Mainers – and our birds – are lucky to have Avian Haven

Avian Haven in Freedom is a wonderful place, especially for birds. This nonprofit wild bird rehabilitation center works hard to help injured and orphaned birds and return them to the wild. Co-directors Diane Winn and Marc Payne, with some dedicated employees and volunteers, can be considered a bird’s best friends.

Their latest newsletter is a treasure of information, both entertaining and inspiring. You can read it here.

I first became acquainted with Avian Haven when a loon, dying from lead poisoning, was discovered in the cove behind our Mount Vernon home years ago. I helped rescue the loon and deliver it to Avian Haven, but sadly, they were unable to save the loon’s life. That inspired me to help ban lead sinkers at the legislature the following year.

I was particularly disappointed to learn that another Mount Vernon loon died of lead poisoning in 2016. Here is that story:

“Among the lead-poisoned eagles that did not survive was a second-year bird found in Mt. Vernon on May 24. Our admission x-ray showed several pieces of ingested lead ammunition apparently scavenged from a carcass; a blood test revealed a lead level off the scale of our screening instrument. One piece of lead was particularly large; although it was late in the day, we knew that waiting until morning would significantly reduce the bird’s already slim chance of surviving. We removed the lead via gastric lavage and began chelation, hoping against hope for a recovery. But despite many treatment strategies, the bird’s neurologic signs had worsened into seizures by early July; at that point, our state and federal raptor biologists agreed that euthanasia was the only humane option. Lead poisoning of eagles is easily preventable by using nontoxic alternatives to lead ammunition, which are described at”

I was really sorry to read this story:

“We admitted two more Common Loons with lead poisoning in 2016, both from Maine, despite changes in legislation restricting the use of lead fishing tackle. One from East Pond (Smithfield) had a jighead; the second from Megunticook Lake (Camden) was particularly troubling in that the object was a 5/8” sinker illegal since 2013. The accompanying hook was evidence that the tackle had been used recently, as hooks on a lake bottom since 2013 would have long since rusted and disintegrated.”

Shame on that angler!

The story of “George” – a Herring Gull that had been hanging around Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding in Camden for several weeks, was better. As you will read in the newsletter, George had “become something of a mascot and had been given the name George. The bird was able to fly short distances, but something about him seemed not quite right.”

George was captured and brought to Avian Haven, where they discovered he had a beak injury. They fixed that and released George back into Camden Harbor.

In 2016, Avian Haven took in 2,469 birds and other critters. They do provide care for reptiles and amphibians as well as birds. Last year they admitted 26 snapping and painted turtles, almost all of them hit by cars. The 2016 total was almost 400 more than 2015. They also had 42 held over from 2015, resulting in care provided to 2,511 last year, from Bard Owls to Eagles and Mourning Doves to European Starlings.

The most frequently reported causes of injury were vehicle strikes, cat predation and window collisions. And they offer some suggestions to reduce those injuries.

After you read their newsletter, and are inspired to help, you’ll find an invitation to donate toward the end of the newsletter. Please do.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.