While Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is home to characters like a blind screech owl and an American bald eagle who’s unable to fly because someone shot him, the sanctuary’s goal is not to keep the animals that come into their care. Since opening in 2016, the goal is rehab, rescue and release, and the sanctuary often relies on the public to aid in rescue missions.
“If you’re comfortable enough picking the bird up [and putting] it in a secure box or a crate, something like that, you can just bring it directly to us,” said Christina Chilbert, the business development director at the avian refuge.
When a pedestrian rescue isn’t in the cards, a team of mostly volunteer status bird enthusiasts fly into action, gloves at the ready.
The injured bird hot line receives 10,800 calls every year – with volunteers clocking an average of 3,600 rescues annually to coincide with the rising numbers of injured animals.
This year’s particularly intense case of red tide left many birds sick from toxins in the algae overload. The three-acre facility saw an influx of sick and weak animals; many came in huddled and endlessly blinking on borrowed beach towels.
“With red tide, we’ve had a lot of birds come in and we’ve had to give them fluids every couple hours to flush out the toxins,” Chilbert said.
Regardless of how or why the bird arrives, medical professionals treat it and create a treatment plan. Sometimes that requires additional fluids and fish for particularly underweight birds.
“It’s all kind of a case-by-case basis as far as what we’re going to do for each individual patient that comes in,” Chilbert told The Gabber.
And case-by-case is right, as the hospital doesn’t permit some feathery friends – namely invasive species – at all. In those cases, the sanctuary works to find other places that can aid with their survival.
“If it’s a non-native invasive species, we legally can’t re-release it back into the wild, so we have to find other sanctuaries to take those birds,”
Concerned visitors who bring the classically Florida (but nonnative) Muscovy ducks are turned away. The same goes for escaped or dumped pets.
Chilbert adds that the sanctuary runs on donations and needs “laundry detergent, bleach, apples, blueberries, grapes. We have an Amazon wish list.”
If you find a bird in crisis, call the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary at 727-391-6211 and press one.