Spring is coming, and so is baby bird season

Local songbird rehabilitation nonprofit Featherhaven is looking for volunteers this season.

Featherhaven, a local nonprofit devoted to caring for sick and injured songbirds, is looking for volunteers for the coming spring.

April is the start of baby bird season, said Kelley Ward, director, so that’s when things start getting really busy, and don’t let up until late August.

The organization was founded July 2014. By 2016, Featherhaven cared for 185 birds, and the number has grown exponentially since then.

“In 2018 we received 435 birds, which is about a 33 percent increase over 2017,” Ward said in an email interview. “I fully expect we will exceed 500 birds this year.”

Featherhaven is entirely volunteer-run, and all donations go toward food — live insects and mealworms, of which approximately 2 million were bought last year — and medical costs.

Treating sick and injured birds is not easy, especially if the goal is getting them back into the wild.

One of the biggest challenges is preventing baby birds from imprinting on their human caretakers; eye contact must be avoided, as well as talking to them.

Another is making sure these birds successfully learn lessons they would normally get from their parents, like foraging for food and even singing the correct songs.

“You have to watch that you’re not placing a robin next to a song sparrow, because they’re going to learn the wrong song,” Featherhaven volunteer Susan Quinzel said in a 2016 interview. “When it comes to breeding time, and they’re out there trying to find a mate, they’re attracting sparrows and wondering ‘why all these sparrows coming to me?’”

Feeding can also be a frenzy of activity; baby birds need to be fed every 15 minutes from first light to dark.

But new volunteers don’t have to worry about taking on these tasks, at least at first.

“Everybody starts with kitchen duties, learning how to care for our live insects and preparing diets, supplements, etc., and then you can graduate to actually helping with hands-on care of the birds,” Ward said. “We will provide the training.”

Volunteers are expected to work a minimum of four hours a week, from May 1 through August 31, and must be 18 or older to apply.

Besides that, “you just need to bring a caring heart and a willingness to be a team player,” Ward said.

There are three open orientation dates — March 20 from 6 to 8 p.m., March 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and March 24 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Registration is required, and can be completed by emailing fhvolsvccor@gmail.com or calling 253-350-5792.

Featherhaven’s address will be given to orientation attendees after registration.

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