We are excited to pull back the curtain and bring you into our busy clinic and rehabilitation aviary and share our efforts in the community through stories, pictures, and helpful advice. Our extraordinary staff and volunteers are busy 24 hours a day fulfilling our mission and we are so proud to be able to support them, our diverse native wildlife, and our community.

Enjoy our Summer Tour and thank you for supporting Key West Wildlife Center!

Key West Wildlife Center Board and Staff


Ensuring the future of our native wildlife by providing timely rescues and quality rehabilitation with hope of release back to the wild.

We Have Rescued 840+ Birds this Year

Meet just a few of our patients!

Maginificent frigate
American Redstart
Young Green Heron
Corey's Shearwater
Purple Gallinule

From Our Rescue Files

Interviews and Writing by Toby Amour with thanks to Evan McGrew for your help!

Brown PelicanThere were many calls to our rescue line about this Brown Pelican. The trouble was, no one could say exactly where it was. The callers declaring - ‘in the middle of the road on Highway One!’ and ‘cars going by fast!’.

In danger, for sure, but where? And then, Evan, a traffic controller for the Navy, called in with an exact location.

Off to Boca Chica went Executive Director Tom in the rescue truck. There indeed was the bird. Only now, it had gotten off the highway, into the mangroves, and could be seen perched up high on one of the branches. Tom waded in. It was a muddy slog; he was wet to the knees. The pelican, motionless, watching him approach. Tom lifted the net as high as he could and just managed to snare the bird. Securely holding the pelican under one arm, Tom slogged back through the muck. The rescue was just in time! 

This poor bird, a young female, had gotten separated from her flock. She was exhausted, dehydrated, covered with lice, and infested with worms. In fact, said Animal Care Director Peggy later, she probably had only hours to live.

Brown PelicanBack at Key West Wildlife Clinic, her parasites are washed away, the worms flushed away. She is given Zantac to reduce stomach irritation and fed a liquid diet.  After a few weeks of clinic care, she swallows her first solid food .. tasty fish! This important rehab victory signals her readiness to be moved in with the other pelicans in the Aviary. Her job now is to strengthen up on more tasty fish and be social again.

After three weeks of great progress in the Aviary, we arrived at our favorite step in the treatment process … release back to the wild. A wiser, happier, lucky bird.

Our 24-hour Rescue Line is 305-292-1008

Babies on Board!

Baby Northern MockingbirdsSpring brings the dance of mating birds and the exuberant sounds of baby birds to The Keys. Nesting in our area include Least Terns, White Crowned Pigeons, Mourning Doves, Ground Doves, Green Herons, Northern Mockingbirds, Common Grackles and Gray Kingbirds. Each Summer, the clinic becomes a bit more boisterous with the sights and sounds of those baby birds needing help in their early weeks. Tropical Storm Elsa brought such a case in the form of four young Northern Mockingbirds that were knocked out of their nest in the early gusts of the storm. A thoughtful homeowner noticed the birds on the ground and called for advice on safely tucking them away to ride out the storm. When the storm had passed, the little patients were brought to the Center.

The young Mockingbirds were in good condition and boasted the usual endearing appearance of Aristotle Onassis’ long lost relatives with tufts of pre-flight feather growth above each eye. TheyBaby Northern Mockingbirds were set-up together in an enclosure and moved onto the porch to benefit from the daytime fresh air, sun, and natural sounds of our park surroundings. Feeding these youngsters began right away with meal worms … repeated every 15 to 20 minutes during their first two weeks. These feedings are done by a staff member or trained volunteer using forceps to place a worm in their brightly colored open mouths until they show disinterest by closing their beaks, signaling they are full (at least, for 15 minutes!).

After two weeks in our care, the time has arrived to begin their transition to self-feeding. They are growing and their flight feathers are filling in well. During this next two-week step, a dish of worms is placed in their enclosure to encourage eating on their own. Feeding by staff continues throughout the day but the frequency will slowly decrease, making them more and more comfortable with self-feeding.
These energetic patients will rejoin the wild in late July when they are comfortable with self-feeding and their flight feathers are on full display. The release stage is also a slow and gentle process. The door of their enclosure will be opened, letting the birds decide when they want to leave. Even after they depart for the wild, the enclosure remains available with an open door and a dish of worms to help them during their first week back in nature. Once they stop returning to the enclosure, we know that our rewarding work is done, and our lucky Elsa patients are again back in the wild where they belong. 

