If you ask to use the restroom at the Wild B.I.R.D. Information and Rehabilitation Center of Denver, you'll have some company, since you'll have to share with a duck taking a bath or a cormorant preening before the mirror.
On the day of my visit, there were about 240 birds at the center - most of them sick or injured and a few who just couldn't find enough to eat over the winter and needed a little R&R before being released. Lodgings range from incubators to paper towel-lined baskets to large habitats, or "flights." There is no caste system here - chickens, ducks, great blue herons, snowy egrets, grebes, western tanagers and pigeons ("the most maligned bird," according to my tour guide, Judi Vietmeyer) all receive the same level of care. Staff and volunteers are kept busy cleaning cages, maintaining the duck pond, medicating and feeding -- which sometimes means serving up a live meal worm with tweezers.
Wild B.I.R.D. was hatched in 1999 by a small group of bird lovers, including Debbie Strimple, a federal and state-licensed rehabilitator, who had studied with Denver's Kathleen "Birdie" Hurlbutt. It's the only facility of its kind in the metro area and has taken in more than 20,000 native and migratory birds, nurtured them and released them back to the wild. Another objective of the center is to educate the public about the conservation and importance of wild bird welfare, starting with an informative Q & A for common questions.
Each bird brought to the center costs $40.00 to rehabilitate, and everyone who brings in a bird is asked to donate that amount, although no bird is ever turned away. Wild B.I.R.D. has the highest average success, or release rate, of any such facility in the country, and last summer alone 3300 birds, mostly babies that fell or were windblown out their nests, were cared for.
The center itself has been adopted by Boy Scout Troop 127. The Scouts recently critter-proofed the crow/raven flight by reinforcing the foundation to protect the birds from predators from the nearby Highline Canal. Other plans include installing a pump in the duck pond for running water and refurbishing the incubator room.
For the less energetic, the website has ways to donate funds or supplies, or you can find out how to get involved by checking out the volunteer opportunities.
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