The charity protecting and caring for New Zealand's wild birds

An Auckland-based charity is helping to protect New Zealand's wild bird population, caring for injured birds and nursing them back to health.

BirdCare Aotearoa operates an avian hospital and rehabilitation centre based out of Green Bay, in west Auckland, taking more than 6000 birds into its care each year, including many endangered species. 

The charity is the largest rehabilitation centre in New Zealand by admissions, providing care and rehabilitation for all species of sick, injured and orphaned wild birds - from pigeons and penguins to kererū and kākā.

"We look after native and non-native - we'll see everything," says Kathy Neilson, a volunteer at the organisation. 

BirdCare Aotearoa is one of the inspiring charities chosen to take part in Z Energy's (Z) Good in the Hood campaign for 2023. Good in the Hood supports local community groups by giving them a share of $1 million to do good in their neighbourhood.  

Abbie Bull, Head of Sustainability and Community at Z said, "we're really proud to be helping BirdCare Aotearoa again this year as they continue to be leaders in the bird care and rehabilitation space. Supporting on the ground organisations like this is exactly what Z's Good in the Hood is all about".

Black Swan Cygnet benefitting from warmth.
Black Swan Cygnet. Photo credit: BirdCare Aotearoa

Neilson says over the peak summer months, when many birds are fledging, the charity can see over 100 birds a day turn up at the centre, which has a hospital, nurseries, aviaries, and specialised areas for native, non-native and seabirds.

"We don't rescue them, but we are a hospital for rescued birds that members of the public bring to us," says Neilson, who is one of dozens of volunteers who help out at the charity, assisting a small staff of experts. 

Many of the birds the charity receives have been hit by cars or have flown into windows, and around 40 percent of all admissions are the result of cat attacks, says Neilson. Neilson advises cat owners to make sure their pet has a brightly coloured collar with a bell attached to minimise the risk to wild birdsor to keep their cat indoors and use 'catios' where possible, to minimise the risk to wild birds. Another recommendation for cat owners The facility also helps seabirds, such as Cook's petrels, or tītī, that have lost their way due to light pollution and end up in the city.

Anyone rescuing an injured bird is encouraged to put it in a ventilated box with padding such as an old towel at the bottom and bring it to the hospital as soon as possible, making sure not to give it any food. People bringing birds into the centre aren't charged, although they are encouraged to make a koha to help support the charity's work.

After the birds are treated, they are released back into the wild, usually around the area where they were found, something Neilson says is without doubt one of the best parts of her job. 
"It's a wonderful feeling opening the container and seeing the bird fly off," she says. 

Tui chicks receiving care.
Tui chicks. Photo credit: BirdCare Aotearoa

As well as receiving birds from members of the public, the charity also works with zoos, veterinary clinics, the SPCA and the Department of Conservation. 

The organisation, which services the greater Auckland region, is also dedicated to sharing its knowledge and skills as widely as possible, providing phone support and advice nationwide. It also engages in academic research and holds specialised workshops with volunteers, members of the public and other professionals.

Despite the valuable work being done, however, Neilson says recent years have not been easy for the charity, which depends entirely on donations, grants and public generosity for its survival, and earlier this year an urgent appeal was launched in a bid to raise enough money to allow the organisation to continue operating next year.  

She says it's great to be involved in Good in the Hood, not just because of the financial boost it brings but also because "it's increasing our exposure and helping people realise that they can bring birds to us".

This year, Z will surpass the $10 million milestone in donations to community groups and charities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand since 2011, largely enabled through its Good in the Hood programme.  

Article created in partnership with Z Energy