Freedom haven offers help to feathered friends

Posted Aug. 26, 2012, at 2:21 p.m.
The top and bottom birds in the photo are the two chimney swifts rescued by a Hope couple and which are now being cared for at Avian Haven in Freedom.
Glori Berry
The top and bottom birds in the photo are the two chimney swifts rescued by a Hope couple and which are now being cared for at Avian Haven in Freedom.

FREEDOM, Maine — Two chimney swifts who were abandoned in an unoccupied house in Waldoboro have some human friends who are the wind beneath their wings.

The two baby birds were found last week by real estate broker Rick Whelan of Hope while he was showing a house in Waldoboro, according to his wife Carole Whelan.

She said apparently the birds fell down the chimney where their mother had made the nest and left them.

The couple returned and recovered the baby birds and took them to Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom.

“They perform miraculous rescues all the time,” Carole Whelan said.

Diane Winn, the executive director of Avian Haven, said the two chimney swifts are just starting to fly. She said they may or may not be able to be released and migrate from Maine.

If the birds are unable to be released in Maine, they will be driven to a location in New Jersey where a large flock of chimney swifts are known to roost. That decision could be made in a week.

The chimney swifts are the latest patients of the bird rehabilitation center.

Avian Haven was created in 1999 and operates as a nonprofit organization. The bird rehabilitation center was created by Winn and her partner Marc Payne.

Winn said the birds would most likely be driven to New Jersey by Payne and the birds will be transported in a sort of portable chimney and they will be fed along the way.

The center’s annual caseload has increased from about 300 in its first full year to about 1,300 this year making it one of the largest rehabilitation centers in New England, according to Avian Haven’s website. The organization has cared for nearly 12,000 birds since it began.

The organization is funded through donations.

“It’s a calling,” Winn acknowledged during a phone interview last week.

Winn has been in the bird rehabilitation calling since 1997 while her partner has been doing this work for a lot longer, she said.

The number of chimney swifts have been in decline. Carole Whelan said the chimney swifts have adopted to human development and use the side of chimneys to roost.

Whelan said the chimney swifts migrate to the Amazon basin in South America at the end of the summer.

The national organization Driftwood Wildlife Association operates a website specifically for chimney swifts at chimneyswifts.org.

“As summer draws to a close and the swifts have finished raising their young, these fascinating aerial acrobats begin to congregate in communal roosts prior to their migration in the fall. Some roosts may consist of an extended family group of a half a dozen birds or so, but the larger sites can host hundreds or even thousands of swifts,” the swift site states.

Chimney swifts are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Rehabilitation and handling of any migratory bird requires permits from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and local state wildlife agencies.

Avian Haven has permits issued by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate wild birds.

Avian Haven has indoor infirmary space that includes a full kitchen, food supplies to meet the dietary needs of all avian species of all ages, incubators, hospital and recovery cages, two flight cages, veterinary equipment, a reference library, and a full complement of allopathic, naturopathic and homeopathic medical supplies, the rehabilitation center states on its website.

There are 14 outdoor flight cages of different sizes and shapes designed and built by Terry Heitz for a variety of species, from hummingbirds to bald eagles.

“Our current building project is an all-season facility for aquatic birds. We treat wild birds that are orphaned and/or injured, with on-site capabilities for minor veterinary procedures including X-rays; birds that require surgery are taken to a consulting veterinarian. We are not licensed to treat companion or domestic birds,” the website said.

The facilities are open during the daylight hours, 365 days a year. Avian Haven accept birds of all species from the general public, and via referrals from veterinarians, Maine wildlife biologists, Maine game wardens, animal control officers, and other Maine rehabilitators.

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