A sea change for Save Our Seabirds


Contributing Columnists

The Pelican Man’s Bird Sanctuary closed its doors in 2006.  The site was abandoned and the land fell into total disrepair. Out of the ashes, a new venture opened in 2008 due to the financial support of a major donor who gave life to Save Our Sea Birds (SOS); habitats were rebuilt and birds treated.

Eighteen months ago, David Pilston and a new Board worked with employees and volunteers to bring the facility into the 21st Century.  The process of beginning anew included major clean up and reconstruction.  With the generous support of key donors and a grant from the Selby Foundation SOS was established on solid footing.

SOS receives 2500 distress calls each year, mainly from concerned citizens throughout the Sarasota-Manatee area.  After evaluation to determine if they can catch the bird, a volunteer is sent to transfer it to the hospital for treatment. Regular veterinary and technician oversight is provided.

The mission is to Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release the birds, if possible.  There are 200+ birds consisting of 30 species, both native and exotic at SOS.  Around 50 birds are in rehab.  Those birds can be treated, and are maintained in the infirmary until they are restored to health, and then released. There is a separate baby bird section of the hospital where newly born have been blown out of their nest, or thrown out, and are fed by staff or, on occasion, surrogate mothered by a full sized bird.

Approximately 150 others, who cannot be rehabilitated, remain in roomy manicured enclosures where they can enjoy loving care, space and a native habitat that is still developing throughout the complex.

Non-native, invasive vegetation has been replaced with indigenous plantings that make a walk through SOS like strolling through a peaceful park inhabited by an assortment of avians, including Owls, Hawks, Ospreys, Egrets, and many more species. A Cockatiel, Macaw and an Umbrella Cockatoo, Gabby, were all made permanent residents of SOS when families could no longer care for them. Gabby entertains with phrases, such as “Give me a kiss,” and recites the entire “Happy Birthday” song.  Those are a few examples among numerous others.  None of the resident birds can return to the wild after domestication, as they could never survive.

The three most common injuries brought in are caused by automobiles, fishhooks, and golf balls, resulting in loss of an eye, and injured or amputated wing(s).  For bird safety while fishing, the important thing to remember is not to cut fishing lines; there is a proper way to extricate the bird, which SOS can show you through a brochure or in person.  Don’t keep unattended fishing rods with a fish hanging over your dock; it can rip a bird neck.  And keep Catfish away; if one flies through the air on a rod, the Pelican may grab it, not realizing the enemy, and spines will penetrate the bird throat or pouch, never to be shaken loose.

There are great stories of rehabilitation, such as “Sparky the Wonder Bird.”  A juvenile red shouldered hawk, he was rescued and brought to SOS after feathers, legs, feet and beak were terribly singed by a methane gas burner at a local landfill.

After a yearlong rehabilitation by staff and volunteers, Sparky grew into a healthy adult, and was released into the wild.  There are so many survival stories in this complex, many of them inspiring.

Concerned citizens are the main conduit for finding injured birds; if you don’t know what to do—and most of us don’t—call 388-3010 for expert rescue.  SOS is a non-profit wildlife conservation and education organization on City Island, right next to Mote Marine Laboratory.

Visit the Park, and soak up the peaceful surroundings.  Take a personal journey, explore, and benefit from another dimension of our shared humanity.

Sheldon Paley, a resident of Longboat Key for 20 years and a realtor for 13 years, is affiliated with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. Prior to moving to Longboat Key, Paley attended Ohio State University; U of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry and Harvard Medical School for 18 months for a degree in Implantation.

Joyce Paley attended Miami University, Ohio State University and Capital University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Major in Professional Writing.


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1 Response for “A sea change for Save Our Seabirds”

  1. S. Plug says:

    Wonderful place with a great mission! The greeter, Maria, is such a bundle of energy she makes you want to come in and visit with the birds.

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