Wildlife center nurses hundreds of injured birds back to health

By Lauren Victory, Marie Saavedra, Kelley Bowles

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GLEN ELLYN, Ill. (WBBM) – The Morning Insiders accompanied volunteers on their hunt for injured birds a few weeks ago and watched as they put injured animals in paper bags to keep them calm before transport.

We asked ourselves: what happens to the killed birds?

CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra shows us the rehab after the rescue.

“It’s great to see them hop right out of the sack,” said Dr. Sarah Reich after releasing a warbler in her care back into the wild.

The vet and her team at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn are nursing all sorts of animal patients back to health. The bird nursery is particularly popular during the autumn and spring migration periods.

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“He’s trying to stand up, but he’s using his wings for balance,” said Dr. Rich and pointed to a sandpiper with spinal trauma.

Regardless, during our seated interview, she generally spoke about capturing birds at the moment.

“Most of them will be window collisions or building collisions,” she said.

Many in the care of her team in DuPage County crashed into downtown skyscrapers.

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors volunteers try to give them a second chance. A few weeks ago, CBS 2 followed their colorful shirts as they searched for the deceased to go into research. Living go to rehabilitation. Someone from the group delivers an injured batch to the Wildlife Center each day.

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“The number of migratory birds we take from them [Chicago Bird Collision Monitors] is at least a few thousand [a year]said Dr. Rich.

Just over 50% of the birds brought downtown by the volunteers can be released after treatment.

“They get a lot of eye injuries, bleeding, corneal ulcers and things like that. We’re seeing a lot of fractures and wounds and stuff, so really a lot of variety of issues, but probably the head trauma is the biggest one,” said Dr. Rich.

Graduation in a flight cage is the next step after medication. Recovery can take days, weeks, or even months, keeping staff so busy that responding to rescue operations is not an option. That’s what makes the partnership with Chicago Bird Collision Monitors so valuable.

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“You’re basically saving thousands of lives just because you can bring these animals in,” said Dr. Rich.

The problem of birds hitting buildings won’t go away, but one thing is changing for the better: the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

A new facility at Glen Ellyn is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2024.

Vets say the larger space will allow them to treat injured birds with more thorough care based on their specific species.

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