Let’s Talk: Sustainability Conserving the Birds of the Everglades

By day Beth can be found working for NTT in customer experience. Come the weekend, Beth changes gear, working to support a local bird sanctuary. As a keen ornithologist, Beth is a committed champion of all things sustainability related. A long-term volunteer, she now spends her weekends supporting the local conservation center which aims to protect and save birds of prey in Florida, the southeastern state in the United States of America.

What is it you do and how did you come to volunteer here?

I’ve volunteered throughout my life and find it very rewarding. About two and a half years ago I was looking for an organization or charity that I could support. I love the outdoors and so when this opportunity came along it seemed the perfect fit; plus, it’s close to where I live. I volunteer at the center several times a month. When I started, I was mainly working in reception and supporting guest relations. In the last year I’ve moved across more to education, bird handling, cleaning, and feeding. With the education side of things, we provide a mix of everything from school tours to helping scouts achieve their badges. We also have an owl prowl at night which is designed more for adults.

Can you tell us a little about the center?

It’s called the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey and is based in central Florida. It’s focused on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing birds of prey. The main species it cares for are; hawks, falcons, kites, osprey, vultures, eagles and owls. These are all native breeds to Florida. We also provide education to visitors talking about migratory patterns, water conversation and the impact of environmental change on the surrounding natural world around us. The center takes in around 700 birds every year and it takes 60 volunteers to keep the place running.

Do you have any favorites?

We have a number of resident birds who cannot be released and so they form a central part of the education program. There’s an osprey called Hank and a bald eagle called Frank (Francis). He’s been at the center since 1991 and is very particular about who he’ll allow to handle him. I’m hoping one day I can get to the point where I am one of them. A lot of people are afraid of the eagles because of their size so you do have to work up to handling them. They grow to three feet long with a wingspan of six to eight feet. The center has a very strict safety policy, and the wellbeing of the birds always comes first. Everyone who works here must go through very extensive training.

What have your experiences shown you about sustainability and conservation?

In Florida we have so much construction and development that it’s important we have protected areas. Animals are usually brought into the center because of human activity which is creating habitat loss. This includes cutting down trees and sustaining injuries from fishing lines where the birds get caught in the line and try to break free. The most frequent injury though is from car strikes, especially for vultures, which feed off the carrion left on the road or at the side.

Raptors [birds of prey] are adaptable. We have had success working with the power companies and asking them to put up nesting platforms when they install new electricity pilons and mobile phone towers. Osprey are particularly fond of these platforms.

What does volunteering at the center mean to you?

Being able to help the birds and release them has been fantastic. I recently had the privilege of holding a 9-pound bald eagle and that was just the coolest thing. She came in after getting injured in a territorial fight. We don’t name the birds due to be released again. Se’s just known as number 67 since she’s the 67th bird that’s come through the center since the start of the year. She’ll be here another couple of weeks and then will be released back into the wild. Normally we return the birds to where we’ve found them, however, she will be released in a different spot since we don’t want her getting into another fight.

It’s a very beautiful thing to take an injured animal and help them recover before returning them to their natural state. I’ve helped return a baby hawk that had fallen from its nest about 40-feet high in a tree as well as released an American Kestrel back into the wild.

My advice to others is try to be present in nature. Take a minute, put your phone down, and look up; you never know what you’ll see!

Beth George

Beth joined NTT two years ago working for the Americas marketing team. She brings with her extensive experience in customer experience. She now spends her time working on the voice of the client program for NTT Americas taking in and processing survey data, conducting interviews and helping to process data into insights to share back with the business. She was attracted to working for NTT after reading about how we helped to reinvigorate the rhino population in South Africa. For anyone wanting to find out more you can read about the Audubon Center here.

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