On one of our adventure days, when Dad chose the adventure, we went to the Ohio Bird Sanctuary in Mansfield, Ohio. None of us had ever been there so we didn’t know what to expect, but it was very interesting and impressive.
The Ohio Bird Sanctuary was founded in 1988. The Sanctuary originally operated from the private farm of Chris & Gail Laux. It began as three enclosures built adjacent to a barn that housed the first educational birds. The barn itself was used to condition birds for flight. Over the next 10 years four flight cages were designed and built to condition recovering raptors for release and additional enclosures were constructed to house the growing educational collection. The first 10 years established the Sanctuary as serving an important need in the community.
By 1992 it became apparent the Sanctuary was outgrowing its current location. The Board of Directors located an ideal piece of property for the Sanctuary in 1995 at the site of Boy Scout Camp Avery Hand. The Sanctuary leased 52 acres of the camp from the Scout Council that included an existing entrance, drive, a-frame building and storage garage. The relocation of the Sanctuary provided a permanent home for the organization and the opportunity to become a public and integral part of the community.
The development of the public facility occurred in stages. Initially trail systems were created, existing buildings were renovated and a parking lot was constructed. This first phase opened the doors of the Sanctuary to the public in 1999 and for summer camps and special events.
Over the following fifteen years a brick walkway, boardwalk and songbird aviary were constructed to make the facility accessible to all individuals. A bird care area and additional display cages were constructed to serve a exponentially growing avian collection and rehabilitative services. In 2009 the scout camp closed and the Sanctuary purchased the 52 acres it had previously leased plus the dining hall structure and an additional 38 acres of valuable habitat. The transfer of ownership of the property provided the Ohio Bird Sanctuary a solid future and the ability to protect the valuable riparian habitat.
In 2015, a state of the art octagon flight cage was constructed to condition large raptors such as eagles and peregrine for release and the dining hall was renovated into an educational center suitable for hosting school field trips, tour groups and day camps. The Ohio Bird Sanctuary was able to successfully raise all funding necessary for the purchase and all renovations without incurring debt. These most recent improvements have provided the Sanctuary with a cohesive facility that efficiently provides professional bird care, personal encounters with nature, educational experiences and seclusion for recovering birds.
The Ohio Bird Sanctuary offers several different experiences for visitors. Programs change seasonally. We chose to visit in time for the 11 a.m. feeding and trainer talk. All the birds at the sanctuary are either recovering from injuries or are unable to be released into the wild. For instance, the black vulture had been hit by a car and had balance issues that meant it couldn’t fly. The trainer was teaching it to go into a cage so it could be more easily transported. The vulture knew where she kept the food and when she was distracted talking to us, the vulture kept trying to poke its beak into the food pouch. It was really good at jumping into and out of the cage.
The trainer talked about educating the public – especially helping people learn to love vultures. She said vultures have special acids in their stomach and urine that help sanitize their food so they can eat anything. In this way they are nature’s garbage collectors and help clean up dead animal bodies. The sanctuary does a really good job of education. Each of the cages has a sign with the bird’s name, the kind of bird, and why it is at the sanctuary.
We enjoyed walking around and looking at all the raptors. We also spent some time in the aviary where songbirds were being rehabilitated. You can buy food for the songbirds, and we had a little wren that came right up to us, looking for food. If it had been a nicer day, we could have hiked on some of the trails or walked over to the treehouse.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. There was a $5 per person admission fee, but that was a reasonable donation to make for all that we learned.