Building on the momentum from Earth Day, we should think about the direct and indirect ways that human activities imperil birds. Window collisions, car collisions and predation by pet cats that are allowed to go outside exact a significant toll on our birds. Birds may ingest lead weights and jigs lost by anglers or lead pellets from shot gun shells. The list goes on.
Collisions, cat attacks and lead ingestion may injure rather than kill birds. Bird rehabilitation centers offer such injured birds a fighting chance. Bird rehabbers are heroes.
In this column, I want to highlight the good work of Avian Haven in Freedom, Maine as an example of the positive impact of bird rehabbers. We have a handful of rehab clinics in the state but I’m concentrating on Avian Haven because I have first-hand experience with that facility.
Avian Haven was established in 1999 by my friends Diane Winn and Marc Payne. Diane was a colleague of mine at Colby College where she was a Professor of Psychology. After her retirement, she and Marc dedicated their time and energy to bird rehabilitation. I think Diane is busier now than when she was a Colby professor!
Avian Haven was in the national news in January. The Great Black Hawk that spent a portion of the winter in Deering Park in Portland suffered severe frostbite in January. The bird was captured and taken to Avian Haven. Despite their best efforts, the tropical hawk could not be saved.
However, Avian Haven has many success stories to tell. In 2018, 2,900 birds were admitted to the clinic. Since they opened, Avian Haven has treated more than 26,000 birds. Many of these were birds that had suffered either collisions or cat bites. Some of course succumbed to their wounds. Cat bites are particularly insidious because of the bacterial infections that often result if the bird’s skin is punctured. Antibiotics must be administered soon after a cat bite.
Keeping cats indoors is obviously the most effective way to reduce predation on birds. However, an effective way to allow your cat to be outside but reduce the threat to birds is to fit your cat with a stylish cat bib (https://catgoods.com//). The bib prevents a cat from pouncing.
Summer is a busy time for Avian Haven. About 38% of the birds taken in are orphan birds that must be hand-fed until they fledge.
In 2018, 130 species were handled by Avian Haven. The most common was Herring Gull with 216 cases followed by American Robin, Mourning Dove, Eastern Phoebe, Barred Owl and American Crow.
Avian Haven continues to grow. They now have 15 buildings where mending birds can be housed. One building is big enough to allow Bald Eagles and other raptors to fly. Other buildings are equipped with pools to make diving birds right at home.
Some birds that enter the clinic can be saved but their injuries prevent them from being released into the wild. Those birds may be put to work as foster parents, eagerly adopting chicks that are brought into the clinic. These birds include a Mallard and a Rock Pigeon, named Mr. Pumper because of his enthusiastic feeding of chicks.Avian Haven is a working facility and tours are not available. Avian Haven is for the public but not open to the public. Diane and Marc are joined on the staff by a Rehabilitation Manager, a Physical Plant Manager and a Staff Veterinarian along with a ton of dedicated volunteers and interns. They also have a pool of 200 volunteer drivers who traverse the state, bringing injured birds to Avian Haven. These drivers often work in relays, pony-express style, to get an injured bird to Avian Haven. Don Fournier led the way by delivering 788 birds, driving almost 34,000 miles. Check this great facility out at www.avianhaven.org and learn how you can help.