Keeping birds soaring
The Wild Bird Fund is the only animal rehabilitation center in New York
Walk into The Wild Bird Fund on the Upper West Side and two pekin ducks greet you. So does a chicken, a white rooster, a mallard and a few goslings. You also notice the steady background music: birds cooing, left and right. For Rita McMahon, the organizations’ director, this is home.
The Wild Bird Fund, on Columbus Avenue north of 87th Street, treats and nourishes the injured wildlife of New York City.
The not-for-profit opened in 2012. Before that, McMahon, who lives nearby, kept and treated the injured birds in her apartment. At one point, she had 60 birds.
“Whatever bird is brought to our door, we try to make it whole again so it can go back to the wild. The second part of the mission is to educate New Yorkers about our wildlife,” McMahon said. “And how much we have — we’re very rich in wildlife and most people don’t realize it.”
McMahon said the organization gets anywhere from three to 60 birds a day, depending on the season. Last year, the Fund rehabilitated 6,000 birds.
“The most common statement is ‘thank God you’re here,’ because we are the only game in town,” McMahon said.
The Fund gets 50 percent of its funding from individual donations, she said; 35 percent comes from foundation grants; and the remaining 15 percent comes from bird and photography walks the fund hosts in the spring and autumn. The Fund also sells merchandise and provide educational programs, such as an eight-month junior ornithology course.
Money, though, gets a little tight in the summertime, McMahon said.
“We have the greatest number of patients, with all the big birds coming in. And it’s the time of year where people do not donate as much,” she said. “You do what you can, with what you have. You stretch it the best you can.”
Rehabilitation includes diagnostic testing, surgery, physical therapy, feeding and sheltering.
“New Yorkers care a lot,” McMahon said. “They respond when they see an animal on the ground, they pick it up. Especially when they know they can take it somewhere.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit their website at wildbirdfund.org.
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