Some rare guests, feathered friends in need, are making their home at least for a few weeks at the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield. “I’ve worked here seven years and I’ve never seen an white faced ibis,” said assistant rehabilitation manager Megan Prelinger.

But now, the research center has 78 white faced ibis babies and 70 ibis eggs, brought in by a bird rescue organization which plucked them from a rice field near Marysville just before it was to have been harvested.

“Our volunteers, a lot of them have been working double duty just during this week to help with this ibis crisis,” said Prelinger.

Although not endangered, the white faced ibises are often tough to find. They live in colonies usually away from developed areas, and bird watchers in the Central Valley say only on rare occasions have they seen adult ibis, let alone babies. When they are hatched, the tiny birds have striped beaks, and as care workers reach into pens to feed them, the birds jump and peck aggressively.

As they grow older, the stripes disappear, and their feathers become a rich mixture of purple, bronze and green.

Thanks to volunteers like Karen Sheldon who started working at the center after retiring, the birds are receiving constant care and feeding.

“It gives me an opportunity to see the birds up close, to learn about their behavior, to see chicks, to see birds I’d never see otherwise and also see them much closer that I do with binoculars,” said Sheldon, herself a bird watcher.

Since the chicks and the eggs were brought in on July 22, eight eggs have hatched. Several dozen of the growing birds are now able to eat a solid meal of chopped fish.

“We are incredibly relieved that some of them are now able to self feed,” said Prelinger. “It feels like a real milestone has been reached just on day eight of having them.”

Within several weeks, Prelinger said she hopes to be able to release some of the baby ibises back into their natural environment, hopefully near other ibis colonies in Northern California.