Birds are PAWS' most frequent fliers
CHRIS GOODENOW / For the Herald
An American robin eagerly accepts food from a pair of tweezers June 24 at PAWS in Lynnwood.
CHRIS GOODENOW / For the Herald
PAWS volunteer Kendall McLean (right) feeds and rehabilitates a crow as Kaitlin Hulce (background) tends to black-capped chickadees June 24 at PAWS in Lynnwood.
But birds make up the majority of the animals treated at the nonprofit.
About 65 percent of the animals that go through the center each year are birds.
This summer, Kaitlin Hulce came from Connecticut to intern at PAWS. She has been attached to the wild bird area, feeding babies milliliter by milliliter with eye droppers, taking fledglings out to stretch their wings, and shepherding mischievous adolescent crows.
And extra hands like Hulce's are needed.
Wildlife volunteer program manager Frances Boyens, who lives in Edmonds, estimates that over the busy summer months more than 600 birds of 260 species are treated.
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 songbirds 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 before they can be released, when all the benchmarks are met, Boyens said.
About 3,000 rescues go though the Wildlife Center every year. They come from all over the West Coast.
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.
If you find a wild thing
PAWS wildlife experts suggest taking the following steps when you find a wild bird that needs rescuing:
n 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.
n 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 cellphone.
n 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 www.PAWS.org.
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