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15 Things I Learned Volunteering at the Wildlife Rescue Clinic

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I volunteered more than 25 hours at Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico last month, including 10 hours of classroom training, 15 hours of on the job training in the clinic, and a few more hours studying their training manual and taking the open book exam. I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned in those several hours, things I wouldn’t have likely learned elsewhere. Here’s my list of top 15 things I DID NOT KNOW before my volunteer adventure, and not in any particular order.  Did YOU know?

  1. Of the yearly 2000 intakes, most are injured, sick, or orphaned birds (as opposed to mammals).
  2. Baby ducklings get lonely easily and need a mirror in their tub so their reflection will keep them company; they also need a stuffed animal to snuggle up to for warmth.
  3. Baby birds don’t do well when fed applesauce or oatmeal; they can’t process the food.
  4. Most birds don’t do well when fed dog food or cheerios; they can’t process the food.
  5. Females rule the raptor world, whereas males are larger than females in other bird species.
  6. White doves used for release during ceremonies (i.e. weddings or funerals) are actually white homing pigeons, but they don’t all make it back home; some suffer from car and window strikes or hungry hawks.
  7. Domesticated birds, including white homing pigeons, cannot fend for themselves in the wild.
  8. Birds need a dark quiet place to rest and relax for several hours before being looked at for treatment; this reduces their anxiety.
  9. Birds being cared for in the clinic need a towel placed in front of their cage so they don’t see what’s going on in the clinic; this also reduces their anxiety.
  10. Baby ducklings need to be warm during the first few weeks after they hatch and can be kept in a box under a brooding lamp.
  11. According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), it is illegal to collect bird feathers or nests of protected species without a permit.
  12. It’s easier to catch and weigh a bird (not including Raptors) by covering their head with a light weight towel or wash cloth; they are more calm when they can’t see what’s going on around them.
  13. 33% of injured birds are cat-caught, meaning they are injured because they were caught by a house cat in the area.
  14. Birds abandoning their babies after being handled by humans is a myth; birds don’t abandon their babies if handled by humans (i.e. placed back up in the nest they fell out of).
  15. Caretakers must go to great lengths to avoid imprinting young birds because birds that have imprinted on humans are unsuitable for release back into the wild.

Haven’t had the chance to volunteer for a wildlife rescue facility?  Take a look at my personal experience  and see if this doesn’t have you seeking out an opportunity for yourself!

 

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Why I Decided to Volunteer at a Wildlife Rescue Clinic

I stumbled across a Time Off Community Support Grant Program application form at work one day and was surprised to learn that I could apply for a one-week grant of paid time off to support the community in which I work; this an important part of my company’s commitment to their employees and the community.

I perused the application to see what kind of information was requested and immediately started researching various local organizations that I might want to use my grant to volunteer with. And it didn’t take long before I answered that question: Wildlife Rescue Inc. of New Mexico! Why? Because they also have an intensive volunteer program to help injured or sick BIRDS!

I knew immediately that dedicating one week of service to this organization would dramatically improve my ability to care for the birds in our certified wildlife habitat. It would also give me a chance to volunteer for a cause I am passionate about and give back to my community. It seemed like a Win-Win situation so I submitted my application.

That was several weeks ago and am still waiting to hear the Board’s decision. In the meantime, I took a tour of the wildlife clinic (located at the Rio Grande Nature Center) a few weeks ago and began the open-book exam required for handling birds. I also attended the first training session just yesterday. With some other 100 individuals (of all ages), I spent 5 hours at the clinic learning about how the clinic operates and meeting some of their education birds. 

Just look at these amazing pictures.  These beautiful birds were all rescued by the organization, but are not releasable into the wild due to some permanent injury.  Because the organization has a permit to hold birds for education purposes, these birds live at the clinic and are used for educating the public about co-existing with local wildlife and what to do if an animal or bird is injured or sick.

I was impressed by the complexity of the organization and all that goes on behind the scenes to protect our local wildlife and birds!  More importantly, I was impressed to learn that this organization is 100% supported by volunteers.  There are no paid staff. (Wow!)

I’m waiting to hear the results of my open-book exam and am hoping I pass with flying colors because next Saturday I will attend the hands-on training session at the clinic. I can’t wait!

And, I’m curious, as a bird-lover, where do YOU volunteer and what’s been YOUR experience?

 

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