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Tavernier Rehab Center Keeps Them Flying
Juvenile barn owl in a flight enclosure developed for birds in the lasts of rehab to build up their flight muscles and mastery prior to being launched back into the wild. RACHEL LECATES/Contributed

The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in Tavernier was developed by Laura Quinn and integrated in 1988. The Upper Keys Weekly just recently took a seat with Maggy Pollicino, outreach organizer, to read more about this necessary not-for-profit in our neighborhood.

It’s really handy when individuals can bring the ill or hurt birds to us. We service from MM 70 to MM 106. If individuals call us from the mainland, we don’t increase there for saves, however if they can drop the bird off at Everglades Outpost, we will send out an intern or volunteer to select them up, so that’s sort of an excellent way that we can serve the Homestead or Miami location. There’s likewise the Key West Wildlife Center and Marathon Wild Bird Center, which both do excellent work. Permits do not enable us to concentrate on family pets; we refer individuals to a vet.

We have a board that informs us whatever we require to learn about our clients. Our infant season is from about now up until June, so we start to have a lots of infant birds in your house.

The most typical are songbirds and raptors like owls and hawks. People simply discover them in their backyards. Occasionally we get a larger bird like a spoonbill or a heron, however a great deal of the larger seabirds nest offshore on rookeries and such, so individuals aren’t discovering them as much. So it was incredible to help a frigate bird and release him back over the ocean.

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A great deal of the time, when they discover the infant, there’s really absolutely nothing incorrect with them, so we motivate individuals by stating, “Okay, can you look for this or this?” And if this condition, if all of those hold true, we desire you to leave the infant alone so the moms and dads can continue to look after it.

It’s a case-by-case basis due to the fact that we desire the outright finest opportunity that that infant is going to remain in the wild with its moms and dads however we have materials that we can provide individuals. If the bird requires to be popped back in the nest, however they can’t discover the nest due to the fact that it’s expensive, we can provide little baskets and paper and materials to connect it to a tree, and they might enjoy the moms and dads return, which is really enjoyable.

Our emergency clinic is where every bird coming through our doors precedes. The first thing we do is take a temperature because, just like with people or other animals, if a bird is too cold, the stress that can be induced by further handling can cause a lot more problems. So, we always take a temperature and make sure they’re warm enough to continue. If not, we put them in a crate, get warmed up with some sort of external heat source and then do a head-to-toe exam. We have an X-ray machine if we need to do that. We have all the supplies for wound care and splinting — all different issues.

They see us as predators and don’t know we are helping them. Some get familiar, but we don’t want that. We want to keep them as wild as possible because familiarity with humans can get them into trouble, particularly with pelicans. People might feed them at the marinas, and then they associate food with people. The birds might see a fisherman, and they’re like, “He has food at the end of this big long stick,” and they go after it, and they get hooked or some other similar injury.

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We try to return birds as close to the spot we found them in as possible. With juveniles, you can be a little bit more flexible because they haven’t established any sort of territory yet. If we are getting a young bird in, unless we can renounce that bird within about 24 hours, we probably need to raise it until it can be released because the parents will abandon the nest if they don’t see their baby there for a while.

If a bird can catch live prey, that’s a good sign it can be released. We put the birds in a flight cage to see if they can fly properly and find their own food. There is a lot involved. We want to ensure they have the best chance of survival in the wild. Our mission is to get them back into the wild and at their best. Birds that are permanent residents (at the center) are because we are concerned they would not do well in the wild — again, it’s a case-by-case basis.

If babies come in by themselves, we give them a mirror so they can imprint on themselves. Birds tend to not do very well in the wild if they imprint on their caretaker. So if we get the same species of birds, we may put them together as long as they don’t have any parasites.

Our new office manager, Fredricka, aka “Fred,” recently retired from the sanctuary. She was the pet of our founder Laura Quinn, who passed away in 2010; she had her since the ’80s. Quinn had started by taking birds into her house, learning from Dr. Robert Foley, and had a community of volunteers that helped her. For Fred’s retirement party, we played Fred’s favorite movie, “Jurassic Park.”

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I’ve been here for about a year-and-a-half; I was previously up in New Hampshire and saw this listing on an eco-job board and applied. I thought getting into the rehabilitation side of things would be interesting. After about a year, they asked me if I wanted to stay on as the outreach coordinator because of my previous experience, and I said yes. It’s a lot of fun, there are incredible teachers, and it’s a great work environment.

We have our directors, licensed rehabilitators, and four to six interns at any time. We usually have three to five people at the hospital and staff at the sanctuary. Two people are on call when we are on call when we are closed because of the 24-hour emergency situation service. We also have wonderful volunteers that help with cleaning and transport.

It’s very rewarding to work here; you understand you did a good thing even if the birds don’t understand.
Visit missionwildbird.com, go to Facebook @keepthemflying on Instagram and Florida Keys Wild Bird Center on Facebook.

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