Tag Archive | wildlife rehabilitation

Shoveler Rescue

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For several weeks this fall and winter there was an injured Northern Shoveler in an ever-shrinking bit of open water on a pond in Shawnessy in SW Calgary. Kathleen Moors, who has been a steward at that pond for six years, first saw the duck on December 14. As the ice closed in, she wanted to arrange a rescue, and I directed her to a couple of the local wildlife rehabilitation organizations.

Northern Shoveler on South Fish Creek Pond. Photo by Kathleen Moors

I also put Kathleen in touch with Rodney Nicholson, who had some equipment that would be useful in a rescue attempt. (Rodney had found a distressed Canada Goose on a pond in Airdrie on November 27, and he heroically fed it and re-opened the hole in the ice for it daily, until it was strong enough to fly off, which it did just before Christmas.)

Here is Kathleen’s first blog post about the Shoveler.

That seemed to be the end of the story, but there is much more, as you can read in her second blog post here.

It’s an amazing story of dedication, and Kathleen, Rodney and the others are to be commended for their efforts.

Local birders, who are out in the field a lot, should familiarize themselves with the two organizations below. Keep their phone numbers in your contacts so you can call if you have any questions about an injured animal.

Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society

Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation

Pinned Robin

Posted by Bob Lefebvre.

In May 2006, before I was a serious birder (and before I had a digital camera), I saw an American Robin in my yard with an unusual blue spot on its back.


On closer inspection, the blue spot turned out to be the plastic head of a long metal pin that passed right through the bird’s body.

IMG_0003 trimmed

If you look closely at the above photos you can see the pin protruding from the robin’s breast. Here is a better look at the front of the bird.


I called the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, and they said if I could capture it I should bring it in. But I wasn’t able to get close enough to it to capture it. The bird could fly and feed normally, and appeared healthy. I even watched it evade a feral cat once. The robin was in the vicinity of our yard for a week.

It may be a little hard to tell from these photos, but the pin was not just through the feathers but right through the centre of the bird.

I’ve always wondered what this pin was and how it got in the robin. At first I thought it might be a tracking device, but it looks like an ordinary pin. Was it pushed through the bird by someone? Shot at it? Someone speculated that perhaps it was pushed through the egg and the bird grew around it! I haven’t seen a pin quite like it – does anyone recognize this type or have any idea how this could have happened?


Over the course of the week, the pin gradually worked out the back of the bird so the head was about two inches from its back. Then I never saw it again, or if I did, it was pin-less.


Help for Wildlife Rehabilitation

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For twenty years, the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) has been rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife and releasing them back into the wild.  Eighty percent of the animals they deal with are birds.  Soon the lease on their land near Madden, north of Calgary, is ending, and they have to move to a new location.  In addition to the ongoing costs of operation, relocating is a huge undertaking which may include moving the existing buildings to the new location and reclaiming the current site.  Consequently, they are trying to raise $250,000 this year.  AIWC has always relied on donations but they need your help now more than ever.

Impaled American Robin.

Please visit the AIWC website and donate if you can.  They are also hoping to increase their membership and they have many volunteer opportunities available.  They currently need volunteers for information tables at local events.  See the “Volunteering” and “Support AIWC” pages on their website.

Please help to support this worthy cause, so that AIWC can continue its valuable rehabilitative work and educational programs.

Gus Yaki with sick or injured Ring-billed Gull.

Rescuing Wild Birds

Last time I posted about a sick Ring-billed Gull found in Fish Creek Park (see post).  I wondered if it would have been accepted at any of the local wildlife rehabilitation centres. 

Ring-billed Gulls, which were in trouble in the early twentieth century, have been increasing in numbers and expanding their breeding range ever since they were given protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty in 1916.  They lay one to four eggs (more usually two or three), and have an unusually high hatch rate of nearly 80%.  It takes three years to reach breeding age, and a typical lifespan is ten to fifteen years.  So even though they do have a high rate of loss of young birds, the population has grown to the point where they are now the most common gull in North America, and are considered by many to be a pest that needs management.

Adult Ring-billed Gull in Valleyview Park Pond, SE Calgary, 2007

Nevertheless, it turns out that two of the local wildlife rehabilitation centres that I contacted would accept an injured or sick Ring-billed Gull.  The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC), located north of the city near Madden, accepts all bird species except House Sparrows and European Starlings, non-native birds which are considered to be invasive.  The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (CWRS), located in northwest Calgary, will accept any wildlife but discourages people from bringing in Rock Pigeons and Richardson’s Ground Squirrels.  The AIWC will send a volunteer to pick up wildlife, but you have to bring the animal in to the CWRS.

These organizations, and others like them across the province, take sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife and rehabilitate them, if possible, for return to the wild.  They typically are volunteer-based and include veterinarians and experts in wildlife rehabilitation.

If you find a bird or other animal in distress, it is important first to be able to recognize if it is really injured or orphaned, or behaving normally, and second, to be able to handle it safely.  The above organizations have excellent information about this on their websites, which is well worth reading for any birder.  If you think you might want to use these services, keep their phone numbers handy and know what to do if you find an injured bird.

I asked the AIWC if there are times in the year when they are so busy that taking common birds like Ring-billed Gulls might put too much of a strain on their resources, but they assured me that although it does get very busy sometimes, they never refuse any animal and always manage to properly look after them all.  If you find an injured bird, it is up to you if you want to pursue rescuing it.

All of the wildlife rehabilitation organizations rely heavily on volunteers, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved if you are interested in helping.  They also have regular open houses and give presentations to inform the public about their work.  AIWC recently spoke to the Bird Studies Group of Nature Calgary.

Blackjack, a Swainson’s Hawk used by AIWC in their educational presentations, at the Bird Studies Group meeting.

Here are links to the websites of some local wildlife rehabilitation organizations.

Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation

Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society

Cochrane Ecological Institute

Medicine River Wildlife Centre

Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association

Posted by Bob Lefebvre