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Bird ambulance swoops to the rescue in eastern Finland

A group of bird enthusiasts in South Karelia decided to set up the avian emergency service after intervening to save a hawk which had flown into a window last summer. Their rescue effort prevented the bird from being put down.

Loukkaantunut nuori kanahaukka Harri Ekholmin kädessä.
Bird rescuer Harri Ekholm tends to an injured goshawk Image: Harri Ekholm/Etelä-Karjalan lintutieteellinen yhdistys

Birds in eastern Finland who fly into windows or otherwise get themselves into scrapes now have a dedicated emergency service of their own, after a group of avian enthusiasts set up a bird ambulance to come to the aid of hapless feathered creatures.

The rescue service, founded by members of the South Karelian Ornithological Society, EKLY, consists of a team of volunteers who respond to calls from members of the public who discover injured animals.

”A caller could ring us for advice on how to deal with a situation they come across. We assess the severity of the situation and when necessary come to the scene,” Liisa Laitinen, the organisation’s spokesperson, said.

EKLY does not have a central emergency number, but lists contact details on its website for the volunteers who can come and help. The volunteers fund the cost of the service from their own pockets.

Window strike

The idea for the bird ambulance was hatched this summer, after the group came to the rescue of a goshawk which had flown into a window. “The woman who’d found the bird called the police first, and they told her they were on their way over to put the hawk down,” Laitinen said. “She panicked, and got in touch with us instead.”

EKLY member and bird-rescuer Harri Ekholm arrived on the scene, and managed to catch the limping creature. He brought it to the bird sanctuary at Pyhtää, near Kotka in southern Finland. The hawk’s broken wing was treated and the animal was on the mend within a week.

Since then the bird ambulance has come to the rescue of swans, geese and a raven.

If a bird seems unable to recover without human intervention, volunteers will transfer the wounded animal to the sanctuary at Pyhtää. Once returned to health, the birds are re-released into the wild wherever possible.

”Freeing them depends on what season it is. If it’s a bird that wouldn’t make it through a Finnish winter, it will be kept in care until springtime,” Laitinen said.

However, Laitinen called on the public who discover an animal that appears in trouble to take time to assess a situation themselves before reaching for the phone and calling in the bird rescuers.

”Usually it’s just a temporary emergency. Many birds who, for example, fly into windows are a bit dazed, but don’t take long before they get themselves back up into the air.”

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