Songbird release benefits U’s center

Dawn Throener

Eleven songbirds flew to their freedom at noon Saturday from the wetlands behind the Minnetonka All Seasons Wild Bird Store.
This event marked the first time the University’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center publicly released injured songbirds treated there. By releasing the birds, organizers raised funds for the center’s operation.
The songbirds were first treated at the Avian Nursery, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s in-house orphan nursery. Birds typically stay at the nursery for about six to eight weeks before being released into the wild, said volunteer coordinator Jennifer Simons.
Organizers received permission from the Department of Natural Resources to free three robins, two morning doves, three cliff swallows, two barn swallows and one blue jay.
“It’s kind of symbolic,” said Stephanie Naegele, a self-described bird lover and regular customer.
The public bids for opportunities to release each bird. The proceeds from the event, which totaled more than $300, went to the University’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The phone-in bidding started July 31.
Naegele bid $100 for the chance to release one of the two morning doves.
The group of bidders gathered behind the store to release the birds.
The blue jay was the first to be released. Six-year-old Emily Carver from Shorewood opened its makeshift cage, and the bird flew over the trees and into the horizon.
“I thought it was fun,” Carver said.
Other birds awaited their release in makeshift cages.
When Naegele lifted the lid on a morning dove’s cage, the bird stood still for a few minutes before taking flight.
The cages of swallows were opened all at once by the bidders. Jacob Knudson, an 18-month-old boy from Victoria, released one of them.
One of the robins scheduled to be released during Saturday’s event couldn’t wait that long.
Sharon Stiteler, the bird store’s manager, encountered a robin that constantly beat itself against its cage.
“Sometimes you get birds that are self-destructive like people,” Stiteler said. “This bird was a problem since we first had it in the Avian Nursery.”
Eventually the robin gave itself a concussion because of its behavior.
The bird was treated numerous times for a bruised beak before being released. When its scab opened up again, the veterinarian recommended it be released out of fear it would continue to injure itself.
“When I let him go, it was so great,” Stiteler said. “I stood by the back door and he went over the parking lot, over the wetland, over the trees; I never even saw him land. He just went off into the horizon.”
“We really want to reinforce that these are wild animals,” said Keri Poeppe, the center’s director. “It’s not good for any bird to be handled by people.
“The message is that they’re beautiful and this is a great thing. They’re a great little miracle, but they’re not ours,” Poeppe said.