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Rescuing Our Fine Feathered Friends

The Clare Resident Suzanne Turner
The Clare Resident Suzanne Turner

Her fashion accessories raise interesting inquiries.  Suzanne Turner is often walking the streets of the Chicago Loop in the early morning hours, carrying a large net and some bags.  “People will ask me if I’m fishing or looking for butterflies.  Even in the freezing cold,” she said.  What the 73-year old resident of The Clare is actually attired for is bird monitoring and rescue.  During the heavy migratory seasons of spring and fall, Turner volunteers for Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

Chicago has more than 5 million migratory birds passing through.  Tall buildings, excessive glass exteriors and lights in their path pose hazards and each night during the migration seasons, hundreds of birds can be injured or killed.

As a volunteer for Chicago Bird Monitors, Turner patrols the streets of the Chicago Loop, picking up injured and dead birds. “I’ve volunteered for them for over ten years. Weekly I walk the streets for 2-5 hours looking for birds that have crashed into windows,” she said. Injured birds are picked up, placed in bags and taken to Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn to be rehabilitated and released.  Dead birds are taken to the Field Museum where they become part of the ornithology collection which is 100 years old and draws students from around the world.

Turner said that she first became interested in bird watching about 25 years ago. “It brings together a number of my interests: the outdoors, travel and birds.  Bird groups are typically small groups and I like the intimacy of that,” she said. Furthermore, she said that studying birds is fascinating as there are “endless varieties.  I am interested in their behavior and the way that they live.”

Birds are the most mobile beings on earth, with some traveling many thousands of miles each migration season. They do so Turner said, in order to meet their different environmental needs during different times of the year. The process, Turner said, is impressive and fascinating.  “There’s a bird that nests in the Arctic Circle and spends the summer in New Zealand.  It flies, literally without stopping and the trip can take several weeks,” she said. “Hummingbirds winter in Costa Rica and other southern locales and then nest around here.  They cross the Gulf of Mexico, which takes about a week.  They lose half of their body weight during that time.”

While walking the streets in Chicago, Turner said that she’ll find hummingbirds, warblers, woodpeckers and thrushes.  She carries a net and paper bags with clips. “If I find an injured bird, I put a net over it, pick it up and put it in the bag which I clip shut. I label the bag with the type of bird it is.  Within a few hours it will be transported to Willowbrook.  If it’s dead it’s taken to the Field Museum,” she said.

Turner will find injured and dead birds everyday during migration seasons. ‘Our group has found as many as 100-200 in a day,” she said.

Turner said that this year’s bird migration season which came late due to the long and harsh winter is likely to continue for several more weeks.  And so she will continue to grab her net and bags weekly to embark on her search and rescue.

Turner said that bird rescue is just one of the activities with which she’s involved while living at The Clare. “I’m on the life enrichment committee, social club and the garden club,” she said. “I’m pretty busy.”

The Clare at Rush and Pearson is a Life Care retirement community in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast with incomparable lifestyle, amenities and the financial stability only a debt-free community can offer.  The Terraces at The Clare, which partners with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, provides assisted living, memory support, rehabilitation and skilled nursing. The Terraces has earned the 5-star quality rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  The Clare is owned by Chicago Senior Care and managed by Life Care Services.  For more information visit: www.TheClare.com or call 312-784-8100.

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