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NYer of the Week: Rita McMahon Educates Residents on Wildlife from Manhattan Bird Sanctuary

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This week's New Yorker works night and day to educate the city about its own wildlife from a bird sanctuary in the middle of Manhattan. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report, which was shot, written and edited by Rachel Smith.

From the outside, it looks like any other Upper West Side storefront, except for the fancy pigeons in the window. Inside, the Wild Bird Fund is a sanctuary for 1,500 birds a year, from ducks to songbirds to seagulls.

"Our number one patient is the pigeon, but we deal with over 120 different species, so anything from migrating warblers to mute swans," said Rita McMahon, the founder and director of the Wild Bird Fund, a nonprofit with a two-part mission: save as many wild birds and mammals as possible, and teach New Yorkers at the same time.

McMahon started WBF in her apartment, finding space in her living room for injured birds. Two years ago, she opened the wildlife rehabilitation center. It's billed as the only one in the five boroughs.

"You start with a few, then it grows to 20, then it grows to 40 and 60, and we knew soon, we had to have a center," McMahon says. "So with the center, it's a full-time job."

That job includes creating a way for city kids to learn about wildlife. Students learn lessons on the basics of rehabbing, and some even volunteer, like Christina Stevens, a high school senior. She wants to be a vet and appreciates the hands-on experience.

"I met her the first day, and she's just always making sure I'm learning new stuff, and I really appreciate what she does," Stevens says. "It's not like something she has to do. She really wants to, and she's really passionate about it. There's, like, nothing better that I can think of that I could do with my time."

It's a feeling shared by aspiring vets and old pros who still find time to volunteer because of the community Rita helped create.

"She's just one of those great people that people really respect, and so she's managed to build a wonderful community here," said Sasha Nelson, a volunteer veterinarian with the Wild Bird Fund.

So, for building a sanctuary for wildlife and a community for those who care, Rita McMahon is the latest New Yorker of the Week.


For more information about the Wild Bird Fund, or id want to donate to the WBF, visit their website at

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