Tom Sweets, executive director of the Key West Wildlife Center, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM this morning to talk about what’s happening at the center.
The Key West Wildlife Center makes sure they are prepared for any possibility of storms.
Sweets said, “We have been through quite a few of them here. Really, we just make sure that the birds are protected. We have sort of several stages, if it gets to be really bad or looks like a direct hit, then we would actually even in a worst case scenario, we could actually release most of the birds that we have even some of the permanent residents. We’ve done that in the past and after the storm, we were able to collect them back up, just so that they would not be stuck in an aviary or an enclosure if the water rises very high. We had to move some birds when the water started coming up. We had high water up to about our thighs, almost our waist in certain parts of the aviary but we had prepared and we had the animals out of harm’s way, our clinic building is actually up fairly high off the ground. It’s never been flooded by any storm, even going all the way back to Wilma. We only have a small number of permanent residents.”
In the fall, the organization will be starting on a possible new clinic.
Sweets said, “We are going to start our campaign. We already have a fair amount raised and then we’re going to start our public campaign this fall as well. People can find out on our website and through our social media. We haven’t officially announced it yet but we have been raising money towards it. So the official announcement where the public can help out is coming soon, probably within the next couple months.”
The nesting season is ending right now.
Sweets said, “We are really moving into the migratory season. In fact, we’re really sort of at a peak point right now in the migration from roughly September 6 to October 6. Two thirds of all songbirds migrate at night. We do have a lot of the songbirds, a lot of the little warblers coming through. I’m sure everybody’s familiar with seeing those birds. We’ve had a good year for swallowtail kite migrating through. We’re just getting into really the peak early migration. That will continue on. We actually rescued a swallowtail kite that was on migration. He had somehow gotten into the water and we were able to rescue that bird. He was just weak and worn out from migration and spent some time with us. We just released that bird a couple of days ago. So we got another migratory bird back on the path.”
In the fall, the raptors and hawks will come down our way.
Sweets said, “We are just really sort of starting to get into the peak migratory bird season and ending the baby birds.”
Do some of the birds stay or do most of them leave?
Sweets said, “With the American White Pelicans, this is basically a stop off point. They’ll be going into Central and South America. They’re pretty amazing. They go all the way out west in the continental United States, and then they end up coming through Florida, and they are heading south. A lot of them are born up in the Carolinas on the Carolina coast. Some of them are born in Florida and they will migrate south and then once they get down into South Florida, the juveniles will stay in the area. They are in movement a lot and they do move on their own time. They do have quite the journey. But a lot of those birds are making very long journeys, Canada down into South America, and it’s pretty amazing the way they do that and make that trip every year. So it’s quite a quite a journey, for sure.”
There could be some rescues in the Key West Wildlife Center’s future.
Sweets said, “The thing about Keys and Key West, we do see a lot of first year baby birds on their first migrations and that’s when they’re going to get into trouble because they don’t have a lot of experience. Once they make that trip once or twice, they learn how to do it but the first trip is always the most dangerous. It’s the same with the hawks. What we see are a lot of first year hawks down, weak, dehydrated just because they haven’t been able to hunt. A lot of the ones that know what they’re doing, a lot of the older adults, they will actually fly just off the coast because the flying is easier. The youngsters though they tend to stay very close to land because they don’t know what they’re really doing yet and they can end up getting slowed down. They can miss too many meals, they can get dehydrated. Those first year birds, they’re the ones that get into trouble the most.”
The Key West Wildlife Center is at 1801 White Street.
Sweets said, “We’re open every day except Wednesday. Our hours do vary a little bit just based on volunteer greeters and that kind of thing. Generally, we’re open most days but if somebody wants to come visit, I would say definitely give us a call or just check in online and we’d be happy to have you. It’s a beautiful little nature park. You can actually see a lot of those migratory birds, especially a lot of the small warblers. We’ve had some Kentucky warblers, some black and white warblers in the park over the last few days. I would encourage everyone to come down and if they have a bird rescue or a problem with a bird, they can always call our 24 hour hotline, which is that 305-292-1008.”
A pigeon rescue happened recently at Sloppy Joes.
Sweets said, “It’s entertaining anyway, because a lot of people having a lot of fun down at the bar, and we have to go in there and try to get a bird out. But it was a successful adventure. We were able to get the young white crown pigeon into the net and got him out and were able to release him. A lot of those buildings downtown, a lot of those doors are open all day all night, and we’ll get birds and other critters going in there. So we’re happy to help when we can.”
For more information, click here: https://keywestwildlifecenter.org/