Published: Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Where the wild things are

PAWS avian rehab center helps birds take flight

By Mina Williams
Herald writer
PAWS volunteer Kendall McLean (right) feeds and rehabilitates a crow as Kaitlin Hulce (background) tends to black-capped chickadees, Friday, June 24, ...

Purchase Photo Reprint Weekly Herald/CHRIS GOODENOW

PAWS volunteer Kendall McLean (right) feeds and rehabilitates a crow as Kaitlin Hulce (background) tends to black-capped chickadees, Friday, June 24, 2011 at PAWS in Lynnwood.

Tucked away in a corner of Lynnwood, PAWS is generally thought of as the place to take found cats and dogs or to adopt a pet.
But over on the other side of the compound, down a winding and wooded trail studded with salmonberry bushes, is the nerve center of PAWS' 2.5-acre Wildlife Center.
This is far from a zoo environment.
Instead of being greeted with furry and feathered faces, there are closed-circuit camera monitors giving staff a peek into indoor enclosures, a densely wooded netted area and caged outside pens.
The center is not for people-pleasing -- it is structured for animal healing, and most notably for birds.
Birds represent 65 percent of all the center's residents.
The rest of the wildlife cared for by wildlife volunteer program manager Frances Boyens and her crew comprises everything from black bears and river otters to harbor seals, deer and raccoons. Boyens organizes food, rehabilitation and the volunteers who do much of the hands-on feeding and cleaning work.
The center is so famous in the wildlife-loving community that interns come from all over the country for their chance to help release a falcon back into the wild or feed a group of wily weasels.
This summer Kaitlin Hulce, of Connecticut, has come to intern at PAWS. She has been attached to the wild bird area, doing everything from feeding babies millimeter by millimeter with eye droppers and taking fledglings out to stretch their wings to shepherding mischievous adolescent crows.
The extra hands are needed. Boyens, an Edmonds resident, estimates that over the busy summer months more than 600 birds of 260 species go through the center.
The avian care facility is a flexible space that in winter months is gutted, walls removed, to serve as a sanctuary for marine fowl, sometimes 50 at a time. Those patients need to be fed nine times a day. Generally seabirds come to the center after a storm, an algae bloom or a diesel spill. Boyens remembers one incident where cooking oil spilled over a boat's gunnels, sending a flock of 30 to the center for cleaning and care.
Along one wall of the bird area the age progression is marked by specialized equipment. Baby birds are kept in incubators. Fledglings are placed in lined laundry baskets. Older birds are housed in kennel-style cages equipped with learning “toys” designed to teach the youngsters how to forage for food and water.
Recordings of song birds play so that the young ones learn their songs.
In all cases the birds' temporary quarters are hooded with fabric covers to shield the wildlife from seeing their human helpers too much.
“We raise them,” Boyens said. “We don't cuddle or play with them.”
As a bird progresses it is taken to the “porch,” a netted structure attached to the bird unit with one side open to the elements. This step helps the bird adjust to the outside temperature. Once acclimated to the elements, graduates are placed in a totally exposed netted area. There birds “hunt” for their own food and water, strategically positioned by staff and volunteers.
It takes two weeks for most species to go from naked to release, when all the benchmarks are met, according to Boyens.
About 3,000 rescues go though the Wildlife Center every year. They come from all over the West Coast, from California and Oregon to Washington. The closest wildlife centers to PAWS are Arlington and Friday Harbor.
These compromised critters are brought in by people who find them injured or in danger.
Care then falls on three full-time and four part-time wildlife care specialists, two veterinarians and two technicians backed up by interns, 450 volunteers and a naturalist.
When you find a wild thing
PAWS wildlife experts suggest taking the following steps when you find a wild bird that needs rescuing:
1. Determine if the bird needs rescuing. If it is in danger, in the middle of the road or has been injured it needs human help.
2. Make note of the bird’s markings and colorings. Look for stripes on the face; wing, beak and feet color. Take a photo of the bird with your cell phone.
3. Call PAWS 425-412-4040. From your description, or photo, they will be able to tell you the type of bird you have discovered and can give you instructions over the phone.
More tips are available at