Our newly finished Native Bird Mural

For years, the 10′ x 24′ exterior wall of “The Spa,” the big Rehabilitation mews in the Raptor Compound at BRC, has been a stark white expanse, empty save for the life-size rendering of a Turkey Vulture, against which countless children have, arms outstretched, compared their “wingspans.” There had been talk of adding the silhouettes of other species to the wall, but that’s as far as it went.

Enter mural artist Dana Vallarino, who has created public art in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and elsewhere ever since graduating from UC Santa Cruz. Initial donations from volunteers Ron Stewart and Dave Laurice were used to commission the mural design, and Board member Art Slater funded the painting of the iconic Sonoma County landscape, a background upon which life-sized depictions of 49 native bird species now stand, perch or fly.

Of course the mural features representations of our permanent raptor residents, past and present; that was the easy part. Selecting the remaining birds to be depicted (from among the 130-odd species BRC sees every year) fell to our Rehab staff. Next, the call went out to our Board, friends and dedicated volunteers, offering an opportunity to “adopt” a favorite bird by sponsoring individual portraits at a cost of $50-$310, depending on size and complexity.

The results, as the photo only suggests, are stunning. Hawks, owls, falcons, herons, seabirds and songbirds have been brought to life under Dana’s careful hand. Surrounded by photos, field guides and paint jars, she began painting the birds in mid-August 2014, and with a few breaks along the way managed to complete the final portrait, a twig-wielding raven, in time for the formal dedication of the work at our Festival of Feathers on May 2, 2015. She has greatly enjoyed painting at the Bird Rescue Center and meeting all the wonderful Ambassadors and incredible volunteers. “I hope this mural can be an educational tool for the Center, and also inspire visitors to learn more about these amazing creatures,” she said. From the enthusiastic reception of children and adults viewing her work, both those wishes have clearly come true.