The Wild Bird Fund Blog

A Canada Goose on the Loose

gooseHe tried everything: sneaking between legs when new visitors came through the door, inspecting the small bathroom window to see if he could fit through it, searching behind the cages for a hidden entrance, and when none of that worked, longingly staring out the window to the blue sky.  Our goose could not wait to be free.

At least his search for freedom meant he was feeling better.  This Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) was found in Inwood, suffering from lead poisoning and unable to stand.  As in humans, lead poisoning in birds causes weakness, lethargy, disorientation, and in high levels blindness, seizures, and death.


Waterfowl are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning because of the amount of lead shot and the number of lead sinkers that are found in their freshwater habitat.  Although lead shot was banned for hunting waterfowl in 1991, it is still in use for hunting deer, and the spent shots are easily mistaken for pebbles that geese ingest to aid in digestion.

Lead fishing weights can also be mistaken for grit. In New York, lead sinkers weighing less than an ounce, those that are most likely to be ingested, have been banned, although old ones still remain at the bottom of lakes and sale of larger ones continues.

Our patient was medicated to remove the lead from his bloodstream and tube fed to help him bring his weight back up.  Soon he was eating on his own, and as he got stronger, so did his desire to find freedom any way he could.

After his round of medications was complete, we were able to successfully release this Canada Goose back to the North Cove wetlands where he had been found. As happy as he was to fly back to his flock, feel the wind under his wings and the water under his feet, we were even more thrilled to be able to finally grant him his wish.



Help stop wildlife lead poisoning!

Hunters can replace lead shot, which is a neurotoxin, with copper bullets, and fishermen have an array of alternatives to lead sinkers, including weights, sinkers and jigs made of steel, bismuth, tin, tungsten, plastic, and a range of alloys.

Photos by Mansura Khanam

Categories: Wild Bird Fund Tags: Canada Geese, Waterfowl

72 Hours with Two Baby Orioles

oriolepairPhoto: Baby Baltimore Orioles Pam (l) and William (r) ©Charles Chessler

One of them made it, and the other did not.

Unfortunately when a patient is brought into the Wild Bird Fund they are normally very, very sick.  We have no way of knowing how long a patient has been in distress before being found, so they could have been bleeding, starving or thirsty for minutes, hours or days.

That seems to have been the case with these baby Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) who were both rescued in very poor condition.  Pam (left) got tangled in her nest materials: she was found at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens hanging from her nest by a piece of string that had gotten tied around her leg.  Her wings were also wrapped in plastic, and she was suffering from a puncture wound to the abdomen.

William (right) was found by the tennis courts in Central Park, covered in some kind of substance.  His rescuer diligently watched for a parent for over 3 hours (never birdnap!) but no one appeared.  The little bird was dehydrated, and had not been fed in quite some time.

At the Wild Bird Fund, Pam’s wound was cleaned and dressed after we had cut away the string and plastic, and William was given IV fluids to rehydrate him.  They got hand feedings and settled in together as nest mates in an incubator.  Then it was all up to them.

The first 24 to 72 hours are the most critical for a bird, when they are weakest and most stressed.  Just like at an ER, our priority is to stabilize the patient so that they gain strength and are able to withstand medications and further treatment.  We knew that if William pulled through, for example, he would need many baths to get rid of the grease that covered his wings.

William did make it past the most-critical 72 hours, and is now on a bathing regime that will eventually reveal the beautiful orange and black feathers that Orioles are famous for.  He is getting stronger every day, learning to eat on his own, and practicing his flying in the flyway. He will be able to be released to Raptor Trust as soon as his feathers are free of grease.

Unfortunately tiny little Pam did not make it.  The antibiotics did not manage to turn the tide, and she passed away two days later.

One of them made it, and the other did not – it’s another 72 hours at the Wild Bird Fund.

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Baby Season, Balitmore Orioles, Songbirds

Baby Season: Canada Geese

_MG_5370_web_1200Photo: Charles Chessler

For Canada Geese, it’s all about family.

That’s a major problem for the two orphaned goslings that were brought into the Wild Bird Fund.  Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) mate for life and are closely bonded with their young, even communicating with them while they are still inside their eggs.

Once they hatch, the young spend the first year of their lives inseparable from their mother and father, who raise them together.  The family then joins others to form a flock.  The fact that our two goslings were found orphaned at Co-op City in the Bronx means that they were separated not only from their mother, but also from their father and their larger family brood.

