A Wildlife Rescue Center for New York CityBy RACHEL NUWER
Since 2001, over 7,000 feathered and furry vagrants have passed through a cramped apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, with screaming babies stacked above solemn old-timers and sprightly young fellows whistling aside the gravely ill. But as my colleagues Kelly Slivka and Kate Yandell report in this video, this eclectic menagerie, known as the Wild Bird Fund, has now secured a 1,300-square-foot independent space that opens on Saturday on Columbus Avenue.
“We’re trying to help make a difference, to at least have some place that kind-hearted New Yorkers can come to bring those animals when they are in distress — and they are very much in distress,” said Rita McMahon, the founder of the Wild Bird Fund and the owner of the apartment that housed ailing animals.
Until now, Ms. McMahon explained, New York City was the only major metropolis in the country without a wildlife rehabilitation center — but not for lack of need. Over 350 species of birds are native to the city or pass through it while migrating. But the urban jungle presents a host of obstacles and dangers, including tall glass buildings, cars, pollution and people. The vast majority of animals that Ms. McMahon sees are hurt or have fallen ill as a result of human activity, like getting run over by a bicycle or being exposed to lead-based paint on buildings. Life’s not easy for a little bird in the big city.
Since the Wild Bird Fund was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2005 and began publicizing its services online, more injured animals have passed through Ms. McMahon’s apartment each season. In 2005, she saw about 200 patients; this year she expects to handle more than 1,500. “Around 2009, we realized it was getting out of control — there were so many cages and cat carriers in my apartment,” she said, explaining her decision to open an official location.