WAIF annual open house offers closeup look at owls, eagles, hawks
When it comes to wild birds in need, Nancy Laird’s heart — and her infirmary — are always open.
For 35 years, the retired registered nurse has dedicated her life to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing birds of all kinds back into the wild.
One weekend each year, Laird throws open her gate to the public.
Bird lovers and families with children are invited to the Wild Animal Infirmary for Nevada’s open house from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July 30 and 31 at 2920 Eagle St. in Washoe Valley.
Admission is free but donations are welcome to help pay for food and veterinary care for her patients. Visitors are encouraged to bring cameras to take photos during a self-guided tour. Information cards on the outdoor flights provide information about each bird, where it was found and what injuries it sustained.
Although hawks, eagles, owls and falcons are her most common patients each year, Laird has rehabilitated everything from a tiny quail to an enormous pelican in her years operating the nonprofit facility.
This year, visitors can expect to see a number of great-horned owl “birds of the year,” the technical term for those hatched in the spring.
“There were 12, which were victims of the wind and rain, and they came from diverse situations. A lot of nests were broken up by the weather in February and March,” Laird said.
Of the 12, two came from Pleasant Valley, two from Zolezzi Lane, two from Mustang, two from the Klaich Animal Hospital in Reno, two from Stead, one from Mount Rose and one from Wadsworth.
“The babies fell out of the nests, but they had enough feather development that they had a soft landing with no broken legs or wings. They were the first of the raptors to come in, most of them in April,” Laird said.
Most have been released, but three have been kept for the open house and will be released after the event, she said.
A red-tailed hawk, a Swainson’s hawk, kestrels and barn owls also will be part of the open house.
Laird estimates she spends nearly $400 a month on chicken liver and beef liver for the birds in her care.
“That’s the only way you can have good, healthy patients,” she said.
In addition, cardboard carriers, calcium and vitamins can run nearly $200.
“We used to get kind of a break in the winter, but not anymore,” she said. Many birds get hit by cars.
WAIF receives no funding from state or government agencies, so it relies on donations to operate. It receives donations during the open house, as well as from donors throughout the year.
Veterinarians like Rob Cocanour at Klaich Animal Hospital do the examinations, diagnoses and surgeries, and an ophthalmologist treats eye problems.
Nursing care is provided by Laird, who supervises a few select volunteers such as Suzette Feilan, who has been with Laird for 14 years, and Neil Bishop.
After birds are nursed back to health, WAIF provides a number of large outdoor flights where raptors can learn to fly, hunt and exercise.
Birds come to WAIF by way of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Audubon Society, animal control agencies and the general public, Laird said.