Our goslings need other geese if they are to have any chance of surviving as adults in the wild.  Momma and Poppa Goose teach the young what foods to eat and what to avoid, and senior Geese in the flock lead the migration, and teach juveniles how to fly in formation.

In the future, the Wild Bird Fund would like to create additional centers, along with our current, urban Manhattan location, in more rural areas of New York City to provide exactly the environment that these goslings would need, including large swimming ponds, flyways and space for groups of geese, ducks, and other waterfowl to rehabilitate together.

Until then we have sent our adorable pair of goslings to the Raptor Trust where they will be able to learn from other geese in exterior aviaries that provide ample space to improve their swimming and their flying.

Please consider making a donation to the Wild Bird Fund to allow us to continue helping wild birds in need and grow our facilities to better serve patients like these two adorable goslings.

_MG_5350_web_1200Photo: Charles Chessler


Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Baby Season, Canada Geese, Waterfowl

Baby Season: American Kestrel

_MG_5634_web_1200-3Photo: Charles Chessler

It’s tough being the smallest raptor in North America.  At only 7 inches high, The tiny American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is commonly confused with baby hawks, and from afar, even as innocuous mourning doves.  And despite their sharp beaks and talons, they are also routinely hunted and preyed upon by other, larger, birds of prey.

This group of little kestrels, however, will be safe from predation and have a chance to grow up in safety after being brought to the Wild Bird Fund.  We can identify their age by their telltale down sticking up on top of their heads: all that’s left of the white fuzz they had as nestlings.  As they mature, they grow in a beautiful array of feathers – females a cinnamon-brown, and males a set of striking slate-blue wings- to become one of the most colorful raptors in the world.

These special feathers allow them to fly silently, hunting mice, bats, small songbirds and an array of insects such as grasshoppers, beetles and moths. At the Center the young kestrels were fed dead mice, chopped up into bite-size pieces and offered gingerly with a set of tweezers.

Photo: This striking raptor is only about 8 weeks old

The Wild Bird Fund aims to get all of our patients eating on their own as soon as possible.  Feeding by hand, or in this case, by tweezer, takes time, and allows young birds to get accustomed to human faces and associate us with food, both of which could lead to human-bird conflicts in the wild - especially in the case of kestrels and other birds of prey. Our young kestrels were transitioned from being fed by tweezer to eating on their own out of bowls.

Of course eating from a bowl does not prepare them for the hunting they will have to do in the wild.  That is why we have sent our young kestrels to the Raptor Trust for flight school.  They are now training in outdoor enclosures, learning how to identify and capture prey, and preparing for their first flight in the wild world as tiny, full-grown predators.

babykestrelPhoto: This is the youngest Kestrel that has ever come in to the Wild Bird Fund, only about 6 weeks old

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Baby Season, Kestrel, raptors

Baby Season: Cottontail Rabbit

cottontailPhoto: Zhong Huang

First, let’s get this straight: this is not a pet rabbit.

Eastern Cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) are wild rabbits native to New York - not to be confused with Domestic Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) that have been bred from European varieties for the pet trade.

Knowing that has made the difference between life and death for this little bunny, who was brought in with his littermates by a kind-hearted employee of the Bronx Zoo.  His nest had been built right in the path of a new exhibit, and the mother wasn’t anywhere to be found.

Under normal circumstances it would be difficult to find the mother anyway.  Eastern Cottontails only feed their babies at dawn and dusk, spending the rest of the day foraging.  In this case, a Zoo employee had watched over the nest for two days and had not seen her, so she brought them in to the Wild Bird Fund.

This is where knowing how to treat Eastern Cottontails becomes very important.  Unlike Domestic Rabbits who are used to humans and can live on pellets, Cottontails stress easily, need to be fed a specially formulated diet, and are prone to deadly bacterial infections. Well-meaning “rescuers” could kill them, thinking they could care for Cottontails as if they were pets.

Thankfully our patients were in good hands with our licensed rehabilitators who were able to give them the 24 hour supervision and specialty care that they needed to thrive.  They were weaned off of their formula and gradually transitioned onto solid foods that they would find in the wild.

