INDIAN SHORES, Fla. — The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is Mickey Zucker’s second home.
Even though she’s a volunteer and not on the payroll at the sanctuary, you’ll find her there many days. The bird rescuer’s work is practically full-time and non-stop.
“Well, there’s already three rescues that I’m feeling guilty about not running to at the moment, and I’ve already had one this morning,” she said during a Monday interview, in between rescues. “So it looks like it’s going to be a busy day.”
Zucker has rescued so many of Tampa Bay’s birds: pelicans, owls, herons and more.
“At this point, I’m up to hundreds,” Zucker said.
She’s just one of the rescuers, rehabbers and caretakers doing important work at the sanctuary just up the road from Redington Beach in Indian Shores.
The birds she and others rescue are nursed back to health and ultimately released.
“Watching them go back out into the wild is just an incredible thing to see,” said Christina Chilbert, the Development and Marketing Administrator for Seaside Seabird Sanctuary.
But, as Chilbert knows, getting the avian patients to the point they can be released takes time and money.
Right now, the sanctuary is feeling the impact of inflation.
“We’re one of the only facilities in this area that does what we do and helps these birds, and our medical costs are really high, our food cost is high, and everybody knows that now even trying to buy meat and fish,” said Chilbert. “It’s just gone astronomical.”
The sanctuary is also feeling the impact of recent red tide blooms.
While some of the birds requiring care come to the center with more traditional injuries after they’ve been struck by cars or hooked by fishermen, nowadays, many more of them need care because of red tide illness. According to Chilbert, it causes temporary neurological impairment to the birds.
“It’s kind of almost like they’re drunk walking around,” she said. “One month, I think we saw about 60 birds in two weeks' time.”
But Chilbert stays hopeful — hopeful more people will reach out with donations and hopeful for more selfless volunteers like Zucker, who said she won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
“The idea that I just saved a life or helped save a life...is unbelievable,” Zucker said.
Visitors can tour the sanctuary daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is also holding several fundraisers in the coming weeks. Right now, the sanctuary is holding an online raffle for two JetBlue airfare tickets. A fish fry to benefit the sanctuary is also planned for Nov. 20 at the Holiday Isles Elks #1912 in Madeira Beach.