Fundraising for the flocks

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The Wild Bird Fund's mostly volunteer staff cared for nearly 5,000 birds last year


  • Liza-Mae Carlin and Joey Luther, with squeaker pigeons, emceed the evening. Photo: Nancy Adler Photography

  • A red-tailed hawk from Tenafly Nature Center was among the attendees at the Wild Bird Fund's annual "flocktail party" fundraiser. Photo: Nancy Adler Photography

  • A barred owl from Tenafly Nature Center also attended the "flocktail party." Photo: Nancy Adler Photography

The party really was for the birds.

The Wild Bird Fund, New York City's wildlife medical, rehabilitation and education center, held its annual fundraising “flocktail party” gala at the “Birdie” Vanderbilt Mansion on East 93rd Street on April 20.

Guests walked on a red carpet lined with stuffed toy animals, including pigeons and an owl in top hat, before entering the antique-filled home.

The organization's founder, Rita McMahon, said the organization's mission is to heal orphaned, injured and sick wildlife in order to return them to the wild as well as to educate New Yorkers about the richness of the city's wildlife and how to protect it.

The Tenafly Nature Center brought a barred owl, bullfrog and snakes, among other “animal ambassadors.” The center's animals were rescued from injury and are unable to survive in nature, said Elizabeth Hinckley, a teacher naturalist.

Others in attendance were a Japanese quail and three-week old white crested ducklings, a dumped Easter “gift,” said Ariel Cordova-Rojas, an animal care manager at WBF.

The ducklings were domesticated, so won't be able to be returned to the wild and will be sent to a sanctuary upstate, Cordova-Rojas, 26, said.

Cordova-Rojas finds it “fascinating how much wild life New York City actually has,” adding that “helping take injured animals, heal them and release them, is an incredible feeling.”

The event, on two floors of the mansion, featured live music and dance, food, drink, a bevy of live animals, and an auction featuring tickets to “Hamilton,” a William Wegman photograph and a Patrick McDonnell-signed Mutts comic strip.

Ticket revenue totaled $34,000, the most sold in the event's six-year history. The funds will help with the purchase of medical supplies, food and equipment as well as contribute to operating expenses, McMahon said. Since the Wild Bird Fund opened its doors in 2012, the number of birds treated by its mostly volunteer staff has more than tripled, to about 4,700.

Treatment, for native as well as migratory birds (New York City, and Central Park in particular, is a stopover along the well-travelled Atlantic Flyway), includes surgery, testing, bandaging, splinting, feeding and even physical therapy.

Attendees were as young as 9-year old Willow Phelps, the ASPCA's 2016 “Kid of the Year” for her animal activism, who came with her mom, Erika Mathews, who works for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Willow said of the WBF, “they save many different kinds of birds which is very important in New York City.”

Upper East Sider Adriana Aquino, 52, a weekly volunteer for the Wild Bird Fund, said it was while in the company of an entirely different species that she became intrigued by the organization's works.

“Actually, it was while walking my pit bull Ruth on the streets that got me interested in the birds I would see,” Aquino said. “They need a lot of help and I feel compelled to go.”

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