Now that they are fully grown and showing the bright white tails and undersides that gives them their name, our Cottontails have been released back to where they were found in the Bronx Zoo.  If you see one, don’t worry, it didn’t escape from someone’s home… it finally is home.

cottontailreleaseEastern Cottontail being released back in Bronx Zoo.  Photo: Zhong Huang


Don’t bunninap! Before bringing any healthy kits to a wildlife rehabilitator, confirm that they have been abandoned using any one of these three methods:

  1. Cottontail mothers will clear the nest to keep it clean.  Sprinkle some grass or weeds over the babies, taking care to not disturb the foliage around the nest, which provides protection.   If the grass is gone, the mother is still caring for them.
  2. Place some twine in a circle around the nest.  If the twine has been moved, the mother is still caring for them.
  3. Liberally sprinkle some flour around the nest.  If the flour is disturbed, or the babies have powder on them, the mother is still caring for them.

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Baby Season, Cottontail Rabbit, Mammals

Baby Season: Blue Jays

bluejayPhoto: Blue Jay playing a game of tug o' war

They cry when they want something, open their mouths wide for food, and play with their siblings – you can be forgiven for thinking our baby blue jays are just like human infants.

Native Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) are part of the crow family, and do in fact have a lot of similarities to humans. They are intelligent, curious animals that are able to problem-solve, have used tools in captivity,1 and have complex social relationships the rules of which we do not even fully understand.

At the Wild Bird Fund we recognize that Jays do better when they are able to form social bonds, so from the very beginning our Jays were housed together.  When they first came in they were featherless and barely able to keep their heads up, so they were kept together in the incubator in a tiny nest, smaller than a teacup, to await their hourly feedings by syringe.

bluejaystalkingPhoto: Blue Jays talking to each other

Their ability to read social cues also helped them as they got older and started crying for food.  One baby Blue Jay came in and refused to open his mouth for the syringe. We placed him with some older birds, and it only took a few feedings of watching them open wide for food before he started doing the same.

They have now grown in their feathers and are making their first attempts at flying in the flyway.  They no longer need baby formula, but are fed solid foods with tweezers.  Like their Blue Jay mothers would, we decrease our interaction with them as they get older so they learn to identify and eat foods on their own.

Even in the flyway, where they have ample space, our baby Blue Jays stick together.  In the wild, groups of Blue Jays warn each other about predators, and have even been known to work together to chase away owls and hawks from their nesting areas.  When they are ready, our babies will be released together into a group of Jays so that they will be able to share their adventures in the big, wild world with a friend.

bluejaysgroomingPhoto: Blue Jays grooming together

1.  For more information, read Tool-making and Tool-using of the Northern Blue Jay


Do not birdnap!

It is a federal offense to keep native wildlife as pets.  For more information, read Unhand That Baby!




Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Baby Season, Blue Jay, Songbirds

A Sitting Duck

duck  ducksnuggles
Photo: Eva checks Aflac's wings

Aflac is really more like a dog than a duck.  This friendly and gregarious patient loves people, follows volunteers and staff around, and enjoys a snuggle just like man’s best friend.

It’s not unusual for American Pekin Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos domestica) to be kept as pets.  Domesticated in Asia over thousands of years, they have long grown accustomed to us and bond readily with humans.  In New York they are also raised for their meat, but it is unlikely that our duck escaped from a farm.

Farmed ducks live in unnaturally cramped conditions, and while normally they are docile and unaggressive, in stressful conditions they bite and can harm themselves and others.  To reduce this damage, farmers cut off the tips of their beaks with a hot blade – a particularly painful procedure considering the number of sensory receptors on their beaks.  (Click here to see a former patient with a trimmed beak).  Since our lovely duck still has a complete bill, he was most likely a runaway pet, or was set free by his owner (he is just the right age to have been an Easter duckling!)

Domestic animals such as ducks and chickens are not part of the Wild Bird Fund mission, but we are the only agency in the city able to take in these birds, and we do our best to help.  Because Pekin Ducks have been bred for food, they are too heavy to fly, so a “freed” Pekin Duck is unable to evade predators.  And since Aflac has been fed all his life, he has no experience of identifying a food source. If we had not intervened, he really would have been a sitting duck.

Aflac had the added problem of not having been waterproof, so he was also unable to swim.  When he first came to the Wild Bird Fund he was afraid of going into the pool because he got so waterlogged and was at risk of drowning.  After swimming twice a day with a lifeguard, he became buoyant and began to look forward to his time in the pool.

We have enjoyed every minute of our friendly duck’s stay, and would secretly love to have him live with us as a Wild Bird Fund greeter and mascot.  But New York City is no place for a duck, so he is being transferred to a 100 acre estate upstate  where he can live out the rest of his days enjoying the outdoors and making friends not just with humans, but with others just like him.

