HOUSTON — After nearly seven years of using a garage at a private residence as its base of operations, the Alaska WildBird Rehabilitation Center opened its doors to the public Saturday to showoff its new bird hospital at 12235 W. Birch Rd., off Kenlar Road.
About 150 people showed up to tour the new facility and learn more about the four educational birds working during the community open house.
“We’re open to the public today, but we will close to the public when we open to birds,” said Tyler Strode, the rehabilitation director for the center and its only paid employee.
The facility includes new resources like indoor and outdoor mews for recovering birds and even a bathroom for volunteers, she said.
Strode explained how injured birds will be moved to larger indoor enclosures as their wings heal and from there into larger mews outside where they can open their wings and stretch and exercise more. The new center also will include a covered mew where recovering birds can be flight tested before release, she said.
The transition to the new site center housed in its own building on 28 acres of land leased long-term from the city of Houston began at the end of June, according to volunteer Nancy Moore. That’s two months to prepare the new site, move the portable onto it, put in a septic system, and run electric and plumping to the building, she said.
Since the group was without a facility this summer, volunteers spent the summer shuttling birds to the Anchorage Bird Treatment and Learning Center for care.
Moore said that arrangement was stressful for the birds and the volunteers transporting them.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” she said of the Anchorage center’s help during this transition.
It was Valley volunteers working at the Anchorage center years ago that saw the need in the Mat-Su and started the local nonprofit, Moore said.
“Birds come in from as far away as Fairbanks and Glennallen,” she said.
Partly the need for a wild bird treatment center is based on the Valley’s location along a major migration route, Moore said.
While Harlan’s Red Tail Hawks like the one at the center do migrate through Alaska, the Red Tail Hawk also working the crowd at the open house Saturday was acquired through an exchange program with a Georgia program, she said.
Volunteer Angela Shelton talked to guests about the species traits of Red Trail Hawks and explained that this hawk has pellets in its wings and body that are inoperable. When the bird flies, the metal bits irritate the bird’s wing tissue, which causes it to swell and hurt
“It would be inhumane to release him into the wild,” Shelton said.
Education director Merle Stewart said the birds the center has permits to use in educational presentations are wild birds — not pets — like the Great Gray Owl that lives in its mew in Stewart’s yard, or the smaller Short-Eared Owl that lives in a mew in her garage. So far this year, center volunteers have presented 358 educational programs, she said.
Spend some time with Stewart and her feathered friends and you’ll come away with a head full of interesting details. Did you know the Great Gray Owl on her glove weighs just 2.5 pounds, but she can produce enough force to break ice thick enough to hold a 180-pound person.
“She’s happy at 20 below,” Stewart said, carefully poking her index finger into the downy fluff on the top of the owl’s head to show off her thick ruff.
At a nearby table sits Stewart’s mother, Mary Hall, selling her hand-sewn stuffed owls and small owl purses. Thus far, she has made more than 300 owls and raised more than $1,200 in donations for the building fund, she said.
Total, she’s made more than 300 owls and each one is unique, Hall said.
Why are no two owls alike?
“My mind isn’t that orderly,” she said.
Hall said she loves birds and finds them remarkable. “They are so fitted for what they do.”
Volunteer Nancy Wade said there is no way the nonprofit could have hosted a similar community event at its former facility. She said the group has big dreams for its new site, including long-term plans for an education and visitors center.
“So many little things here are so much better than before,” she said.
For more information, contact 892-2927, or visit AkWildBirdRehab.org.
Contact Heather A. Resz at 352-2268 or email@example.com.
Alaska WildBird Rehabilitation Center donation needs
Here is a list of items the Alaska WildBird Rehabilitation Center needs every day for sick and injured birds.
• Mop and squeegee
• Paper towels
• Trash bags — large and small
• Rope and bungee cords
• Full spectrum 75W light bulbs
• Heating pads
• Small mirrors
• Small stuffed animals
• Baby toys (rattles, plastic keys, etc)
• Cloth or plastic dog or cat carriers
• Laundry soap
• Sponges and scrub brushes
• Broom and dustpan
• Dish gloves
• Duct tape and clothes pins
• Super glue (not the gel kind)
• Heat lights
• Hot/cold packs
• Feather dusters
• Colorful stones or marbles
Food donations needed after Sept. 20
• All food must be unflavored, no seasonings. No pork or organ meat
• Kitten food — high protein D&GM Crumbles
• Peanut butter
• Baby food (chicken or beef)
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Unflavored Ensure
• Unflavored Pedialyte
• Berries — blueberry, Mountain ash, strawberry
• Veggies — beans, peas, corn, squash
• Red Meat — beef, moose, caribou, deer, sheep, rabbit, squirrel, chicken, turkey or game birds
• Fish — salmon, trout, grayling
Items needed to continue to build and maintain mews, perches and equipment for bird care
• Pry bar
• Staples for Arrow T-50 staple gun
• Cordless sander, grinder, drills, saws-all, skill-saw
• Roofing screws and washers
• Ladder, 6 foot
• Plastic roofing
• Campaign signs
• Roof rake
• Metal rakes
• Mosquito netting/screening
• Lumber — 2x4s and 2x6s
• Corrugated plastic, 4x8