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Helping New York City's Wild Birds

In an apartment on the Upper West Side is a lady who helps birds. Rita McMahon has been rehabilitating wild birds since finding a sick Canadian goose on the side of Interstate 684. In 1992, she began a partnership with Karen Heidgerd of the veterinary hospital Animal General and the Wild Bird Fund was born.

New York City is a stopover on an ancient migratory path for birds called the Atlantic Flyway. During the spring and fall migration, birds are often injured flying into plate glass windows, or become disoriented and exhausted by the bright lights at night. But unlike L.A., Chicago and Philadelphia, New York doesn't have a wildlife rehabilitation center. Instead, injured wildlife is cared for by an underground network of licensed wildlife rehabilitators like Rita McMahon.

Most birds are cared for in donated space at Animal General, but McMahon often has upwards of a dozen birds in her apartment where they are looked after by an army of volunteers, including her son Lincoln, also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Last year, the Wild Bird Fund saw 1,146 birds and 13 mammals, all at no charge. With donations and grant money, McMahon hopes to find a permanent space for the Wild Bird Fund where she can care for more animals.

A pigeon being revived from anesthesia at Animal General

A pigeon is immobilized for an x-ray at Animal General

It starts with a phone call: "there is a sick pigeon on my balcony."

Two baby pigeons being cared for in Rita McMahon's apartment.

This pigeon had malnutrition and all her feathers were breaking off.

The Wild Bird Fund patients are starting to crowd out Animal General
The Wild Bird Fund patients are starting to crowd out Animal General

This young rooster was probably a chick that got too big to keep as a pet.

A woman on her way to work stopped traffic on 5th Avenue to pick up this bird which had just been hit by a car.

Nevin is a king pigeon. King pigeons are often raised in captivity and then thrown up at a wedding for show. When the birds touch down, they do not know how to survive in the wild.

This male flicker injured his beak and broke some bones crashing into a building during his migration through New York City. He is currently assigned to cage rest in Rita McMahon's apartment.

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