Geese and Orioles and Woodpeckers, Oh My!
The Fabulous, Feathered Rescues of May, 2021

June 2, 2021
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

In addition to the dramatic rescue of a juvenile bald eagle last week (see the full story of the eagle rescue here), the SPCA Serving Erie County had a month filled with other lifesaving rescues of local, winged warriors!


A pair of Canada geese take up residence at the courtyard at the University at Buffalo’s School of Law just about every spring. It’s clean, it’s bright…the perfect site to lay eggs. After all, it’s totally protected from predators. There’s just one catch. When the goslings hatch and it’s time to move them along, there’s no way out. That’s when SPCA officers and rescue team members receive the annual call.

This year’s rescue proved to be a little frenzied, to say the least. The way SPCA Officer Lindsey Wood described it, she, Officers William Heine and Jasil Ivory, and visiting Lincoln Memorial University veterinary student Brittany arrived at the courtyard to begin rounding up the babies with the goal of capturing mom, too, to release the family together. This year, however, dad and mom wanted nothing to do with corralling the kids, and left the courtyard on their own. As they’ve had to do in the past, the team from the SPCA wrangled the goslings and hoped to meet the parents just outside the courtyard, where the babies could be released; that’s when dad and mom usually take over.

After being scooped up into a large cage, this year’s goslings were released on the grassy knoll outside the courtyard, just as several generations’ worth of goslings had been in years past.

However, dad and mom were nowhere to be found.

After waiting almost half an hour, allowing the goslings to call out to their parents, the officers recaptured the little ones (more difficult this time, finding them in grass rather than on enclosed courtyard pavement) and placed them back in the cage. Then Officer Wood, despondent but not ready to give up, raised the cage straight up in the air, over her head, and held it there. Think John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler and that giant boom box in the 80’s blockbuster Say Anything. The last thing the officers wanted to do was orphan the goslings, and Officer Wood hoped dad and mom were still paying attention and would return after hearing the goslings’ continual chirps.

Still nothing.

Finally, Officer Wood and the rest of the team thought dad and mom may not be coming back this time. They sadly loaded the babies in the SPCA’s truck and started to drive away…just as two grown geese flew overhead and landed in a lower courtyard nearby….and watched…and waited.

Officers Wood and Ivory hopped out of the vehicle, grabbed the cage, and ran as fast as they could toward where the grown geese landed. After a few more peeps and cheeps from the goslings, the parents started to approach the officers to reclaim their babies. The officers RE-released the little ones, then swiftly ran back to the truck before dad could reach them to give them a piece of his mind.

With Officers Wood and Ivory safely back in the truck, the happy family turned and waddled away to their new lives on the other side of the wall. Mission accomplished. The mother (and father) and child reunion was successful for yet another year, despite the rescue’s ups and downs. Well, several downs. But to paraphrase Lloyd Dobler, if you start out depressed, then everything’s kind of a pleasant surprise.


The Toronto Blue Jays might be receiving all the local attention right now, but at the SPCA Serving Erie County, we’ve been rooting for the Baltimore Orioles. Make that one Baltimore Oriole in particular.

After a short, rehabilitative stay with us, a gorgeous Baltimore Oriole was released May 27 by SPCA Wildlife Director Barbara Haney, as seen in this video:

It reminded her that, five years ago to the very day, May 27, we celebrated the release of another Baltimore Oriole, whose tiny, injured wing received a tiny pin once it was determined that the injured wing would not be able to heal using only a wrap. Dr. Karen Slote (then Dr. Karen Moran) performed the surgery; in the short video below from May of 2016, you’ll learn more about the surgery, see the tiny pin, and watch the eventual release! Seems the Baltimore Orioles are the real winners in Erie County, NY! (No offense to the Blue Jays, of course.)


Finally, from the “If Only One Animal’s Life Is Changed, It Was Worth It” file, meet Kelly Hupkowicz of Buffalo. The last week of May, Kelly happened to be driving along Clinton Street just past Girdle Road when she spotted a large, adult Pileated Woodpecker on the side of the road…alive, but seemingly unable to fly. “I’m not sure how I saw him,” Hupkowicz said. “There was an area of the road cleared out, but the view of him was obstructed. He could have easily been hit, or, if a driver noticed him at the last minute and veered so as not to hit him, it could have caused a pretty bad accident.”

Hupkowicz said another driver noticed that she had pulled over and, after driving to a nearby gas station to grab a cardboard box in which to place the bird, he covered the bird with an extra sweater Hupkowicz had in her vehicle and placed it in the box. “It was a large bird, a grown bird, clearly unable to fly. Once he was inside the box, however, he was kind of loud and walking around.”

Still uncertain as to whether the bird had suffered a life-threatening injury, she knew she needed to get help quickly. As she started to drive, she called a couple places using voice control and Bluetooth, but received no answer. Hupkowicz then thought of the SPCA Serving Erie County. She grabbed her phone to punch in the phone number since the SPCA was not already on her “Contacts” list.

At this point, Hupkowicz shared good news and bad news. The good news? SPCA Wildlife Director Barbara Haney answered on the first ring and was in the process of telling Hupkowicz to bring the bird right over. The bad news? Within mere seconds, Hupkowicz was pulled over by a West Seneca Police officer for having a phone in her hand while driving.

Hupkowicz tells us she has been driving for 35 years and never received a ticket. “The officer was very nice,” Hupkowicz said, “and even wrote on the ticket that I was talking to a representative of the SPCA about trying to save this animal’s life.”

Upon arrival at the SPCA, “Barb was so nice, and calmed me right down!” Hupkowicz said, after sharing the fact that Haney heard the entire exchange between Hupkowicz and the officer since the phone call was still live once Hupkowicz was pulled over. “She was so appreciative, and could see that I was flustered and worried and stressed. Barb kept thanking me for doing such a good thing, and told me how rare the bird is. ‘Think of it this way,’ she said, ‘…you’ll never forget this day!’ She’s RIGHT! I asked her to please let me know how the situation turns out.”

After being examined by SPCA Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Karen Slote, it was determined that the disoriented woodpecker did, in fact, require oxygen, but fortunately had no other serious injuries. Later in the week, once the bird passed a test flight with flying colors (wink), he was deemed releasable, and  SPCA Officer William Heine and Agent Leanne Webb released the woodpecker in a safe, wooded area (see photos).

Hupkowicz says she’s thankful for the SPCA Serving Erie County and the Wildlife Department, Director Barbara Haney in particular. “I’m more than happy to pay the fine required by the ticket if it means that’s what was necessary to save this bird’s life!”

Needless to say, Hupkowicz tells us she’s happy to now have the SPCA Serving Erie County’s number in her contacts…and that she’s also happy she had an extra sweater in the car that was used to cover the bird to scoop it up and place it in the box. “If I didn’t have that extra sweater,” jokes Hupkowicz, “I’d have received TWO tickets!”

See an animal in need of rescue in Erie County? Please call the SPCA Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., at (716) 875-7360, ext. 214.