Pekin duck_MG_6741

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Domestic, Pekin Duck, Waterfowl

The Flight of the Brant


 Photo: Charles Chessler

You don’t often hear of someone spending their winters in New York because its warm, but that’s exactly what this beautiful Brant Goose (Branta bernicla) does each year, when he migrates south from his breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle.

This year’s journey was close to ending in disaster.

We don’t know how he got injured, but what we do know is that the Brant was brought in with a compound fracture: his leg was broken and the bone was protruding from the skin.  This type of break has such a risk of complication that some rehabilitation centers won’t treat birds with this type of injury.

But he didn’t go to just any rehab center; he came to the Wild Bird Fund.  Dr. Pilny from the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine carefully operated on his leg, removed a portion of infected bone and inserted a pin.  The Brant was put on strict cage rest to allow his leg to set.


 Photo: Charles Chessler

He was with us for a long time while his leg healed, greeting anyone who opened his cage for cleaning or feeding with angry hisses and dirty looks.  Although he was much smaller than his fresh-water cousin the Canada Goose, he certainly made up for it in attitude.

Everyone at the Center was nervous when the time to came to remove the pin. Had his leg healed? Was it free of infection? Would he put weight on it? Yes. Yes. Yes.  The Brant Goose, who undertakes one the most arduous migrations every year, had survived another season.

Because of his cast, the Brant was not able to swim or fly during his stay at the Wild Bird Fund.  To prepare him for release, he was transferred to Stars in the Forest, a Long Island rehabilitation center where he will spend the next weeks building up his flight muscles in their outdoor runs and exercising his newly-healed leg in the water.

It’s a challenge we are sure this little goose can handle. After all, he flew more than 1,000 miles just to get here.


Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: brant goose, Waterfowl

Bird X


She was so covered in dirt, soot and grime, that when she was brought into the Wild Bird Fun we couldn’t even identify her species.

The little bird had been caught in a glue trap, and while she had been lucky enough to escape from it before succumbing to thirst or starvation, she now carried a layer of sticky goo that attracted every bit of dirt and garbage found on the streets of New York.

Because her feathers were covered in glue, she was no longer waterproof, and her sensitive skin was exposed to the rain and the elements.  It wouldn’t have been long before she died from exposure and hypothermia.

That is why we are so grateful to the kind people at the Colbert Report, who rescued her and brought her into the Wild Bird Fund.  She was given gentle Dawn baths that got rid of the soot and glue, and revealed that she was, in fact, a Hermit Thrush.

The Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) is a summer migrant to New York who is more often heard than seen, thanks to their distinctive, mournful song (listen here) and their preference for nesting and foraging on the ground.

After weeks of Dawn baths, and months of waiting for feathers too badly soiled to grow back in, we were able to successfully release our mystery Hermit Thrush back into the wild.  She is once again rid of the dirt of New York City, and is able to enjoy the simple pleasures of digging through leaves, hunting insects, and flying free.

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Hermit Thrush, Songbirds

A Grackle of a Personality


It was a pretty bad prognosis: a broken wing, an eye injury, and a cough that suggested a respiratory problem – from the beginning the grackle that came to the Wild Bird Fund was going to have to fight for its life.

He was just a youngster, not yet in full plumage, when we splinted his wing and put him on cage rest to let the bone set and get treatment for his eye.  That was when staff really got to see the beautiful plumage of this bird, who from far away looks simply black, but close up shimmers in iridescent blues and greens.

His wing healed beautifully, and he flew well with the other birds in the flyway, but he was still so weak and lethargic - so unlike the outgoing personality known to grackles.  Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) are one of the most commonly-seen native birds in New York because they forage in open areas and are charismatic, strong-willed birds that aren’t afraid of anything, or anyone.  They are fighters, and our grackle needed to be to get better.

So we waited.

Slowly, so slowly, we started to see it: one day, the bird was a little bit harder to catch; another day, he had started knocking things over out of curiosity; after a few weeks he was dominating the flight room, and had become so aggressive towards other birds that we had to house him in a large, separate cage in the prep room and let him out to get flight time every day.

As he got stronger, he got harder to catch, so we ended up having to surprise him inside his cage when he went to eat.  We knew that he was going to make it when, near the end of his stay, he began singing for us.

The grackle’s outgoing personality made him a favorite at the Center, and made it both harder, and more rewarding, to see his release.  Befitting a social bird, he was released into a flock of other grackles in Central Park where he was soon playing and flying acrobatics, chattering loudly with the others, sharing the adventures of his stay at the Wild Bird Fund.gracklestanding

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: grackle, Songbirds

Baby Season: Teenage Squirrels


They’re loud, have lots of energy to spare and certainly don’t want to snuggle anymore.  It’s official: our baby squirrels are now teenagers.