To learn more about how to make the right decision when seeing a baby bird on the ground, visit Seasonal Tips on our website.
Baby Mourning Doves
Young Grey Kingbirds

Least Tern Private Eye in Key West

by Ellen Westbrook

"Are you a private investigator?"
I lowered my binoculars and put my cell phone timer on pause.  "What?"
I suddenly became aware of the man at my car window holding a hammer.  He repeated, "Are you a private investigator?"
It was early in the morning late in June and I was parked in a shady spot in front of a strip mall saloon undergoing some work, based on the sound of power tools inside.
"No!  I'm counting the least terns landing on the roof over there" I said, pointing to the bank across the cut-through of the strip mall. 
"The what?"
"Least terns.Those little white birds with the black caps screeching and flying over us. They are an endangered species, and we are monitoring them. They are nesting on the roofs." The fellow looked skeptical, so I reached into the glove box to pull out my Audubon Field Guide to Birds, Easter Region, and opened to the bookmarked page on least terns. "See? They don't actually build a nest; normally, they lay their eggs on a rocky beach. But now the beaches are covered with people, so they lay their eggs on a flat gravel roof, which kinda looks like a beach from the sky. FWC counts how many are nesting on roofs."
Another larger guy but without a hammer saunters over to my car. "So, you're with FWC?" "Well, not exactly. I mean, I'm a volunteer." "So, you don't have a badge?" "A badge? I didn't even get a t-shirt for this gig. Look, I'm here for fifteen minutes once a week to count, then I'll be out of your hair." The two construction workers look at each other and shrug. "Whatever," they say, and amble back to work.
For a little while, I ponder what they are building in there that would cause them to suspect a private investigator would have an interest. But then I think, "whatever" and restart my timer.

Learn more about these endangered and adaptive birds.
Mature Least Tern in flight
Young Least Tern at the clinic

Meet Tank - Education Bird

It was July 21, 2012, and the gawky little nestling mystified the staff and volunteers of the Key West Wildlife Center. They were plenty used to people bringing them baby birds fallen from nests too high up to be put back, or chopped down trees, or whose parents died or went missing. But this bird didn’t look like any of those.
One of the Center’s dedicated volunteers, Francis Masat, had lived in the Keys longer than anyone on the staff. Now well into his 70s, Masat had seen it all. He correctly identified the nestling as a Common Mynah. 
Baby TankCommon Mynah (Acridotheres tristis) belong to the starling family. They’re indigenous to Southern and Central Asia. An exotic population established itself between Miami and Key West as recently as the 1980s, populated by escapees from the pet trade. Intelligent and striking in their black, brown and white coloring, mynahs are best known for their ability to precisely mimic sounds, including human speech.
Due to their ability to thrive in urban settings, the mynah can become a particularly invasive pest. Aggressive and territorial, they chase native species out of their feeding areas. During breeding, they kill the young of other species anywhere near their own nests. Voracious eaters, they decimate fruit crops. 
Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, Spain and Portugal have all taken hard measures to try to curb mynah populations. In Florida, their numbers are still low enough that they’re “exotic” rather than “invasive,” but they also haven’t been here as long as those other places. Australia, for example, introduced the mynah in the late 19th Century for insect control. By 2009, Australian municipalities attempted to hunt the birds to reduce their numbers. 
At first, the Wildlife Center’s mynah nestling was too small to do anything more than flop around in a nest made of towels and gape for food. Mynahs are omnivores, so the staff hand-fed the nestling a variety of bugs, berries, veggies, and soaked cat chow.  
When raising native birds, the Wildlife Center keeps interaction with humans to a minimum outside of feeding. They house baby birds with other baby birds of the same species whenever possible; birds learn better how to be wild from other birds.
But non-native birds, like mynahs, cannot legally be released into the ecosystem. It’s a dilemma faced by the Wildlife Center regularly, as some species common to the Keys don’t actually belong here.
The staff had to make a tough decision. They didn’t need any more beaks to feed. Then, of course, if the mynah survived to adulthood, he’d need a good home. Mynahs need a lot of space and stimulation. They’re energetic, messy and loud!   
This mynah was in luck. Wildlife Center staff, intrigued by the idea of teaching him to greet visitors, decided to keep him. Someone quickly dubbed the mynah “Tank,” because he ate so much he doubled in size. Within a month, Tank was unrecognizable. Where at first he was nearly bald and wobbled to stand, he soon sported fine feathers and hopped around his enclosure. Animal Care Director Peggy Coontz started teaching the young mynah a few welcoming phrases. This involved a lot of repetition.  
“I’m Tank! I’m cute! I’m exotic!”
Over time, Tank revealed a definite preference for certain words and sounds. He loves to say Cute and Come here! He whistles along with Executive Director Tom Sweets. He also likes to mimic some less endearing noises, like clanking dishes and something that sounds like a garbage disposal, though there isn’t a garbage disposal at the Wildlife Center.
Adult TankTank lives in a spacious mesh cage in the Wildlife Center’s clinic where he can watch staff, volunteers, and the other birds. On nice days, he’s put on the porch for a perfect view of the Sonny McCoy Indigenous Park. He’s given toys for enrichment and a variety of good food. At almost 10 years old, he’s likely to live at least 2 more years, possibly even up to 10 more. Already, his lifespan has exceeded that of most mynahs in the wild, who live just 4-12 years.    
It’s not a bad life for Tank, though in the wilds of Asia, his life would’ve been very different. He’d have mated for life, ground-foraged during the day, and slept at night in communal roosts with others of his kind who all vocalized in unison before sunset. He’ll never know his native land. Luckily, he’s content and loved at the Wildlife Center, where he can do no harm to the Keys’ delicate ecosystem.

