Dateline – August 26, 2012

It is no secret that I enjoy working on this web site. Almost every week it seems I come across something new and interesting—often things I have never seen or heard of before. But, every once in a while, my efforts lead me to something really unique—something that I feel especially privileged to get to experience. Two weekends ago was one of those times, when my daughter and I were afforded the opportunity to visit Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (RWRC) in Hutchins, Texas.

The entrance to the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

The Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, as described on their web site is a:

501 (c) (3) non-profit wildlife organization whose purpose is to provide care and rehabilitation to injured, sick and orphaned birds with the goal of returning them to their natural environment. The objective of the RWRC’s Outdoor Learning Center is to inspire all visitors to conserve and protect our native Texas wildlife.

Kathy Rogers, the facility’s owner and operator, was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule and allow us a behind the scenes look at the center’s operations, and the hundreds of birds currently in their care.

One of the first things you notice when you arrive at the RWRC is a large mural along the length of a wood fence. The painting illustrates many of our native birds and their preferred habitats.

The entrance to the the primary care clinic. Notice the large mural painted on the fence behind the parked cars.
In this section of the mural you can find a Blue Jay, Mourning Doves, a Green Heron, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and an American Kestrel.
A little further past the American Kestrel is a pair of Wood Storks, a Great Egret, and a Great Blue Heron.

Inside, we were greeted by the caregivers working in the primary care area of the facility. This section of the clinic is where orphaned juveniles and special needs birds are attended to. Food preparation and medical attention is handled here. Kathy started us off by showing us all of the birds currently receiving this special care, and relating a number of their stories to us.

The friendly employees of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
Kathy feeding a pair of juvenile Common Nighthawks. The strange looking bird in there with them is a Chuck-will’s-widow.
The Chuck-will’s-widow is the largest bird in the nightjar family.
This one-eyed Yellow-crowned Night Heron is a permanent resident of the RWRC.
A cautious Burrowing Owl.
This is Russell the American Crow. He is able to speak, and can say “peek-a-boo” and “oh boy!”
Preparing for feeding time. This is a tub of wiggling meal worms.
The RWRC purchases frozen rodents from a local supplier. Who knew there was even such and industry? These are freshly thawed white rats.
Frozen white mice are thawed in a tub of water.
A juvenile Cattle Egret being feed a freshly thawed mouse.

Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has been in operation, in one form or the other, for over 30 years. Over this time period they have provided care for tens of thousands of birds. Kathy Rogers has been the one constant.

If you trace the facility’s history back to the beginning you find Kathy Rogers, a bird lover who kept parrots as pets. Because people who lived in her neighborhood knew Kathy had the parrots, they began delivering orphaned or injured birds to her whenever they were discovered. They assumed she could help because she owned birds. That’s how this whole thing got started.

From these humble beginnings demand for Kathy’s special skills began to grow. Kathy did rehabilitation work from her home for the next 8 years, but with more and more birds coming in, she needed a more accommodating facility. After securing non-profit status, Kathy was able to setup a more extensive rehabilitation center at Samuell Farm Park in Mesquite, Texas. There, she did rehabilitation work for the next ten years, assisting over twenty thousand birds in the process.

Then, a transformative event occurred. Early in the predawn hours of August 2, 1998, the City of Carrollton surreptitiously bulldozed an active egret rookery, nests, eggs, baby birds, and all. News of this event has mostly evaporated from the Internet. This is the only web page I could find that addressed it directly: But, the important point is Kathy came to the rescue—for as many birds as she could anyways. In the end, she assisted nearly 500 orphaned and injured birds. In some ways this terrible event was the genesis of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in its current form.

Around this time, Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) had set up a small task force to investigate ways they could spread the word about their efforts to mitigate their industry’s impact on the environment. BFI was a North American waste management company and, in a nutshell, they just wanted some good PR.

They approached Kathy with an offer to allow her to release some of her rescued egrets on a reclaimed BFI landfill. Unfortunately, the land was not an appropriate habitat for the birds, but it was a good location for a rehabilitation facility. Sensing a long shot opportunity, Kathy pitched the idea of a rehabilitation center to the task force members, and they liked it. BFI offered Kathy a deal on the property that I can only describe as being too good to be true. The rest is history.

By Kathy’s own admission, BFI (now Allied Waste Services) does not use this altruistic and generous gesture as you might expect they should in their promotional and public relations material. A little humble bragging about what they have allowed to happen here would probably be to Allied’s and Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s benefit.

Just a few of the many bird enclosures located at the RWRC.

Continuing with the tour, Kathy next led us outside to see the rest of the facility. There we saw the true scope of this operation. Hundreds of birds in various stages of rehabilitation. Some of the hardier youngsters were kept outside, as were most of the birds preparing to transition back into the wild. A large number of domesticated birds are also cared for at the RWRC.

