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Bird rehabilitation center treated record numbers last year

January 28, 2020 GMT
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This 2019 photo provided by Vermont Institute of Natural Science shows a baby barred owl that was brought to the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science's in Quechee, Vt., after the tree his nest cavity was in was cut down. The owl was one of 77 barred owls that was treated at the nonprofit in 2019. . (Grae O’Toole/Vermont Institute of Natural Science via AP)
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This 2019 photo provided by Vermont Institute of Natural Science shows a baby barred owl that was brought to the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science's in Quechee, Vt., after the tree his nest cavity was in was cut down. The owl was one of 77 barred owls that was treated at the nonprofit in 2019. . (Grae O’Toole/Vermont Institute of Natural Science via AP)

QUECHEE, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont bird rehabilitation center treated a record number of wild birds last year, staff with the institute said.

The Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee reported that staffers treated a record total of 705 wild birds in 2019 at the institute’s Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation, and that 77 of those were barred owls. In 2018, the institute treated 45 barred owls, out of 652 birds total, Valley News reported Saturday.

The weather and an increase in public awareness contributed to the higher numbers, said Grae O’Toole, the lead wildlife keeper at the institute.

“We weren’t expecting the influx that we received (last) winter,” she said “They’re just not able to punch through the ice to get to prey on their own.”

O’Toole said the staff was happy with the 55% recovery and release rate of the 77 barred owls that were treated because they often have very severe injuries.

In addition to the barred owls, staff also treated a pine grosbeak and a Bohemian waxwing, songbird species that are typically found farther north in Vermont.

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“We are seeing a lot more species that we normally wouldn’t,” O’Toole said. “Birds are moving in different patterns, and a lot of birds you’d only see in the South are up here and getting into trouble. A lot of birds are displaced.”

The institute can treat only birds found in Vermont, though people from any state can call for advice or referrals to wildlife treatment centers near them.