By Maggie McConkey
For Senior Voice 

Bird TLC: Caring for Alaska's wild birds


February 1, 2022 | View PDF

Photo courtesy Bird TLC

Bird TLC recently took in this short-eared owl, rescued from a remote area on the west coast of Alaska in 2021.

Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC), founded in 1988 by Dr. James Scott, is a rehabilitation center for the wild birds of Alaska. Our mission is to present living science education that instills understanding and appreciation for wild birds and their habitats, and to provide primary medical treatment, rehabilitative care and potential release for sick and injured wild birds.

Caring for wildlife requires specialized training, knowledge and permitting. Bird TLC operates under permits issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. We accomplish our mission with a small staff and a large group of dedicated volunteers.

We are located in Anchorage but take in birds from across the state. Up to six hundred injured, ill and orphaned wild birds arrive at our clinic annually, making us the busiest rehabilitation center in Alaska. These birds range from familiar backyard chickadees to eagles and beyond. Our educational presentations feature non-releasable ambassador birds, and focus on conservation, ecology, behavior, and the importance of birds in the environment. We have traveled across the state to educate thousands of Alaskans, and now thanks to technology, we can provide virtual programming to reach a wider audience than ever before.

There are special patients where our two missions intersect. One such patient is a short-eared owl who came to Bird TLC from a remote area on the west coast of Alaska in 2021. Like most of our patients, we don't know how he came to be in human care. What we do know is he was raised illegally in a private residence and somehow got outside. Because the young owl was raised by a human, he did not recognize humans as a threat. He was found being picked up by his wings on a playground by children. Luckily, staff at the school contacted Bird TLC and were able to coordinate transferring the owl to us for rehabilitative care.

Photo courtesy Bird TLC

The Bird Treatment and Learning Center clinic in Anchorage houses and cares for up to 600 orphaned wild birds each year.

The short-eared owl was in perfect physical condition, but he would not be able to survive in the wild. This owl never learned how to hunt and sees people as a food source, a dangerous and potentially deadly combination. What happens when a bird cannot go back to the wild? We assess whether the bird is suitable for a life in human care, such as on display at a zoological park or as an educational ambassador. Right now, we are in the midst of these assessments with this little owl. Once our assessments are complete and we can be certain that he will live a quality life in human care, the short-eared owl will either join Bird TLC's flock of avian ambassadors or be transferred to another permitted facility.

You can learn more about Bird TLC on our website at We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We can be reached at 907-562-4852.

Maggie McConkey is the Bird TLC director of operations.


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