Brought in after being found outside a nest without a mother, our babies are being weaned after having spent the past few weeks being syringe-fed specially-formulated baby squirrel formula that simulates the nutrients of their mother’s milk.

Eastern Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinesis) are native to New York, and eat a range of foods, including bark, berries, seeds, acorns and other nuts.  Our teenagers are now eating “squirrel mash,” pureed acorn mixed with necessary vitamins and minerals that mirror their native food sources, and will prepare them for what they will encounter back in the wild.

Their adolescence is a crucial period in their preparation for the wild.  The Wild Bird Fund houses teenagers together in large wire cages, so that they can develop their climbing muscles and learn to interact with other squirrels.  Human handling at this stage is discouraged.


It is a sad fact that we occasionally receive teenage squirrels raised by members of the public who wanted a cute baby squirrel as a pet, but quickly became overwhelmed by this loud, demanding teenager that they are now living with.

Squirrels that become attached to humans or only eat non-native foods will not be able to survive in the wild.  They may even become aggressive towards humans that they see as a source of food.  That is why it is illegal to keep native wildlife as pets, and New York law stipulates that only licensed rehabilitators may attempt to raise baby squirrels.

So we couldn’t be happier to see that our squirrels are now more interested in chasing each other than looking for our attention.  It means they’re growing up, getting wild, and will survive beautifully when they are released back to nature – back to their home.



Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Baby Season, Mammals, squirrels

Double-Crested Cormorant


A wall of windows looking out into a lush green courtyard may sound beautiful, but it is deadly to birds.  The windows reflect their surroundings, disorienting birds and causing deadly head-on collisions.  This cormorant was found trapped in a garden courtyard of Canarsie High School in Brooklyn, dazed from a collision with the glass, and far from any water source.  "I caught him pretty easily," says the rescuer, "and I was amazed at how beautiful those eyes were, I have never seen anything like it."

It's only close up that you can see the striking colors of double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), who are migratory water birds that spend their winters on the Gulf Coast and their summers in freshwater lakes across the Northeast.  Our patient was probably on his way to a nesting site before getting diverted for medical attention at the Wild Bird Fund.

At the Center, the cormorant was found to be dehydrated and was put on a hearty diet of fish, monitored for long-term brain injury, and got daily swims in the rehabilitation pool.  Cormorants are expert divers, and unlike most water birds their feathers actually trap water to reduce buoyancy, allowing them to reach depths of up to 20 feet.  Afterward they stand with wings stretched out to dry by the sun.

The double-crested cormorant was successfully released on May 1 into the West Pond at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.  Birds from the WBF are normally released in the area where they are found, but the lack of a water source and the danger of the building meant a new location had to be scouted out.

The cormorant flew out the minute the box was opened, barely touching the ground before arching out over the water, the tips of his wings skimming the surface.  It wasn't long before another pair of cormorants came to join him, say hello, and welcome him to the lake.  After 15 minutes the three birds were diving together, and our double-crested cormorant was on his way home.

nathan_place_cormorantPhoto: Nathan Place

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: cormorant, Waterfowl

A Little Brown Creeper

creeperYou’d never even know he was there: feeding high up in the trees, perfectly camouflaged, and only about 4” long, the Brown Creeper (Certhia Americana) is rarely on the ground and lives in relative obscurity from most New Yorkers.

So it was somewhat of a surprise for a passerby to come across this tiny bird lying on the sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan.  The Creeper had left the safety of his forest habitat, where he “creeps” up trees in a spiraling motion looking for hidden insects, and had collided with a glass building.

Because his feet are so well suited for hanging on trees, his cage at the Wild Bird Fund was lined with a drape, so he could hang comfortably and avoid touching the ground.  Once Creepers have found a safe place to hold on to, they are hesitant to leave it: one Creeper was even brought in clinging to the front of a woman's business suit. He had landed on her lapel and had rode along for two hours while she researched where to take him.

Our little patient had thankfully not sustained any breaks from his collision, and after some cage-rest to monitor his condition and exercise in the flyway he was ready for release into a wooded area of Central Park.

He sat for a few seconds after we opened the carrier, eyeing his surroundings, and then flew right to the biggest, tallest tree he could find.  We watched as he crept up, higher and higher, until we could no longer make him out from the background of the tree.


Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Brown Creeper, Songbirds

A Pigeon Raised by Doves

Ringneck Doves (Streptopelia risoria) Photo: Fred CohenIt’s not quite the story of an orphaned human being raised by wolves, but it certainly has similarities.  When we received a premature baby pigeon at the Wild Bird Fund, it was still so small that we weren’t sure it was going to make it.  So we thought that our resident domesticated pigeons, mated pair Apollo & Sandy, might adopt it as their own if we added it to their nest.  They weren’t interested.

So we tried the Ringneck Doves.  Ringneck Doves (Streptopelia risoria) are domesticated birds bred for the pet trade, and cannot be released into the wild because they are unable to find food for themselves.   They mate for life and are known to be caring, devoted parents.

When we first placed the wee bird in their nest, the male seemed uncertain, pacing back and forth and cooing.  But after the female tucked the baby under her to keep it warm, accepting it as hers, the male came on board and became a most devoted caregiver.

Both parents provided crop milk for the pigeon, producing it in their crops and regurgitating into the baby’s mouth, which helped keep the baby full between feedings from rehabilitators.  Crop milk is high in protein and fat, containing antioxidants and immune-enhancing factors that helped the little baby thrive during this critical stage.

But pigeons are twice as large as Ringneck Doves, and as their adopted baby got bigger, they were unable to cover or lay on her,  so she was moved to an incubator with other pigeons like her.

The little baby is now a nestling, growing up and learning how to fly thanks to two very special adoptive parents.

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: pigeons

Opossums at the Wild Bird Fund

Photo: Charles ChesslerPhoto: Charles Chessler

Most people would probably run the other way if they heard a strange noise coming from a dumpster.  But we are so grateful to a caring member of the public who looked inside and discovered 5 baby opossums still alive inside the pouch of their dead mother, who had been hit by a car.

Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are native to New York and are America’s only marsupial, raising their young in a perfectly designed pouch: it is warm and so well protected that even if the mother dies, the babies may not be harmed.

But once they are removed from their pouch they are very vulnerable.  Baby opossums have almost a non-existent immune system, and can catch infections very easily.  Our rehabilitators must sterilize every piece of equipment between each feeding, and they never handle the babies without gloves.

Photo: Charles Chessler

Also baby opossums, unlike baby squirrels, must be fed very carefully by tube, to simulate the mother’s nipple, which remains inside their throat and attached for more than two months of their lives.

Our 5 babies have all been gaining weight, grown in their fur, and have begun to explore their world in readiness for their release.  While it’s a myth that adults sleep hanging by their tail, babies do swing with them, and they can grasp and climb almost anything with their Velcro-like paws and rear opposable thumbs.

“I know that they will eventually grow in 50 teeth, the most of any mammal,” says a Wild Bird Fund rehabilitator, “but right now they’re more like part monkey and part mouse.”

Photo: Charles Chessler

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: Mammals, Opossum

The Gala News

BirdieVanderbilt Mansion

The Wild Bird Fund's 2013 Gala at the "Birdie" Vanderbilt Mansion was a knock-your-socks-off, elegant, and entertaining event. Guests heard stimulating and informative talks by our honoree Helen Hays of the Great Gull Island project, and by Jonathan Balcombe, animal sentience expert.

mailchimp_MG_7959_web_1200Attendees were riveted by Dzul Dance (right) and charmed by the Waxwing Trio, harpist Erin Hill, and our animal ambassadors. These included a barred owl and red-tailed hawk (below) from Tenafly Nature Center, turtles courtesy of Lorri Cramer, and a family of ring-necked doves from the Wild Bird Fund.

mailchimp_MG_8014_web_1200The event provided an exciting introduction to the work and the people of the Wild Bird Fund. Most of all, our guests spoke of the welcoming atmosphere, and the pleasure of mingling with so many caring people who work to Keep New York City Wild.

We offer heartfelt thanks to our volunteers, who made this very successful evening possible; cheers to our fabulous gala chairs: Ruth Hart, Rochelle Thomas, and Elizabeth Hodes; and a toast to our generous hosts, Stefanie Rinza and Carlton Hobbs, who bravely let the wild into their beautiful and fragile space.


