The Joy of Letting Go

Every spring and summer PAWS Wildlife Center takes in hundreds of wild baby birds in need. Some are naked, barely hatched from their eggs. Others are covered in downy feathers, still fragile and quite helpless. Representing dozens of species they come to us wounded, orphaned or displaced by cats, dogs, cars, chainsaws, bulldozers or any number of other human-related causes.

Most of these baby birds are cared for by a dedicated group of PAWS volunteers called Bird Nursery Caretakers—BNC's for short. Essentially, they act as the birds' surrogate parents, until these little ones are old enough to be on their own.

Baby songbirds, such as robins and chickadees, and woodpeckers make up the majority of the patients with whom the BNC's work, and these species grow very quickly. Small songbirds may go from being featherless hatchlings nestled in incubators to fl edglings stretching their wings in outdoor aviaries in less than three weeks' time.

This rapid growth is fueled by almost constant feeding—every half-hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. This leads to the need for frequent cage cleaning,
and sometimes feather cleaning for the messier eaters. BNC's provide the bulk of this gentle, hands-on care.

Three times each summer we organize group releases where BNC's can help return the birds they have cared for to their natural habitat. It is always
thrilling to see the young birds burst out of a box and reclaim their freedom. But it is equally exciting to see the joy in the faces of the people who poured their hearts and souls into these beautiful creatures, to make that freedom possible.

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