After the non-profit Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society was formed earlier this year to be the wings beneath Powell River’s bird lady, Merrilee Prior said she has found more time to tend to her flock.
Prior, or the bird lady as she is commonly known, founded the society. She said if it is successful in raising funds she would like to build a proper aviary for the birds she cares for.
“I would like the society to find a permanent home; a rehab facility,” said Prior. “My little Townsite home just isn’t adequate.”
Since 2010, Prior’s home has been for the birds. She has been a caregiver amid a cacophony of bird song and call, including the high-pitched shrill of an eagle, hoot of an owl, a crow’s caw, duck quacks and chirping budgies.
“I started out with six budgies, but people have been adding to my flock,” said Prior. “I’m up to 15.”
She said her days are a flurry and she appreciates sunsets, when the birds become quiet and go to sleep. She has had up to 30 birds at a time during summer months.
“At one point the only room in this house that didn’t have birds was my bedroom,” she said. “I even had a duck in the bathtub.”
Roselyn Boarman, community council chair for BC SPCA Powell River and District Branch, has been aware of what Prior is doing from the beginning.
“She was doing it because she loved it and she was a resource for the SPCA,” said Boarman.
According to Boarman, the society called on Prior whenever it was contacted because of injured wild birds of all sizes.
“People call on her for her help and expertise,” said Boarman.
Prior said over the years she has returned an average of 50 per cent of the birds brought to her.
“If they die here and haven’t been medicated, I take them out and they fulfill their place in the cycle of nature,” she said. “If they are euthanized at a vet, they dispose of them.”
According to Prior, the society’s non-profit status will allow the organization to set goals, fundraise and allow time for finding volunteers and applying for grants.
“I know a lot of people want to give to Merrilee and help support what she does,” said Boarman. “The fact that she now has a non-profit allows people to make financial contributions and help by volunteering.”
Prior said creating a place where wild and domesticated birds can be cared for if injured or abandoned is an expensive proposition.
Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta takes in about 600 birds a year.
“They have a budget of half a million dollars and seven full-time employees,” said Prior. “I take in 200 birds a year, my pension pays for it, and it’s just me.”
Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society will hold its first general meeting at 7 pm, Monday, October 17, at St. David and St. Paul Anglican Church. A board of directors will be elected at the meeting.