New rehab facility for the birds

Published 9:08 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A new facility officially opened its doors this June to help rehabilitate injured birds.

Tommy White, a wildlife rehabilitator with Alton’s Keep Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, officially opened a wild bird rehabilitation facility June 1 on his four acre Whaleyville Boulevard property.

The $30,000 project has been funded primarily from donations and from White’s own funds.

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“I don’t get any state or federal money,” White said. “I just rely on Good Samaritans and donations.”

There are three stages for rehabilitating wild birds.

The first stage keeps the injured bird in a cage suited to its size. These newer birds at the facility have fresh injuries and can’t socialize or exercise until they sufficiently heal, White said.

Stage two places the birds in limited-activity enclosures so they can move and stretch their wings as they recover. White plans 12 of these rehabilitation enclosures for his facility. Three are finished, and the others are being built with the help of volunteer labor.

White is building an enclosure specifically for large birds going into the final stage of rehabilitation. This will provide a space 100 feet long, 20 feet wide and 16 feet high for the recovery of eagles, great horned owls and other birds of such size.

“There’s nothing like that in this area, anywhere east of Richmond,” White said.

That enclosure is expected to cost another $5,000. When it’s finished, however, it will be an asset to rehabilitators throughout the region, White said.

“I’m going to make this available to every permitted rehabber in Tidewater who needs the large flight facility to pre-condition any large bird to go back to the wild,” he said.

White has seen to more than 85 wild bird cases since the start of the year, and he has released more than a dozen birds in the past few months.

He rescued a juvenile bald eagle on a road median last Friday after it was hit by a car. He treated the eagle at his residence before delivering it to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, where staff determined that the bird had a permanent spinal injury. The bird was then euthanized.

White rescued another bald eagle earlier that week. The eagle was found by homeowners on the Rappahannock River, emaciated and resting on a log for days.

White went out on his canoe and carefully moved the eagle. He later stabilized it and delivered it to Thunder Eagle Wildlife in McKenney.

“They say it’s thriving and doing very well,” he said. “They’re telling me to send fish. It’s eating eight or nine fish a day.”

Rehabilitating and assisting these birds is not an easy task, but it’s a passion for White.

His facility will also have enclosures for private classes, and a “school circle” is an area of picnic tables with enclosures for educational birds. Classes can be arranged in this space for sessions with a trained red-tail hawk or other bird of prey.

White said he wants children to learn more about these birds and expand their horizons.

“I want them to look up, instead of down,” he said. “To look up in the sky and see what’s flying, not just what’s walking, and expand their universe.”