Key West Florida Weekly

Feathered Friends on the Move

Key West birds temporarily relocated during aviary restoration

Key West Wildlife Center Animal Care Director Peggy Coontz and Rescue Specialist Chris Castro prepare to move a laughing gull and a ring-billed gull into a temporary shelter. CAROL TEDESCO/KEY WEST WILD LIFE CENTER

Key West Wildlife Center Animal Care Director Peggy Coontz and Rescue Specialist Chris Castro prepare to move a laughing gull and a ring-billed gull into a temporary shelter. CAROL TEDESCO/KEY WEST WILD LIFE CENTER

Some critical housekeeping for specialists at the Key West Wildlife Center.

Their avian patients have been moved into one of two recently constructed shelters. These will be the temporary homes for the birds while the center’s recuperation and reconditioning aviary undergoes repairs and restoration.

This move marks the launch of work funded by the center’s “Raising the Roof” campaign, which brought in $2.4 million.

The funds will help restore the aviary and build a new clinic.

Over time, rusting and roof deterioration have significantly weakened the aging aviary, which serves as the center’s heart and the flight-testing space for large avian patients.

Peggy Coontz, the Center’s Animal Care Director, explained that the temporary aviaries have been placed at a safe distance from the construction work to protect the animals from disruption.

Staff at the center say the current clinic building, a modular unit, has far exceeded its useful life.

“The roof leaks, the exterior is crumbling, the interior walls are weak and soft, and the mechanical systems consistently fail,” says KWWC board president Jennifer Lopes.

The new clinic will be a hurricane hardened modular building with a visitor welcome center and 25% more patient care space than currently exists. It will also be elevated to meet newly established FEMA flood-level guidelines.

Key West Wildlife Center provides 24-hour emergency rescue services and medical and rehabilitation care for wildlife in Key West and the lower Keys. 1,500 native wildlife patients have been rescued in 2023, including raptors, pelicans, herons, and warblers. Different mammals and reptiles, including opossums and turtles, have also been treated.

The KWWC, located within the 7-acre Indigenous Park property off White Street near Atlantic Blvd., has been operating since the early 1980s. ¦

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