For the birds

Region’s oldest wildlife rehab centre to construct new visitor’s area

The Wild Bird Care Centre relies on the public to bring in abandoned and injured birds.

For nearly 30 years, residents of Ottawa and the surrounding area have been bringing injured or abandoned wild birds to the Wild Bird Care Centre in the west end. Tucked into an appropriately wooded spot in the Stony Swamp Conservation Area, it’s Ottawa’s only rehabilitation centre exclusively dedicated to wild birds. It’s also the oldest wildlife rehabilitation centre in the region.


The Wild Bird Care Centre was founded by the late Kathy Nihei in 1981 after she took in an injured hummingbird and successfully rehabilitated and released it. She continued to rehabilitate wild birds in her home for over a decade before incorporating the Centre and moving into its current location in 1992.


These days, the Wild Bird Care Centre receives anywhere from 60 to 700 birds every month. They are brought there for a variety of reasons – falling out of a nest, being attacked by a cat or other animal, flying into a window or being hit by a car.


“We do not have any rescue service. All of the birds are brought to us by caring people that find them,” says Patty McLaughlin, education coordinator with the Wild Bird Care Centre.


The most common birds that arrive at the centre, she explains, are robins, starlings, pigeons, crows, and ducks.


“Each year, we receive a few hundred of each of those species. We do see all sorts of birds, though. Every year, we receive over 3,200 birds with over 120 different species represented.” 


The centre is open 365 days a year and relies on a dedicated staff, as well as volunteers and financial supporters to maintain its operations (The Wild Bird Care Centre is funded primarily by public donations).


Like many other past, present and current staff members, McLaughlin started out at the centre as a volunteer when she was in high school. After finishing her master’s degree in 2009, she returned to the centre to both work with the birds as well as develop an education outreach program.


She now does off-site presentations to schools and community groups and organizes other educational events for the centre, which recently launched the Junior Avian Ambassador (JAA) program. Among other things, the JAA encourages and rewards kids who complete “missions” to help birds.


The Wild Bird Care Centre used to be open to visitors, but announced last year it would be closing its doors to the public. McLaughlin says it was a difficult but necessary decision.


“Over the last few years, we have seen an increase of about 30 percent more birds and we have had to use every creative space, like hallways, to allow the birds the space to recover,” she explains. “We understand that it is a unique experience for visitors to see the birds but our priority is bird care and we need to make sure we can provide the best care to birds, stress-free.”


That could all change soon, though. McLaughlin says the centre recently purchased land and have launched a campaign to construct a new building that will include outdoor cages and a visitor area. They hope to break ground later this year.


How you can help

Make a one-time or monthly donation, become a member, sponsor a bird or purchase an item from the centre’s Amazon list. Groups can support the centre by booking an educational presentation. There is also a list of donations items on the centre’s website ( that can be dropped off anytime.


Did you know?

The Wild Bird Care Centre is surrounded by NCC trails that are easily walkable. The trails lead to a beaver pond and, during the fall and winter months, the wild chickadees will eat seeds right out of your hand.