Behind the Grid. In the Bird Sanctuary.

In the bird sanctuary many of the injured or otherwise handicapped birds live in enclosures. Behind the grid. Like these two Blue Jays, siblings brought up by humans since they were nestlings. And then abandoned. They don’t know they are birds, and cannot manage in the wild despite best rehabilitation efforts. They always return to their little row house in the sanctuary. It’s home.

two blue jays scbsThe Seabird Sanctuary here on Florida’s west coast is the largest non-profit wild bird hospital/sanctuary in the US.  On average, 15-20 injured birds are brought into their medical facility on a daily basis, and up to 5,000 are admitted annually. Unfortunately about 90% of their injuries are related to human activity.

snowy egrets SCBS

Luckily most of these birds (over 80%) only stay here for a little while. First in the hospital and then, if required, in observation and rehabilitation. Once healed, they are released back into the wild, usually in the same area where they were found. All baby birds born in the facility are also released into the wild as soon as they have gained independence.

young great blue heron SCBSBut quite a number of birds have injuries that make it impossible for them to live in the wild. They’ve lost parts of their wings and can no longer fly, they are blind or partly blind, or have injuries to their bill so they can no longer fetch food. Birds with a permanent handicap are offered a forever home here, or in another reputable facility.  Like these pelicans who enjoy splashing in the many small swimming pools. Or just floating around on a lazy afternoon.

pelican bath SCBS GThe oldest permanent resident is a Red-shouldered Hawk. She is blind in one eye, and almost blind in the other. She is over 20 years old, and has called this sanctuary home for quite a while. She lives in her little studio apartment, but is also able to enjoy the park and the beach thanks to a volunteer, who comes and takes her for regular outings.

Red-shouldered hawk scbsred-shouldered hawk on outing scbsThe day of my latest visit her human friend had just arrived. She turned around towards the back door in anticipation of her walk. barred owl SCBS G2And it was a great outing. The weather was fabulous, and I could see how much this old hawk enjoyed it.

Among the residents there are also two owls. They have wing and eye injuries, but are well taken care of here.The Barred Owl insisted on sitting in the attic so I only got a shaky portrait of him. But the Great-horned Owl was very curious about me (or the camera?) and posed nicely for a picture.

great-horned owl 2 SCBSThere are many other residents, like this Cormorant, who all have large and remarkably clean enclosures.

cormorant at scbsIn the surrounding park, I found other birds, old and young, who call the sanctuary home. Like this old Black-crowned Night Heron who was waiting for lunch time right in front of the hospital building when I arrived. And this buffed up youngster on the roof of the education center.

old black-crowned night heron at scbsjuvenile blackcrowned night heron An old American Vulture also hangs around in the park. He might be a former patient, who just feels comfortable staying close by.

american black vulture at SCBS I have made it a habit to visit this sanctuary every now and then. Just to offer little support as I don’t have the time to volunteer. They depend solely on donations, and you can imagine the amount of food that is needed here on a daily basis. And medicine, medical supplies, materials for the “homes” and equipment to keep the place clean and comfortable. Wonderful work by staff, volunteers and caring donors.

I wish you all a great week ahead.

This post is also my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge “Grid”. You can find other responses here.

52 thoughts on “Behind the Grid. In the Bird Sanctuary.”

    1. Thank you! It is a great place to visit, and see how these permanently injured birds still enjoy their life. The pelicans really made me smile.

    1. Thank you Amy! It’s wonderful to visit there, and know that when I find an injured bird on my walks (like the little tern with a fish hook) there is a great place to take them to.

    1. Thanks Cyndi. They have full medical facilities, including surgery, and it’s impressive how many birds they can rehabilitate back into the wild.

  1. This is such a great thing for the birds. I like to visit injured birds too, Tiny, it’s humbling and mindful, and is also a good way to study birds that we often cannot see up close. Wonderful of you to give them support.

    1. I agree, Jet, it is humbling to see these birds, and amazing how they still enjoy their life. The pelicans, for example, were very playful. They played “stick games” with each other, and splashed water around in the pools 🙂

  2. Tremendous post, Tiny!!! Does my Heart so good to know there are people in this world who really care about birds. Fantastic photos, my friend. The third photo down, no matter how long I looked at it, looks as if the bird’s legs are those of a man. Am I seeing things? Please, help me out here! LOL (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

    1. Thank you Amy. These people do wonders! You’re right, the young Blue Heron’s legs look like a person’s legs. This one was there for rehabilitation. I think her thighs were swollen (they have thick brown thighs anyway and the water makes the legs look shorter). If you look carefully underwater, she has white bandages around her ankles.

