INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – From a birds-eye view, the world down below might seem distant at times. But in their most vulnerable state, some birds see the very best of human nature.
“He’s very tall and skinny looking,” says Morgan Autrey, part of the rehab staff at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.
“If it didn’t get to us, it probably would have died,” Autrey said about many of the animals they see.
The nonprofit’s baby songbird rehabilitation program cares for several hundred orphaned and injured birds at a time. The daily feeding frenzy during baby season can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
“Make sure it goes all the way in… there, and then he’s ready for more,” said Autrey, feeding mealworms to one of the tiny new arrivals.
“Every single bird matters to me,” says Jennifer Gordon, the founder, and executive director.
“They come in, and they’re just naked, and they’re trusting. They can be blind, and they’ll open their mouths… and you can put anything you want in there,” she said.
Rehab staffers and volunteers give them a fighting chance to survive.
“It’s a good sign when they chirp like that because it means they’re hungry and ready to eat,” Autrey said, handling more babies that fit in the palm of her hand.
“His paperwork said that he fell out of the nest,” Autrey told Laurel Millachi, the songbird coordinator. “Well, there were three of them that came together. One was found dead… the mother was found dead.“
The youngest are placed in incubators right away.
“So, they all get fed, and then they’re full. Then we’re going to reset the timers and do it all again,” says Autrey.
“And once they don’t need an incubator anymore, we’ll go ahead and move them to the blue flight cages where they’ll be on 30-minute timers for feedings,” she said.
Carolina Waterfowl Rescue purchased adjoining property to expand its operations. Recently, they opened a new baby bird room at the site.
“There’s such a great need in the area for songbird rehabilitations,” Gordon told Queen City News, relating to the mission as both an animal lover and a mom. “It really invokes like a motherly instinct for me to have something that’s so completely dependent on me.”
Carolina Waterfowl Rescue needs more volunteers to feed the baby birds. No experience is necessary, and shifts are available at various times, seven days a week.
One factor that has impacted this nonprofit this year is the soaring gas prices. The pain at the pump has led to fewer volunteers for the rescue, says Gordon. It’s also made some less likely to bring in birds they might find, essentially leaving them to die. Despite that, the group here is the wind beneath the wings of thousands of birds.
“Get him started on meds, and then once those feathers grow in, he should be good to go,” said Autrey.
They’re typically nurtured for nearly two months before they graduate to the “flight room.” After a week there, it’s time for the all-important next step.
“It’s really fun to see the birds from this tiny, all the way through,” Autrey says.
“He’s going to go around, and we’re going open the screen from the outside,” Millachi told us.
It’s finally time to say, “Bye-bye, birdies.” Millachi was on hand for the release, ensuring they didn’t miss their flight. While most of the birds took flight independently, she released some of them by hand.
“We nurse them back to health, and this is the whole goal; is to get them back into the wild. It’s awesome,” says Millachi.
One by one, they take off.
“And just to see it fly away and be back to where it belongs, it’s really a good thing for us—it’s very exciting,” Autrey observed.
“No one really cares about what happens to the little birds,” says Gordon. “And they don’t realize how important a role they play in our ecosystem.”
Some lingered before leaving the site. One of them wasn’t ready yet.
“Let me have him back; I’ll put him inside. Okay, buddy!” Millachi said, taking one bird in.
22 starlings were released on this day. They emerged from that window, thanks to a compassionate flock of humans. There are no guarantees… just fingers crossed that the sky’s the limit from here.
“It’s just an awesome feeling because you saved that little bird,” Millachi says.
“That’s the last one,” she noted, with the team looking forward to releasing the next batch.