Injured birds getting lots of great help at Avian Haven

Avian Haven two bard owlAvian Haven does amazing work with injured and other wild birds. Its 2015 annual report is both informative and fascinating, and was, as they report, “an unprecedented growth year.”

“We passed our 2014 total in late August, with our 2,087 new admissions representing a 23% increase over last year’s total. With 47 patients held over from the 2014 calendar year, we cared for 2,134 birds in all during 2015. Other than raptors, our most common native species were Eastern Phoebe (141), American Robin (127), and Mourning Dove (116). Our 270 raptors included 99 owls (among them 80 Barred Owls), 88 hawks (including 55 Broad-winged Hawks), 33 eagles (32 Bald Eagles plus 1 Golden Eagle) and 32 falcons (most numerous among them were 21 American Kestrels). Our 150 total water bird admissions included 104 ducks, more than half of them Mallards. Pelagic species included Northern Gannet, Dovekie, Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, Manx Shearwater and Leach’s Storm-Petrel. We also had 24 Common Loons and 3 Red-throated Loons. Non-native species comprised 157 Rock Pigeons, 43 House Sparrows, and 65 European Starlings.

Avian Haven osprey“Similar to past years, the most common causes of injuries were cat predation plus vehicle and window collisions. Lead ingestion continued to kill Common Loons and Bald Eagles; both of two loons and six of seven eagles admitted with lead poisoning died (one eagle is still pending). We again urge people who use lead ammunition to consider nontoxic alternatives; ballistics and other information can be found at Ways that homeowners can make their windows more bird-friendly can be found at the American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Glass program, And for folks who allow their cats to go outdoors, the cat bib featured at is an effective way to reduce bird fatalities.”

Great Stories

Avian Haven’s newsletter is loaded with great stories. Here’s the start of one of those stories.

“On Nov. 19, we got a call from a woman in Freeport who was concerned about a bird she saw hobbling on a sidewalk outside her apartment building and trying unsuccessfully to fly. She captured the bird and met volunteer David Stager in Yarmouth. The bird had been described as “small” so we were imagining a songbird. We were therefore astonished when David’s wife Kathy called and said “I think it’s a Shearwater!” Her e-mailed photo clearly showed the tubenose characteristic of this family, so we arranged for the bird to get on the road sooner rather than later, and our ace transporter, Don Fournier, had her here by the end of the day. On arrival, she was thin, but had no obvious injuries. We put her in a small pool for only a few minutes; she seemed clumsy and sluggish, and was not using her legs well.”

This story had a good ending, with the bird rehabilitated and released off Cape Cod. But not all stories end this way. Ducks had a very tough winter, for example.

“The first couple of months of 2015 were tough ones for ducks. Cold temperatures limited the amount of open water even in some coastal areas. We began admitting starving Mallards in January; the sea ducks came in a little bit later, many of them found thin and debilitated in snowbanks. Colleagues at rehab centers all along the northeast coastal corridor had record-breaking duck admissions in February, as did we.”

And eagles continue to struggle with lead poisoning.

“2015 did not begin well for Bald Eagles. Our first four eagles (January through March) all had lead poisoning, and all died, as did a 5th admitted in May. As is typical over the course of a year, we saw no further instances of lead toxicosis until the fall hunting season, when two others were admitted. The first of these did not survive, but the second bird, admitted a couple weeks later in the fall, is still alive. Her case was unusual for several reasons, one of which was her rescue in a twosome from Oxford, ME by Wdn. Tony Gray.

“Tony had responded to a report of two mature eagles on the ground together. They did not seem to be interacting, much less fighting. By the time Tony arrived at the scene, it was dark, and he found them tangled in raspberry bushes. As he approached, only one tried to fly, but could not get far, and was captured with little difficulty. When the birds arrived here the next morning, November 16, both were bright and alert with seemingly minor injuries; one had an old wound on one leg; the other had a fresh wound on one wrist. From their size, we judged them both female. As a matter of course, we checked blood from both birds for lead; we were astonished when the level for the one with the wing wound was close to zero, while the other’s was beyond the upper limit.”

Fortunately, there are more success stories here than failures. You can read the entire newsletter here, and see their amazing photos too.

More information, from their website

Avian Haven oneAvian Haven was incorporated as a nonprofit organization by Marc Payne and Diane Winn in February, 1999. Since that time, our annual case load has increased from about 300 to about 2,000, making us one of the largest rehabilitation practices in New England. All told to date, nearly 15,000 birds from more than 100 species have been treated at Avian Haven. Diane and Marc remain the managers and core of the year-round staff.

Avian Haven has indoor infirmary space that includes a full kitchen, food supplies to meet the dietary needs of all avian species of all ages, incubators, hospital and recovery cages, two flight cages, veterinary equipment, a reference library, and a full complement of allopathic, naturopathic and homeopathic medical supplies. Outdoors, fifteen buildings, some of them comprising multiple flight cages, provide pre-release conditioning for a variety of species ranging in size from Hummingbirds to Bald Eagles and including aquatic birds such as Common Loons and pelagic species. We treat wild birds that are orphaned and/or injured, with on-site capabilities for minor veterinary procedures including x-rays; birds that require surgery are taken to a consulting veterinarian. We are not licensed to treat companion or domestic birds.

We have permits issued by the State of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate wild birds (including endangered species). Our facilities are open during the daylight hours, 365 days a year. We accept birds of all species from the general public, and via referrals from veterinarians, Maine Wildlife Biologists, Maine Game Wardens, Animal Control Officers, and other Maine rehabilitators. We are not a nature center or a zoo; all of our birds are being prepared for release to the wild and thus are required by our permit conditions to have minimal contact with humans. Avian Haven is open for the public, but not to the public; we are not able to accommodate tour groups or photographers.

Avian Haven pileated woodpeckerAvian Haven is not funded by any governmental agencies; our operating expenses are covered by private donations and foundation grants. We provide treatment free of charge to birds’ rescuers, but are always grateful for small cash gifts to help cover food and medical costs. Larger gifts to help fund equipment and flight-conditioning cages are most welcome. Avian Haven is a non-profit corporation, so both monetary contributions and donations of goods are tax-deductible. We welcome volunteers from the community to work on site and/or transport birds to us from surrounding communities. All volunteers must be at least 18 years of age.

With a mission that includes research and education as well as rehabilitation per se, Marc and Diane have given numerous workshops and presentations at state, regional and national conferences, and we sponsor internships for college students during the summer season.


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.