When Doves Cry (Mynahs Too)

The Wild Bird Rehab Haven gets 15-20 calls a day about injured birds or lost chicks. And with baby bird season upon us, it’s looking for more human help

Yu Shing Ting
Friday - May 12, 2006
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Mary Markl with two baby finches
Mary Markl with two baby finches

When Linda Leveen rescued a baby bird nine years ago, she had no idea that it would change her life. “It was a baby dove, about the size of an egg, that I found on the sidewalk down in Chinatown,” she recalls. “There was no number to call and it took a long time for someone to help me. Finally I found a wonderful veterinarian in Mililani. After that, here I was carrying around this little baby to work because it had to be fed every two hours, and then someone else found a bird and said, ‘Here, why don’t you take this one too,’ and it just grew like that.”

From there, Leveen connected with other bird rehabbers and discovered a whole network of people in the community who are rescuing birds. However, the need was and still is greater than the help available.

So in 2003 she co-founded the Wild Bird Rehab Haven.

“We were finding birds and rehabbing them in our own apartments and getting swamped,” she explains. “We started to get to know other rehabbers and realized that everyone is just trying to take in as many birds as possible and feed them, but there’s a never-ending number of birds coming in, so we realized that we needed to develop an organization so we could draw in more volunteers.

A baby mynah is being kept warm on a heated towel at the bottom of its box
A baby mynah is being kept warm on a heated towel at
the bottom of its box

“Our goal is to have a rehab center one day, rather than have to do it out of our own homes.”

Right now, the Wild Bird Rehab Haven operates as an intake center in a “pretty small” office in Moiliili. The limited space allows them to only take in a few birds at a time. Currently, there are about 50 birds there and a couple of hundred being rehabbed at homes of volunteers.

“We get 15 to 20 calls a day,” says Leveen. “Most of the calls we try to refer out to rehabbers. And we look for rehabbers in the neighborhood or the community where the people live who found the bird.

“We have a network of about 30 rehabbers, and while we so appreciate that network, we need more. They can get filled up very quickly, especially during the baby bird season, which we’re in the middle of right now.

Linda Leveen, in blue, gives pointers to, from left, Nancy Appleton, Jan Grossetto and Katie Wheeler
Linda Leveen, in blue, gives pointers to, from left, Nancy
Appleton, Jan Grossetto and Katie Wheeler

“Also, most people can’t take 25 babies, most people can only take maybe a handful. And most are trying to juggle between work and feeding the babies and their own lives, so we always need more people to help.”

So what do you do if you find a bird in distress? According to Leveen, you want to first “very carefully” pick it up, put it in a container, cover it and let it rest.

“Generally for the common birds that we see, such as the songbirds and the doves, there’s really no harm that can come to someone who is just picking it up,” she says. “Most of them don’t bite. They might try to peck at a finger a little bit, but they don’t have those strong beaks that hook-bills or parrots have, so generally they’re going to be pretty easy to pick up.”

Linda Leveen with an injured pigeon
Linda Leveen with an injured

Next, you want to keep the bird warm by putting it on a heating pad, routinely checking that it’s not too hot but warm enough.

“If the bird opens its beak and is breathing hard, then move it partially off the heating pad, but they need to keep it warm,” advises Leveen. “Other ways of keeping it warm would be heating a towel in a microwave or hot water bottles, but those are more temporary because those will cool down in time where the heating pad is more consistent.”

It’s also important to hydrate the bird as most birds found are very stressed and very dehydrated. Leveen suggests using a sugar-water mixture, Gatorade or papaya juice - something that has a form of sugar in it.

“And be very careful when you’re feeding because generally when they’re sick or stressed they are going to have trouble breathing and swallowing, and you don’t

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