Thank you to our 2013 WBF Gala sponsors: Montesquieu Winery, G&G Printing, Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, Jerry & Debbie Zygmunt, Paul & Amy Impelluso, Village Print, Brooklyn Brewery

Read our full newsletter here>


Categories: Events, Fundraising Tags: events, gala, news, volunteers

Unhand that baby


Spring is coming, which means scores of well-meaning people will be bringing in healthy fledgling birds to the Wild Bird Fund. A fledgling is a fully feathered young bird getting ready to live in the wild. Fledglings flutter down from their nest and stay on the ground for three to seven days as they learn from their parents how to forage for food, keep out of trouble, and fly up. They have no fear of people and are easily picked up. When such birds are brought in, their people speak of having "rescued" the bird; in fact, they have kidnapped the little creature from its parents. Remember: if the youngster is fully feathered and seems uninjured as it hops around, leave the little one. Its parents are far better at teaching it survival skills than we are. Or if your child brings home a healthy fledgling, return it as quickly as possible to the place it was found. Then step back thirty feet or so and wait for up to 45 minutes to see if an adult bird flies down to feed the youngster. It can be quite a battle to get the "rescuer" to bring the young bird back to its parents, but when accomplished, the reunion can be a joy to watch.

For more information read "I Found a Baby Bird. Now what? (pdf)"

Help us raise the baby birds that arrive at the WBF: become a member or make a donation today.

Baby Bird Being Fed


Categories: Wild Bird Fund Tags: baby bird, bird rescue, donate, fledgling, spring, urban wildlife

A Walk on the Wild Side with Alan Messer

Alan Messer Drawing

The hardy souls who joined us on the walk Saturday, February 16th, had a great birding day. The Iceland Gull was a “life bird” (a person’s first observation of a given species), for all members of the party, the leader included. And it was a beautiful first year bird. It flew past closely several times, then landing nearby on the ice at Hearnshead on the lake, giving us wonderful views of its lovely soft and subtle markings. Charles Chessler captured some great photos. Another surprise was the European Goldfinch seen at the feeders. These birds when seen in America are considered escaped or released birds; beautiful nonetheless.
—Artist Illustrator, Alan Messer

To view Charles Chessler's photos of the Iceland Gull, and Fred Cohen's photos of the European Goldfinch, visit the Wild Bird Fund Facebook page.

The birds sighted: Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, European Starling, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, House Finch, Common Redpoll, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow, European Goldfinch

Join Alan Messer for Another Walk on Saturday, March 23, 9:00 – 11 am. Rain date March 24th $15 per person; $10 for Members. Reservations required. Email Events at WBF.

Categories: Wild Bird Fund Tags: Alan Messer, birding, European Goldfinch, Iceland Gull, illustration, walk

Upcoming Events

Swan at WBF
All events meet at the WBF Center,
565 Columbus Ave., New York, NY 10024, unless otherwise noted.

Avian Wound Healing and Management Techniques with Karen Heidgerd
Thursday, March 7, 6:30 pm
Suggested donation: $20
Reservations required
Preference is given to rehabbers, WBF volunteers, and members. 
Email the rehabbers for a reservation.
Rehabber Karen Heidgerd will provide instruction on avian wound management.


Injured Bird Transporter Training Session
Wednesday, March 20, 6:30 - 7:30pm
Reservations required
Email NYC Audubon.
Volunteers are needed during migration and breeding seasons to respond to bird emergencies. Join NYC Audubon and the WBF to find out how you can help.

Avian Wound Healing and Management Techniques with Karen Heidgerd
Thursday, March 21, 6:30 pm
Suggested donation: $20
Reservations required
Preference is given to rehabbers, WBF volunteers, and members. 
Email the rehabbers for a reservation.
Rehabber Karen Heidgerd will provide instruction on avian wound management.

WBF Event

The 2nd Annual Wild Bird Fund Gala
Thursday, April 4th, 6:30 - 9:30pm
Email Events
The "Birdie" Vanderbilt Mansion,
60 East 93rd Street, NY, NY 10128
Don't miss your chance to take part in this spectacular event. All proceeds from the gala go directly to work at our Center.
Purchase tickets to the Gala.

Categories: Events, Wild Bird Fund Tags: continuing education, events, Membership, tours, wildlife

Raptors of the WBF

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's hawk

Raptors are birds of prey, the beautiful, lethal apex of the bird kingdom, who hunt and eat other birds and small animals. Here in NYC, the most abundant raptors are red-tailed hawks and kestrels; other local raptors include peregrine falcons, Cooper’s hawks, and saw-whet owls. They all show up repeatedly at the Wild Bird Fund.

It can be an emotional tug-of-war to see them in action: the raptors have to eat, and the prey wants to live. One heartbreaking example: the WBF released a woodcock, after three weeks of recovery from a concussion and torn scalp, in the North Woods of Central Park. We saw it fly off beautifully, only to be spotted by a Cooper’s hawk, which swooped down, caught it, and carried it away.