  3. “An old American Vulture also hangs around in the park. He might be a former patient, who just feels comfortable staying close by.”

    You are more “optimistic” than me, Tiny. I bet he’s hanging around to see if any of the residents expire. 😛

    There’s a similar sanctuary at the Mote Aquarium in Sarasota. SOS ~ Save Our Seabirds.

  4. Thanks for sharing these great photos and all this info about the Sanctuary. I’ve visited the Sanctuary in the Keys, and felt the same way about the wonderful dedication of the staff and volunteers. And thanks, too, for the link. Now I know where it is, and can make a visit when I’m on the west coast.

    1. I hope you can visit when you come this way. I’ve visited a few times, and have decided to do it even more in the future. It’s incredible how many birds they treat and release every year, wonderful work.

  5. Wonderful post Tiny! So good to see how these birds are being cared for, and that there are people out there who really care about conserving our wildlife. Thanks for sharing the work of this sanctury in Florida. I love your great photos also, which show such a variaty of birds cared for. It must have been a delightful opportunity to walk through this facility and see how these creatures are cared for, without profit but made possible by generous donors:-)

    1. Happy you enjoyed the visit. When I last visited on a Sunday couple of weeks back, there were several volunteers caring for the enclosures and bird homes. It was wonderful to see. And the birds clearly still enjoy their life, many were playing around and splashing in the pools 🙂

      1. It is good that birds ca still enjoy being enclosed because they are well cared for, and quite essential in many cases if they are injured or sick to peptic them from raptors and vultures etc

  6. The people who work with these birds in the sancturay are very special, and it is ashame that 90% of their injuries are our fault. I do love owls, they have a special energy for me.

    1. They are special indeed. Young guys in their early 20s were cleaning the enclosures when I visited on a Sunday morning. They were not sleeping away a hangover from Saturday night parties, like many others. I’m sure they had been volunteering with their parents in their teens already. The two owls are wonderful. They also participate in classes for school children 🙂

    1. It is sad. Boating and fishing are big things here, as you can imagine, and that’s when many of these accidents happen with the seabirds. Sometimes pure negligence on the part of the humans involved.

    1. Yes, it is. Such a great majority of the “patients” return healthy to their own environment, and the permanently injured are cared for with lots of compassion.

  7. So that’s what a cormorant looks like up close! Wow! I can’t get over how detailed its feather patterns are… That’s an amazing picture, Tiny! I also love the old black-crowned night heron and the great-horned owl. What wonderful, important work this sanctuary does.

    1. From a distance the cormorants just look brownish-black, I have only seen one from this close before. The feather pattern is beautiful. That old night heron knew exactly where the food comes from and was waiting for lunch, he lives there, but not in an enclosure. The GHO has wing injury and can’t fly, but is very alert and follows his environment…all of these birds are so well taken care of.

  8. Great series of photos – and I wonder the further and further humans encapsulate themselves in the world of technology the more we forget about the real world and nature, to a point where we can no longer return just like the birds you mention in your opening shot. However, what a service this sanctuary is to give these birds a little bit of both.

    1. Thought-provoking…I see people all the time walking to the beach on the trail across the salt marsh clued to their cell phones, not looking around, not seeing or hearing the birds, not even glancing at the beauty around them. This sanctuary also has educational programs where children can learn about birds and even volunteer when they get to their teens. It was good to see many young people in their early 20s volunteering there…little balance. Have a wonderful week, Randall.

  9. Hienoja kuvia. Nauratti toi haikara joka oli käärinyt housunlahkeet ylös niin että ne pulleat sääret (reidet?) näkyi. Vai oliko se vamma niiin että sillä olis pitänyt olla höyheniä jaloissa? Sitten se ei tietenkään olis yhtä huvittavaa.

    1. Silla oli ilmeisesti saaret vahan turvoksissa kun silla oli valkoiset tuet nilkoissa (jos katsot veden alta), mutta ei niilla ole enempaa hoyhenia jaloissa, ja saarilihakset on voimakkaat.

  10. Hello! What a lovely thing this sanctuary is doing. I’m happy that the birds are being cared for and will have an opportunity to be free. I’m a little sad for the ones that can’t leave, but I know they are lucky to be there and are in good hands. Thanks for sharing! ❤

    1. Thanks Vashti! I agree that it is little a sad that some of these birds become permanent residents, but I’ve seen they are really well taken care of, and still enjoy their lives ❤

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