Marg Sapp, operator of Wild Wings, a bird rescue effort in Hazel Park, checks in on the birds at her pigeon sanctuary, Louie’s Loft. Sapp is a veterinary technician who started the nonprofit in 2015. She and her volunteers have saved more than 5,000 birds to date.

Marg Sapp, operator of Wild Wings, a bird rescue effort in Hazel Park, checks in on the birds at her pigeon sanctuary, Louie’s Loft. Sapp is a veterinary technician who started the nonprofit in 2015. She and her volunteers have saved more than 5,000 birds to date.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Wild Wings continues mission to rescue birds in need

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published April 13, 2023

 One of the recent arrivals at Wild Wings is this young pigeon found in Birmingham. People bring her birds from all over the tri-county area.

One of the recent arrivals at Wild Wings is this young pigeon found in Birmingham. People bring her birds from all over the tri-county area.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


HAZEL PARK — You come across a baby bird that has fallen from its nest. You see the creature crying on the ground, and you want to help. But what do you do?

Oftentimes, the best bet for the bird’s survival is in the care of an experienced rescue such as Wild Wings, a licensed nonprofit in Hazel Park that bills itself as the only songbird-specific rehabilitation center in Oakland County.

The group is run by Marg Sapp, a veterinary technician operating out of her Hazel Park home. She started rescuing birds in 2010 as a subpermittee under a licensed rehabber, Teresa Smelser. She then opened Wild Wings in 2015.

Sapp has permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She is also a certified wildlife rehabilitator with the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.

“I couldn’t believe it, the way we took off,” Sapp said. “We just kept growing and growing.”

During their eight years so far, her team has rescued more than 5,000 birds across 32 species. The busy season is typically May to September. Usually, 95% of the birds each year are babies while the other 5% are birds with migratory injuries, cat bites and illnesses.

In addition to songbirds, Wild Wings also accepts woodpeckers, corvids and doves, and even has a pigeon sanctuary called Louie’s Loft. The group no longer accepts woodcocks or cranes but can advise on those situations and also collaborates with other rescues.

“We don’t get these animals into care because something is going right in their life,” Sapp said. “Even if it’s as simple as a baby bird falling out of their nest, that’s a big deal — it opens up a whole chain of events that could go wrong besides just the fall. There are predators and cars and kids. Falling on hot cement or cold wet grass, or into a swimming pool isn’t good.

“With the exception of a few species of waterfowl, if the baby falls out of a nest, then that’s it — a parent can’t get it back up into the nest. If it’s a fledgling, they leap to the ground on purpose, but if it’s a nestling, all the mom can do is try to protect it on the ground.”

However, she said that contrary to popular belief, most birds don’t have a keen sense of smell, so if you’re gentle and carefully scoop up the bird, you may be able to place it back in its nest, and the parents will find it. You could also put a clean cloth in a basket that will drain water, and nest it there, and then place it in a tree nearby where the parents can find it.

But whatever you do, don’t risk climbing the tree or doing anything dangerous. In most cases, Sapp said it’s usually best to just call or text Wild Wings.


Helping at home and as a volunteer

For transporting a baby bird, use a soft cloth to gently pick it up in both hands, as though you’re scooping water, and then place the bird in an open container such as a box, paper bag or Tupperware. It’s important to keep a baby bird warm since it has a body temperature of 110 degrees, so even 80 degrees can feel cold to it. Consider placing its container on a heating pad set to low, or next to a bottle full of hot water for radiant warmth. Keeping the bird in a dark place also helps since birds settle at night and darkness has a calming effect.

Sapp emphasized that you shouldn’t try to feed a bird or give it water. Giving the bird water can drown it, since it can’t swallow liquids yet. And it might not be able to digest what you feed it if you don’t know its species-specific diet. Birds should never be given milk of any kind.

Sapp currently has more than a dozen volunteers and is recruiting with hopes of reaching a team of 30. The volunteer requirements are one two-hour shift per week, one deep cleaning project per season, and helping out at one event such as the annual Hazel Park Art Fair.

