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A nonprofit has rehabilitated hundreds of animals in distress

By Jim Borg
jborg@starbulletin.com

Plaintive chirps from a garbage can drew the attention of some moms and kids as they left an after-school dance class.


COURTESY JAMIE LONG
Holy Nativity School kindergartner Ariana Long holds three baby waxbills that were in a nest she saved from a garbage bin. Each day across Oahu, about 20 injured or orphaned birds are reported to the Wild Bird Rehab Haven.

If you find a wild bird

» Carefully place the bird in a covered container with air holes.

» Keep it in a quiet, warm place until you can contact a rehab volunteer or a veterinarian.

» Apply light pressure to stop any bleeding.

» Weak or injured birds usually need rehydrating. They can be given juicy bits of papaya or a thirst quencher like Gatorade.

» Baby birds without feathers need to be kept on a heating pad. Make sure there is room for the bird to move off the pad if it gets too hot.

» Questions can be directed to the Wild Bird Rehab Haven at 447-9274.

» Check their Web site, www.wildbirdrehabhaven.org, for other instructions.

There in the rubbish was an almost spherical nest of twigs, maybe 5 inches across.

"Mom, we have to help them!" insisted kindergartner Ariana Long.

Her mother, Jamie Long, carefully removed the nest from the trash. Inside were three tiny hatchlings.

Evidently the nest had fallen from a tree during the recent heavy rain, and someone, perhaps a groundskeeper or maintenance man, had simply thrown it away.

"It was a beautifully woven nest that formed a round, conelike shape," recalled Jamie Long. "It was like a piece of artwork."

The nearest veterinarian to the Kaimuki dance studio was the Pet Doctor in Kahala, where Dr. Eric Ako cut open the nest and removed three baby waxbills.

"They were so tiny and cute," said Ariana, 5, a student at Holy Nativity School in Aina Haina. "Their mouths were open and they were chirping."

But neither veterinarians nor the Hawaiian Humane Society are prepared to care for wild birds, especially babies, which require a warm, quiet place and hourly feedings.

 
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
This wedge-tail shearwater chick was coaxed out of its hiding place, a small hole under the wooden fence.

 

Enter the Wild Bird Rehab Haven, a network of about 40 volunteers who take in injured birds and hatchlings until they learn to fly.

The nonprofit organization, launched in early 2005, already has rehabilitated hundreds of birds that otherwise would have died, said its director, Linda Leveen.

The group, which is looking to expand, offers training to new volunteers and also can give instructions to people who decide to try to take care of wild birds themselves.

"So many people find birds and don't know what to do," Leveen said.

Calls for help from individuals number 20 a day, she estimated.

"Obviously, we can't take all those birds," Leveen said. "We encourage people to take care of them themselves with instructions from our Web site. We also will talk to people over the phone and give them answers, and if they absolutely can't take the bird, then we try to place it with our volunteers."

The volunteers have their limits, though. "Some can take two or three birds at a time, and some can take 10, and even then everybody is always swamped," Leveen said.

Recently, rehab volunteers have joined Black Point residents and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in caring for about 30 wedge-tail shearwater chicks abandoned in their burrows when land was cleared for development.


DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Antonio Querubin, left, and Patty Scharff with the Wild Bird Rehab Haven were among volunteers who fed about 30 shearwater chicks Saturday. The birds were left homeless when developers cleared a Black Point property.

Among them was Patty Scharff, a board member and one of the more experienced volunteers. "I do a lot of pickups and deliveries and also take care of birds in my home," she said.

The rehab haven also keeps about 25 adult birds at its offices in the University Avenue area. Since the office is not staffed regularly, the haven cannot accept drop-offs and so does not publicize its address.

Scharff picked up the three baby waxbills and placed them with volunteer Cate Waidyatilleka, an English teacher at 'Iolani School.

"They call me up when there are birds that need to be taken, and when I can, I do," Waidyatilleka said.

At the moment, she also is taking care of two other waxbills and two zebra doves.

Because the birds need to be fed every 50 minutes or so, she keeps them in her classroom on weekdays.

"I keep them on a heating pad on the side, and in between classes I feed them."

The students seem to enjoy having them around, she said.

When the seventh grade went to Waimanalo Beach on Thursday, the birds perforce went along.

"It was a little windy, but they huddled up together and were fine," Waidyatilleka said.

Her success rate in returning the birds to the wild has been excellent: So far, among dozens of birds, only one has died, she said.

"As long as you get them on heat and get them hydrated as soon as you can, they seem to do fine," she said.

Leveen sees a growing need for the network's services, and public education remains a long-term goal.

With training, volunteers can handle almost any treatment except surgery, she said. That includes assessing injuries, treating shock and dehydration, splinting broken bones, administering medications, cleaning and bandaging wounds, and performing physical therapy.

For three orphaned waxbills and hundreds of other birds, that level of dedication made all the difference.
 

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