban and suburban areas, some animals have become habituated to humans because we provide food and housing for them. If these animals become a nuisance, there are several steps you can take to make them feel unwelcome, and lessen the likelihood they’ll stick around:

  • Feed all pets indoors. These animals often raid your pet’s food bowls at night and learn that your home is an easy meal for them.
  • Keep all trash cans upright and with tight-fitting (or locking) lids. These are crafty animals that have learned to associate trash cans with food, and frequently raid your trash area for food. Keeping your trash cans critter-proof will keep your place tidy and keep unwanted animals away.
  • Cover all basements, decks, and crawl spaces. Use of plywood, bricks, or wire mesh should be used to block any entries into basements, attics, crawl spaces, or under foundations where these animals may set up home and raise a family.

If skunks, opossums, or raccoons become a persistent problem, call your local Animal Control.

I found an injured bird. What should I do?

If a bird hit a window and appears stunned but otherwise uninjured, it is important to place the bird into a warm, darkened box or similar container, and release the bird when it comes back to its senses. Leaving a bird in such a condition outside makes it easy prey for cats, dogs, or other predators. If the animal appears to have an injury, or it you find an animal injured in any other way, contact your local SPCA or a certified wildlife care facility such as the ones below, immediately:
Wildcare (San Rafael)
Peninsula Humane Society (San Mateo)
Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory

Why do birds sing?

Someone called the Academy one day to say, “Those damned birds keep singing, and it’s driving me nuts!” Some birds, like the Northern Mockingbird, may sing night and day during the breeding season, and other birds, like crows and jays, may raise a ruckus from time to time. However, all native birds are protected by law, and there’s little any individual or private or government agency can do about it. Birdsong can be a joyous reminder of the diversity of nature in their community.

Can I collect specimens?

Most of California's native birds and mammals are protected by state, federal, or international laws even when dead. In fact, it's illegal for private citizens to own most native birds or mammals in whole or in part (that includes skulls, bones, antlers, and even feathers) except with special permits or hunting licenses. Depending on the severity of the infraction, fines and penalties can be thousands of dollars and/or jail time. The California Department of Fish & Game does issue permits to educational institutions for use of bird or mammal material as teaching tools.

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