The most common injuries for raptors in NYC are collisions with buildings, and the most common victims are the young ones. The first-years haven’t yet got the hang of maneuvering through the maze of skyscrapers we've erected along their ancient flyways.

One week this January saw red-tail hawks (above) arrive five days in a row. They were first-year birds, still with brown tails, who had collided with buildings or cars. One had smashed his head and broken the orbital bone around his left eye, which was hugely swollen and nearly out of the socket. After successful nursing at the WBF Center, he is recuperating in an outdoor cage at the Raptor Trust. It looks as if he will regain his sight completely and has excellent prospects for release back into the wild.

Another young red-tail with a head bang was found recently at 65th and Amsterdam. She was knocked out, dehydrated, and dangerously chilled. At the Center she was warmed up, given fluids, and gradually fed. In three days’ time she was feisty again and released in Central Park, much to the joy of second graders from P.S. 87 who joined the WBF to witness her release.

So far this new year, three Cooper’s hawks (1st image) have come to the WBF for emergency care, one per week in January. The Cooper’s hawk is the cheetah of raptors. They are smaller than red-tails but gram for gram more muscular—on x-rays, they look like body builders. They are difficult challenges for rehabilitation because they are the most aggressive patients. Even sedated and with eyes closed, a Cooper will pull a leg out of restraints lightning-fast and grab the rehabber with its talons. (By contrast, a red-tail’s reflexes are slower and more compatible with human reaction time.) A recent Cooper's hawk who grabbed the rehabber while being x-rayed had been shot with a pellet gun. The pellet smashed through the carpal bones and lodged in the bird's shoulder. It was determined that he would never fly again. Most often after initial treatment, we send the Coopers to Raptor Trust for outdoor recuperation. (Another reason we send them to Raptor Trust as soon as possible is that unlike other raptor patients which eat frozen dead mice, they will only eat live birds.)

 saw-whet owl Another exciting, yet charming raptor patient is the saw-whet owl (above). Happily, most of these cute little guys make it. Saw-whets are so light and tiny that collisions do less damage than those of larger raptors. We had three recently, two with eye injuries and one with a fractured wing—all released back to the wild.

Our most recent kestrel (right) was found on Hunts Point Avenue in the Bronx. Also the victim of collision, she came in with a concussion, a blood-filled eye, and limited vision. She soon ruled the Center, zooming around as though we weren’t there, and perching brazenly on the delighted, albeit wary staff and volunteers. Even with her tail-guard, which is applied so they don’t injure their tails while caged, this young female had excellent flight. After two weeks of rehabilitation and feeding (she loved her mealworms, in addition to frozen mice), she was released to the wild at a park near where she was found. New York City is home to one of the largest urban peregrine falcon (right) populations in the world (NYTimes, Feb. 12, 2009). Our bridges and skyscrapers, which resemble the cliffs of their natural habitat, are perfect nesting sites. Every spring the DEC tags all nestlings in known roosts. Although no longer listed as an endangered species, peregrines are still closely monitored. Two young birds whose maiden flights landed them on corporate terraces at lunchtime were brought in by Animal Care & Control of NYC. The Department of Environmental Conservation was called. Using the birds’ band ID numbers, they were returned to their home nests to try again. One of the lady fledglings, AX 36, came back to the WBF a month later after suffering a wing fracture. It is big news when an untagged peregrine fledgling arrives at the WBF, because this means it came from a nest unknown to the DEC, a new nest for New Yorkers to be proud of.

 Read more stories in our current newsletter.  Subscribe to our mailing list and newsletter here.

Categories: Clients at WBF Tags: birds of prey, central park, Cooper’s hawks, kestrels, newsletter, nyc birds, raptors, red-tailed hawks, saw-whet owls, wildlife

The Wild Bird Center

Each year, the Wild Bird Fund, a non-profit 501(c)(3), provides emergency care for over 1000 wild birds and animals in New York City.

  • 565 Columbus Avenue NY, NY 10024 [between 87th and 88th Streets]
  • Phone: 646-306-2862
  • e-mail: For general information as well as inquiries about baby birds, injured birds or wildlife, please contact the rehabilitators at the Wild Bird Fund.

For animal emergencies, please phone 646-306-2862.

Hours: By appointment only. Monday through Saturday, from 1pm to 6pm.

Volunteers: Please contact us for more information

Membership questions? Please contact the membership team.

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