Carer becomes surrogate father to birds

'Absolutely amazing feeling'

ANGELA CUMING
Last updated 12:58 03/12/2012
PETER DRURY

Bill Smith is Waikato's wildlife rehabilitator. He takes in sick birds and animals, mostly native, and nutures them back to health.

FEATHERED FRIEND: This five-week-old morepork is being cared for by Waikato wildlife rehabilitator Bill Smith after the bird was found wedged between a car and a surfboard that had driven down from Auckland to Hamilton.
PETER DRURY
FEATHERED FRIEND: This five-week-old morepork is being cared for by Waikato wildlife rehabilitator Bill Smith after the bird was found wedged between a car and a surfboard that had driven down from Auckland to Hamilton.

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Most who have a high-pressure job in finance would unwind at the end of a hard day's work with a glass of wine, a long walk or a round of golf.

Bill Smith chooses to care for his growing collection of native birds and other assorted wildlife.

The wealth adviser for Kiwibank holds a permit from the Conservation Department to care for injured and sick protected or partly protected birds at his lifestyle block in Gordonton.

He began his animal welfare efforts in 2006 after purchasing galah cockatoos, and enrolled in an avian course to better understand and care for his small charges.

Releasing a bird back into the wild is an "absolutely amazing feeling" he said.

"I remember the most amazing one I ever had was a harrier who had come in with a broken wing. It had mixed itself up in a truck," he said.

"We pinned the wing and took it out to a quarry and released it, and to see that bird fly and then soar down into a pasture and watch another harrier come over to investigate was just an amazing feeling.

"It really is something that makes what you are doing worthwhile."

Spring is his busiest time and right now he is playing dad to three pukeko chicks, a five-week old morepork, a heron, a shag and 18 tortoises.

"The tortoises are refugees from Christchurch," he says.

"When the quake hit, all the pet tanks cracked and so I took them in."

He has been kept busy with baby tui as well. The success of the Hamilton Halo project brought with it an increase in the birds' numbers and the orphaned or abandoned fledglings.

"It was three or four years before I got a tui and this year I've had eight through already, all chicks, so there is a greater number of them, I think thanks to Project Halo" he said.

"So I guess you say the flip side of that is my services and the services of those like me will be called upon more and more."

And, while spare time is now a distant luxury, Mr Smith says he will never stop caring for birds.

"If I don't do it, then who will?"

Mr Smith relies largely on donations to keep his vital work going and has recently formed the Animal Wildlife Rehabilitation Trust.

To make a donation or to report injured birds phone 021 274 4256.

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- Waikato Times

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