At various times of the year the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital has opened its doors to allow the Bird Center of Washtenaw County use of its facilities. This is due to the fact that the facility the Bird Center now occupies is converted into a voting station when election time rolls around. In the past we have highlighted, through information posted on our blog, the desire and the need which the Bird Center has for a permanent home.

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Baby Hummingbird feeding through a syringe.

Having just started doing web design and blogging this past spring for the hospital, I hadn’t had personal experience with the Bird Center until I stepped out of the elevator onto the second floor of the animal hospital and noticed that in our large training room were tables with dozens of laundry baskets with sheets laid loosely over the tops. I was encouraged to check it out by an Animal Hospital co-worker and as I walked in I saw three or four bird center employees and volunteers caring for various softly chirping birds.

There were around thirty birds being cared for at that time, a few of whom were being fed mealworms by staff with metal tweezers. I walked quietly around, peeking in at the various birds and talking with staff. The staff answered my multitude of questions with patience, professionalism and a whole lot of knowledge.

I was curious, how did this bird rehab non-profit come to be? Who has this much dedication to birds, particularly songbirds? I wrote to Carol Akerlof, founder and manager of the Bird Center of Washtenaw County, to learn of the history of the organization.

In Carol’s words:

During the late 70’s my family and I were living in southern California while my husband worked for UofM. My children found a gull that couldn’t fly and I contacted Wildlife Rescue in Palo Alto. I discovered that they had a class in wildlife rehabilitation and took it before my family moved back to Michigan.

After we returned [to Michigan] I met Barbara Sattinger who had been helping wild birds through the humane Society of Huron Valley. She gave me ONE mourning dove to raise, and the second year ONE robin!! In 1984 I attended a National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association annual meeting in Kalamazoo and learned that I needed a permit to do what I was doing, and that I had better get them!

I remember a USFWS worker asking me what I would be interested in rehabbing and when I replied “songbirds” she was overjoyed because often, larger, seemingly more interesting birds like raptors, hawks, and owls garner more interest and support.

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The employees and interns of the Washtenaw County Bird Center

Starting a non-profit takes time, and the birds kept coming in. We applied for our 501c3 and it was issued in record time, I think someone in the IRS must have liked songbirds! We held a volunteer training session at Washtenaw Community College and recruited the retired director of the EMU Credit Union as our treasurer; she is invaluable and still with us.

We have grown from a handful of volunteers to about 100 at present. We had about thirteen student interns this past summer, almost all of them MSU students either in zoology, veterinary medicine, or pre-veterinary programs. In the past we’ve had interns from EMU, UofM, and Washtenaw Community College.

T. Will O’Neill has been an intern and then supervisor for eight years and is currently in his second year of vet school at MSU. Bailey A. Hughes, our clinic director, has also been with us for eight years and won a scholarship to attend a National Wildlife Rehabilitators Conference in 2013. I was presented with the National Rehabilitators Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

How to help birds?

  • The indoor cat is healthy and does not harm wildlife and birds.
  • Watch a tree for an hour before cutting it down (it may contain a nest and you will see parents flying to and from the young.
  • Brake for wildlife
  • Use as few pesticides and herbicides as possible
  • Teach children to respect wildlife

 

Tax deductible donations to the Bird Center of Washtenaw County may be sent to:

Bird Center of Washtenaw County, INC
P.O. Box 3718
Ann Arbor, MI 48106

For volunteer opportunities contact Diane at:
diane.heinbeutel@gmail.com