Residents should contact  local certified wildlife rehabber Wild Wings if they find a baby bird, or an injured or sick bird.

Residents should contact local certified wildlife rehabber Wild Wings if they find a baby bird, or an injured or sick bird.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Wild Wings to hold workshops on saving birds

Presentations at Hazel Park District Library April 27, Red Oaks Nature Center May 11

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 12, 2019


HAZEL PARK/MADISON HEIGHTS — With spring in full swing, baby birds will be hatching, and some may fall from their nests. What do you do if you come across such a helpless creature?

Wild Wings — the only songbird-specific rehabilitation center in Oakland County — will be holding two discussions on this very topic. The presentations are titled “Flying Free Again.”

The first will be held at at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Hazel Park District Library, 123 E. Nine Mile Road in Hazel Park. The second event will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at the Red Oaks Nature Center, 30300 Hales St. in Madison Heights. The event at the library is free; the event at the Red Oaks Nature Center will cost $3 to attend.

Wild Wings is a licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofit run by Marg Sapp, a veterinary technician at the Animal Medical Center of Troy, 994 W. South Blvd. in Rochester Hills. She has permits from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She is also a certified wildlife rehabilitator from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.

Sapp operates out of her home in Hazel Park, where she has an indoor aviary and three outdoor aviaries. She started her work as a sub-permittee under another licensed rehabber in 2010. She opened Wild Wings in 2015, and between 2016 and 2017, she and her volunteers rescued more than 1,000 birds.

Sapp said that if you find a baby bird, the first thing you want to do is keep it warm and dry — baby birds have a body temperature of around 110 degrees, so even 80 degrees can feel cold.

She recommended using a soft cloth to gently scoop up the bird in both hands, as though you were scooping water. Place it in a container such as a box, paper bag or Tupperware. You can keep the bird warm by placing the container on a heating pad set to low, or by setting it next to a bottle full of hot water for warmth.

Keeping the bird in a dark place also helps. The darkness has a calming effect since birds settle down at night.

Sapp emphasized that you shouldn’t try to feed or give water to the bird. 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. And one should never give a bird milk.

You will want to get it to a licensed rehabber as soon as possible. And you’ll want to find a way to deliver it yourself: Rehabbers often have full-time jobs and are busy feeding birds around the clock — Sapp even takes them to work in an incubator so she and her co-workers can feed them.

If you’re unable to deliver the bird right away, Sapp and other rehabbers will be happy to give you instructions by phone or text on what to do in the meantime.

The babies get fed hourly — sometimes more — from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. The youngest are kept in indoor caging until they reach their fledgling age, at which point they’re moved outside to learn how to eat on their own and how to fly up and down, which are separate skills.

It usually takes several weeks for them to reach maturity so they can be released into the wild. From May to September, Wild Wings focuses on baby birds, since the nonprofit now receives more than 600 birds a year, and 95 percent of them are babies. The other 5 percent are birds with migratory injuries, cat bites and illnesses. The group also accepts doves, pigeons, woodpeckers, crows, jays, nighthawks and woodcock. However, the group cannot accept hummingbirds, swifts, swallows, waterfowl/shorebirds, game birds or raptors.

The presentations will go into greater detail on what to do if you find a baby bird or a bird that is injured or sick. There will also be more information about Wild Wings’ story, a chance to meet the people who run it, and also a meet-and-greet with Lucy Lou (also known as Louie) and Sheldon — the rescue’s mascot pigeons.

Amy Beem, a librarian at the Hazel Park District Library, said it will be a valuable event for the entire community.

“There are many injured birds and animals out there that are not getting help,” Beem said. “Marg is providing a phenomenal service to the community and the environment by rescuing these birds and taking care of them until they are ready to be released. She can educate the community about what she does and hopefully gain volunteers that are needed. It’s also a fun program for the kids to see birds up close and know what to do if they find an injured bird.”

It’s around this time of the year when the rescue’s real work begins.

“We have not gotten any babies (as of April 7). I expect to by the end of the month,” Sapp said. “Please get the (baby, sick or injured) bird to a warm and dry container. Do not feed or give water of any kind. And call me or text me as soon as possible.”

Sapp said the rescue is doing great overall, beating all prior years’ intakes last year, with a total of nearly 640 birds, maintaining the rescue’s survival rate of 87 percent.

“Wild Wings makes just enough to run, and as of right now, no birds coming in means no money coming in. We do not have extra money. It costs about $15,000 a year to run,” Sapp said. “We’d love to get a building, as we’re outgrowing my house. However, it looks like we might need to get a donor or a larger sponsor — or get lucky and earn a grant — to make that dream happen. This is because we don’t make enough to be able to save for a down payment.

“Right now, our focus is to restock everything we can so we can be ready once the babies hit, as our supplies were all used up last year,” she said. “We have no paid staff; I do not get paid; we do not get any type of funding from any government agency. All of our money comes from donations. Literally every dollar counts.”

Wild Wings is currently holding an online “baby shower” to help stock up on needed supplies. To see the baby registry, visit ama, click on “Accounts & Lists,” then “Baby Registry,” then search “Wild Wings” and select “Wild Wings Bird Rehab.”

If you find a bird in need, contact Marg Sapp at Wild Wings at (248) 701-2523. Text message is the fastest way to reach her. For more information, look up Wild Wings on Facebook.