A Sanctuary For Feathered Friends

Hope for Orphaned and Injured Birds
By Madeline Kallio

When Kathy Nihei’s heart went out to an injured hummingbird in 1981 and she was able to bring it back to health and release it, she could never have envisioned what amazing miracles would come out of what was to be the Wild Bird Care Centre. For several years, her home housed the centre and her basement and backyard were nurturing grounds for thousands of birds. On a visit there, a volunteer fed innumerable tiny babies by opening plastic drawers and dropping a tiny worm in each open mouth. Baby blue jays peeked out through the cedar bushes. A baby robin objected to my visit in the backyard and pecked at my heels. With the mounting complaints from neighbours on Majestic Avenue, Kathy and her partner, Deborah Hass, signed a lease with the National Capital Commission to rent the Stony Swamp Nature Centre area and built a new facility there on Moodie Drive.
It has flourished there since 1992 in its new home in the Greenbelt. Sadly, in 2009, Kathy passed away; however, the work of the centre has continued under Deborah’s direction More than 2,200 birds are brought to the centre by rescuers each year. Many are orphaned; others are injured. When the orphaned baby birds are able to fly, they are released. Injured birds are assessed for injuries, treated if at all possible and then released. One bird, a crow named Mojo, who arrived at the centre on Majestic as a fledgling with a genetic problem, so endeared himself to staff that he won the hearts of everyone. He moved with the centre to the new location, lived for 19 long and happy years and is credited with authoring five children’s books!

Today, the centre is a registered charitable organization that operates its program under the authorization of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service. The primary mission of the Wild Bird Care Centre is to assess, treat, and rehabilitate sick, orphaned, or injured wild birds before releasing them back to the wild. As well, the centre strives to alert the public to the threats to wild birds and provide information on ways we can help prevent unnecessary injury; and, consequently, further damage to our already fragile environment.
In 2001, the Grace & Gordon Casselman Resource Centre opened in the Wild Bird Care Centre. Visitors are welcome to view the displays and educational materials that promote a deeper appreciation of the role of wild birds and their habitat. For those who find injured or “abandoned” baby birds, the centre can advise on the most effective way to deal with the situation. Often baby birds on the ground are not abandoned, but have merely fallen out of the nest or have tried their wings. The parents are probably close by and will be there to provide food shortly; so, it is not wise to “rescue” them before you are sure that the parents are not in attendance.
You can return the bird to its nest; birds do not abandon their young if they are touched by human hands. If the nest is in need of repair, you can attempt to reinforce it and return it to its perch, making sure that there are no sharp get caught and injured. If you need to pick up the bird, place a soft towel over it and grasp it gently around the shoulders.
If it is injured and you are taking it to the centre, put it in a cardboard box. If you are unsure as to how to approach a bird, call the centre for advice. It is very unlikely that you will contract any diseases from wild birds; however, washing your hands after handling them or wearing rubber gloves will provide an additional measure of safety.
Since the Wild Bird Care Centre is a charity and functions totally with volunteers and donations, the needs are always great. A few hours of time and a few donated dollars help a lot. Their needs list contains such basic items as fresh eggs, red grapes, peanuts, scissors, Science Diet puppy food and much more. Most of us have a few of these things around the house and the cost is not great to put together a basket of supplies. In addition, their wish list includes a need for tree trimming in the summer, laneway maintenance and a carpenter to do some needed repairs.
The centre welcomes visitors from noon until 3 p.m. daily. It is a wonderful experience for children and adults to meet some of the  rehabilitated birds and learn about the difficulties they have faced. Surviving in nature is a challenge and especially so for young birds and
animals. It is comforting to know that those who encounter obstacles have a loving, caring centre to help them recover so they can, once again, grace our green spaces. Visitors can also enjoy the nature trails at Stony Swamp; be sure to bring sunflower seeds to feed the chickadees along the path.

Want a tour?
If you wish to arrange a tour for a larger group, or a presentation, call 613 828-2849. The centre has also recently launched their own Facebook page. “Like” the centre at www.facebook.comWildBirdCareCentre.
Want to help?
The centre welcomes any support that it is given and you can visit their website at www.wildbirdcarecentre.org.

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