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Wild Bird Fund

Wild Bird Fund
Founded2001 (incorporated 2005)
FounderRita McMahon
Type501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization
PurposeWildlife rehabilitation
Area served
New York metropolitan area

The Wild Bird Fund is a non-profit animal hospital on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. It is the city's first and only wild animal hospital.

History and facilities

The Wild Bird Fund was founded by Rita McMahon in 2001 after she found an injured Canada goose on the side of Interstate 684. She tried to find a veterinarian to treat the bird, but none would accept wildlife. Eventually, she told a veterinary hospital that it was her pet, but by that time it was too late and the goose did not survive.[1] Upset that there was nowhere in the city to take care of wild birds, she sought out training and began operating out of her Upper West Side apartment, housing up to 60 birds at a time.[2] The Wild Bird Fund was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2005, marking the city's first licensed wildlife hospital.[3][4] It operated in McMahon's New York apartment for several years, and in a space inside a veterinary hospital, Animal General, on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan's Upper West Side.[5][2][6]

The rescue center opened its own dedicated facility across the street from Animal General on Columbus Avenue in the spring of 2012, though it still relies on neighborhood veterinarians for some specialized equipment or doctors.[6] The first floor includes an intake room, quarantine chamber, imaging machines, and a pool for waterfowl. The lower-level houses an operating room and cages.[7] It is the city's only wild animal clinic, and may treat more than 400 birds at a time, with up to 50 coming in each day and 7,000 yearly patients as of 2020.[1][8][9]


American kestrel being treated for a parasitic infection and injuries resulting from a window collision

Most of the Wild Bird Fund's patients are brought to the facility by members of the public, as well as by organizations like the Animal Care Centers of NYC and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. The hospital treats a wide range of bird species, as well as other small wildlife, though its most common patients are pigeons.[7] About a sixth of all patients are baby pigeons.[10]

The leading cause of injury is window collisions. New York City was built along the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration path, and birds are confused by lights behind the windows or reflections of trees or sky, colliding with glass in large numbers, especially during spring and fall migration.[8][11] The New York City Audubon Society estimates the number of bird deaths by window collision in the city to be between 90,000 and 230,000 each year.[12] Most crashes occur during fall by birds making their first migration.[11] Other ailments might be caused by lead in the environment, rodenticide, car or bicycle collisions,[3] discarded fishing line, and cat or dog attacks. Nestling and fledgling birds make up a large portion of the patient population during summer.

When injured birds are admitted, they are categorized according to the seriousness of their injuries, with some spending time in an open area that allows them to fly, some kept in cloth baskets with perches, and others placed in incubators.[11] According to McMahon, half of the animals brought in for treatment are rehabilitated and returned to the wild while others die or are euthanized. Some require long-term care or cannot be released to the wild and are transferred to other regional sanctuaries like The Raptor Trust in New Jersey or private sanctuaries in upstate New York.[2][13] For recovered birds, the site of release is based in part on whether they are migrating, and in which direction. While many pigeons are released in nearby Central Park, birds migrating south might be released in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, which allows a mostly clear path to the south as compared to Central Park and most other sites in Manhattan.[11]

The hospital employs an animal care staff of about 25 people, with assistance from 100 or more volunteers. It does not charge for services, relying largely on individual donations, as well as foundation grants and sponsorships.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with a larger number of people birding and spending time in nature, the Wild Bird Fund saw an increase in the number of injured birds taken to the hospital, even while there was no evidence the number of overall injuries increased.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Outlook – The Shopkeeper Defusing IS Booby Traps – BBC Sounds". July 18, 2017. Archived from the original on May 20, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Kahn, Eve M. (November 20, 2012). "A Place for Healing Broken Wings". New York Times City Room. Archived from the original on July 2, 2019. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Nuwer, Rachel (June 1, 2012). "A Wildlife Rescue Center for New York City". New York Times Green Blog. Archived from the original on June 15, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  4. ^ Sacks, Amy (June 2, 2012). "A new wing: Wild Bird Fund opens sanctuary on the Upper West Side". Daily News. Archived from the original on June 2, 2021. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  5. ^ Fernandez, Mike; Schneider, Katy (June 8, 2016). "Inside the Avian Clinic That Brings Birds Back From the Brink". New York Magazine Intelligencer. Archived from the original on May 19, 2021. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Vadukul, Alex (February 4, 2012). "Rescuing the Birds Many Hate (Published 2012)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Keim, Brandon (August 6, 2014). "A Day in the Life of NYC's Hospital for Wild Birds". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Center on Upper West Side specializes in treating wild birds". NY1 News. January 24, 2018. Archived from the original on May 20, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  9. ^ "Birds and Glass – At the Wild Bird Fund | BirdNote". BirdNote. June 29, 2020. Archived from the original on June 2, 2021. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  10. ^ Williams, Keith (May 23, 2018). "The Elusive City Squab". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 20, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d e Daly, Natasha (October 8, 2020). "Birds are crashing into NYC buildings. Record numbers are being rescued". National Geographic. Archived from the original on May 20, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  12. ^ Tremper, Aaron (March 15, 2021). "Reports of bird deaths soar as Queens residents take in nature from home". Queens Daily Eagle. Archived from the original on May 20, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  13. ^ Moore, Angela (June 16, 2017). "Birds find haven from urban injuries at New York City treatment center". Reuters. Archived from the original on May 19, 2021. Retrieved May 19, 2021.

40°47′14″N 73°58′17″W / 40.78735°N 73.97131°W / 40.78735; -73.97131

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Wild Bird Fund
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