Three flavors of Eastern Screech Owl are on display in this picture—brown, chocolate, and cinnamon.
Blue Jays, Great-tailed Grackles, and European Starlings.
The raptor enclosure.
Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls. Truly beautiful birds.
This was the prettiest vulture I have ever seen, Immaculate feathers with a glossy blue sheen—and not a one out of place. Black Vultures clean up well.
These fuzzy baby Black Vultures look more like muppets than sleek black birds they will become as adults.
Many enclosures are required to handle the large number of birds that come through the center.
An American White Pelican and a Peacock. An unusual combination you are only likely to find at the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
The vulture enclosure.
This juvenile Great-tailed Grackle is trying to make the transition to independence. He boldly followed us around for some time, noisily squawking his requests to be fed.
Some of the birds the RWRC has rehabilitated are inspired to return. These are Great Blue Heron nests built just this past season. Over time, these two nests are likely to encourage the establishment of a full-blown heron rookery on the premises.
The RWRC also cares for a small selection of farm animals in need.
This Emu was huge—slightly larger that a full grown Labrador Retriever. This real life big bird enjoyed being petted.
This crazy Llama had no respect for personal boundaries. He found it very entertaining to put HIS face in YOUR face. Fortunately, there was none of the spitting Llamas are famous for.
The RWRC also cares for a large number of ducks and other waterfowl.
This room is used in support of the care of the birds kept in the outdoor enclosures.
Domestic geese.
Our friend the American White Pelican met up with us again as the tour was concluding.
Kathy tried to entice the pelican with an offer of a fish. The pelican wasn’t buying it.

So, what brings birds to the RWRC? A number of things—the weather is a major cause of birds in need. Storms can destroy nests and otherwise injure birds. But mostly, the injured or orphaned birds come from contact with people. Collisions with automobiles are a frequent problem, as are impacts with mirrored windows. Construction is also a major contributor. When a lot is cleared and trees come down, so do nests and baby birds. Hunting season creates many orphaned birds as well. Dove hunting season begins on September first in north Texas. Doves frequently continue to raise young well past that date. If a parent is killed by a hunter, the babies will die too—most likely from starvation or exposure. When any of these things happen Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is there to help.

This year alone they have handled over a thousand birds, including 70 Screech Owl, 400 egrets, and many, many baby mallards from backyard swimming pools. State law allows the RWRC to keep protected birds for up to six months. After that they must be either released back into the wild, euthanized, or designated for educational purposes. Extensions are available in special cases, but they must be applied for.

A good example is a Crested Caracaca in Kathy’s care. The Crested Caracara, also know as the Mexican Eagle, is a beautiful and exotic looking bird of prey. The bird in Kathy’s care was found on the side of a country road. Its flight feathers had been clipped and it could not fly—no doubt so that the caracara could be kept as a pet. The bird had somehow managed to escape it captors, but without the ability to fly it certainly would not have lasted long on its own. Now the caracara must stay in RWRC’s care for at least a year until it completes its normal molt and grows a new set of flight feathers.

Most of the birds that come to RWRC are released back into the wild after they are healthy again. Some birds, because of the nature of their injuries or other factors, become part of the center’s education outreach program. These birds will accompany Staff member to elementary schools and other locations for special presentations.

This Harris Hawk is often included in the RWRC’s educational outreach activities. He has been with the center for some 25 years now.

As you can imagine, it is an expensive proposition to provide this kind of care. Food, medicine, and other essentials are costly. In addition to these expenses, the facility must also be be licensed by the State and Federal Government. Rehab Permits, Education Permits, and Salvage permits from both Texas and the US Government are required.

The RWRC relies exclusively on private donations of material and money for their day to day operation. They do not receive funding from Federal, State or Local government. The facility runs on a shoe string budget, and the folks at the RWRC have become experts at stretching a dollar. Over the years Kathy has become a master of re-purposing and reuse. Much of the facility has been cobbled together from whatever items happen to be donated. The employees at the RWRC take great pride in their ability to make productive use of items other people have discarded.

This heron enclosure demonstrates the center’s resourceful reuse of discarded materials.

There is no question that caring for and feeding a multitude of birds like this is a major undertaking. Doing it on a shoe string budget is all the more challenging. For Kathy and the rest of the staff managing the stress level is a prerequisite for working here. One of the stories the staff related to me is that there are three blenders on the premises. One for fish, one for mice, and one for margaritas. Here’s to hoping those blenders are clearly labeled.

At the front door is a gentle reminder of what it costs to rehabilitate an injured or orphaned bird for 6 months. For song birds the costs is approximately $250 per bird. For raptors the expense can approach $2100.

The links below contain more information about the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and ways you can help:

One Reply to “Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center”

  1. We have a dove nest at the top of our fence she just laid the eggs so I know I have alittle time. We have 2 dogs after the eggs hatch should we somehow block off that part of the yard. I’m worried about when they leave the nest and our on the ground for several days before they fly. But I don’t want to interfere if I shouldn’t.

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