Our 24-hour Rescue Line is 305-292-1008

Did you Know the Answer?!

These special feet help the American Coot walk on top of vegetation in marshes and dry land when they're looking for food on the ground. In the water, the they use their big feet to propel themselves.

Three Cheers for Volunteers!


Shelley Green – Volunteer with Many Hats

Shelley Green Shelley arrived in Key West in 1978 when she wisely decided to switch out the cold winters of Martha’s Vineyard for the sun and warmth of Key West. Her boundless energy landed her a job at Casa Marina Resort within three days of arriving where she rubbed elbows with Tennessee Williams, David Wolkowsky and other Key West icons.

Soon she added tending bar to her skillset and kept everyone happy and hydrated at The Key Wester and still found time to help manage Pepe’s. She met her partner, Courtney, during these busy days, and they shared 30 great years living in Key West and globetrotting.

In 2011, Shelley visited Indigenous Park for the first time and was amazed at the natural beauty of the park and Key West Wildlife Center’s hard work of rescuing and rehabilitating native wildlife. That same day, Shelley offered her time and energy as a Greeter to help educate people about the Center’s important work and the beauty of the park. 

2017 brought Hurricane Irma and we had our antidote in the form of Shelley. She traded in her greeter hat for any hat that was needed at the Center.  During those demanding days of clean-up, animal care and rescues, she helped do it all.    

Twice a week Shelley shares her passion for Key West Wildlife Center, our special park, and our extraordinary city to all of our lucky visitors.

Shelley, thank you for sharing your energy and enthusiasm all these years!

Interested in helping as a Greeter, please email to

Did you Know the Answer?!

This spring we had a Northern Gannet as a patient

We rescued this Northern Gannet (right) after someone reported it down, weak and dehydrated on Big Pine Key. It was administered fluids to begin rehabilitation and eventually released after three weeks of rehabilitation and care.

Increase Your Giving Power Using Publicly Traded Securities

by Jennifer McComb, President and CEO, CFFK

Gifts of publicly traded securities–such as stocks, bonds and exchange-traded funds—are a tax-efficient way to donate to charity, saving you up to 70% on your taxes. When donating securities, you may avoid paying two types of taxes: capital gains and state income taxes (if your primary residence is in a state where those apply).

In addition, if you itemize deductions on your federal tax return, you may claim a deduction for the fair market value of the securities at the time of the donation. You would get the most benefit from donating appreciated securities that have been held for more than a year. Securities owned for less than one year may also be donated, but the deduction is limited to the cost basis.

You will need to contact your financial advisor or brokerage firm to learn about its procedures and the time frame for giving securities. You may also give mutual fund shares but should consult the company for instructions. If you are contemplating a year-end gift, it’s a good idea to start the process well in advance. Email ( or call (305- 292-1008) Key West Wildlife Center for brokerage account information. Alternatively, you may give securities to the Key West Wildlife Center through the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys: email or call (305) 292-1502.

Please be aware that gifts of appreciated non-cash assets may involve complicated tax analysis and advance planning, and the rules are constantly changing. This article is not intended to provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal adviser.


Key West Wildlife Center, Inc. (EIN: 27-1565877) is a 501(c)(3) Charitable Tax Exempt Organization. Your donations help us to fulfill our mission. Contributions are deductible under the Internal Revenue Code. Please donate online or send donations to: Key West Wildlife Center, PO Box 2297, Key West, FL 33045. You may also contact us at 305-292-1008 or

Thank You!

KWWC logo


Learn more about staff and board here!
Tom Sweets, Executive Director
Peggy Coontz, Animal Care Director
Samantha Plencner, Program Director
Sarah Goodwin, Rescuer and Rehabilitator

Jennifer Lopes
Jackie Hewett
Kathleen Bratton
Debra Babich
Jane Gardner
Diane McNeil
Frances Porter
Steve Porter
Ellen Westbrook
Copyright © 2021 Key West Wildlife Center, Inc, All rights reserved.

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