Those interested in helping out can email Sapp at

“We have a very high volunteer retention rate, so I think the people who’ve been here awhile like what they’re getting out of it, and when the newcomers meet them, they really connect with that,” Sapp said.

The babies get fed hourly — sometimes more — from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, and the youngest are kept in indoor caging until they reach their fledgling age, at which point they’re moved to aviaries outside where they learn how to eat on their own and how to fly up and down, which are separate skills. Usually, it takes several weeks for them to reach maturity so that they can be set free.

It’s a lot of work and can get emotional, but Sapp said it’s also deeply fulfilling.

“One of the things I tell new volunteers is we have one of the highest survival rates in Michigan and we’re really proud of that, hovering between 70-80% depending on the time of the year. Still, when you get 700-900 birds, the 20% that don’t make it is still a couple hundred, sadly,” Sapp said. “Losing certain kinds of birds hits different people harder. I especially don’t like to lose blue jays and pigeons, for example. Everyone, I think, has those situations. I let them know that if they need to cry, then cry — I get it. But also, don’t lose sight of all the good we’re doing.”

Laura Munroe has volunteered with Wild Wings for three years. This is her first year as the head volunteer, responsible for coordinating the rest of the staff.

“I put in a lot of hours the past couple years because I loved it so much, and when Marg talked to me about the opportunity of stepping up, I was really excited,” Munroe said. “It’s definitely still a learning experience for me, but I think the main thing is meeting new volunteers, making sure that everyone is properly trained and feels welcome and prepared, and then making sure that we’re all showing up for a shift or two, so that the shifts can all be filled.

“I think the experience is a little different for everyone, but for myself, I definitely feel like we’re giving these birds a chance,” Munroe said. “When they come to us, they might not make it, but at least they will be warm, they will be full, and they will have a fighting chance. And that makes me feel good as someone who has always loved animals and nature. It’s hard to describe the connection you feel when you get to feed and care for such a small helpless animal. It makes you appreciate the life all around us.”


Other ways to help

Sapp said her organization is doing OK in terms of supplies. Wild Wings could always use more incubators, but those tend to be costly. The group secured funding for the pigeon loft last year, and major aviary repairs were made, as well.

Wild Wings is run 100% on donations and does not receive government or grant funding. Donations can be made at the website,, or via PayPal or Venmo. There are also supply wish lists posted online for Amazon and Chewy shoppers.

“I think people tend to panic (when) finding baby birds, especially when they’re naked and vulnerable, and people don’t know where they came from,” Sapp said. “Again, we don’t get them because something is going right, but without us being here, there would be much greater loss. So, it’s rewarding to know that you can kind of flip that coin, and you’re giving these birds a second, third or fourth chance. We can at least try to make it right.

“And it’s wonderful to see all these birds start out naked and ambiguous, and then mature into something cool,” she said. “We even see a difference in the kinds of birds around here. When my husband and I first moved here, there were few blue jays or woodpeckers, but now they’re all over.”

Alissa Sullivan, a member of the Hazel Park City Council and lifelong advocate for animals, said she has a deep appreciation for Wild Wings.

“They’re a huge resource for our community, and we’re so lucky to have them,” Sullivan said. “Many communities don’t have places to refer people to when they have animals in need, so it’s great that Marg decided to set up shop here in Hazel Park.

“Also, a big part of what she does is education and outreach, which is one of the best resources that any community can receive, because it empowers people to be able to handle unexpected situations themselves,” she said. “They always participate in our Art Fair, for example. We always reserve space for our nonprofits, and Wild Wings is always one of them.”

Sullivan said it’s a cause worth supporting.

“Wild Wings run completely on donations, and it’s all self-funded. If people are looking to help, they’re always accepting donations. I would really encourage everyone to support them if they can. You never know when you’ll need Marg to help you with a little baby bird.”

For more information, search “Wild Wings” on Facebook, or visit

If you find a bird in need, call Sapp at (248) 701-2523. A text message is the fastest way to reach her. She will then provide directions on how to deliver the bird.