WINGS OF AN ANGEL
Berkshires sanctuary gives birds new life.
Saturday July 17, 2010
NY Daily News
By Amy Sacks – Daily News Staff Worker
A tiny yellow ducking recently found wandering alone on the grounds of
the New York Botanical Garden has since landed in paradise.
“I knew a fledgling would never survivor with all the predators
in the Garden,” said the bird’s rescuer, a state licensed
wildlife rehabber who asked not to be identified because some neighbors
don’t know that she cares for squirrels, pigeons and other creatures
in need from her Manhattan apartment.
The curious fluffy bird spent the night frolicking in the rescuer’s
bathtub before making the four hours journey to the Berkshire Bird Paradise,
where she was greeted by a gaggle of ducklings that reside at the upstate
Located in upstate, Grafton, NY the safe haven is home to more than 1,200
disable and unwanted birds, from emus, pigeons and tropical birds to owls,
hawks, falcons and eagles.
New York city residents regularly make the drive to hand-deliver injured
pigeons and squirrels to founder Peter Debacher, who turned his parents
20-acrea farm into a maze of wooded pens and exotic plants in 1972 as
a “labor of love.”
Wildlife officials across the country have sent injured birds for his
care, form an eagle mauled by a grizzly bear in Alaska to cranes left
over from a breeding program in Maryland.
“All life is sacred; once you spend some time with them, you realize
every creature has its uniqueness,” said Debacher, a former Army
cook who served in the late 1960s in Panama, where he bought parrots being
sold as pets in the vegetable stands and set them fee.
In the three decades, he has taken in more than 20 wounded eagles, including
Victoria a bald eagle who survived the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in
Victoria’s two baby eagles – their father, Baldwin, came from
a zoo – who were born in the sanctuary were recently released into
Meanwhile, Debacher latest mission to provide refuel to an eagle shot
in the wing in Afghanistan.
Concerned Navy Seals recently e-mailed Debacher, asking him to take the
wounded steep eagle, but U.S Wildlife regulations have kept the bird form
entering the country.
Debacher has enlisted help from author Barbara Chepaitis to cut through
the red tape and act as a liaison between lawmakers and the soldiers.
Chepaitis, a bird lover who discovered the sanctuary years ago, understands
the dept of Debacher’s compassion. In her new book, “Feathers
of Hope” (SUNY Press), she provides an intimate view of live at
the sanctuary and the enormous effort it takes for Debacher to maintain
After all, the sanctuary is a humble place run by a small army of volunteers.
Debacher estimates it costs about $150,000 a year to run the nonprofit
facility, which relies strictly on monetary donations and community outreach.
State troopers and DEC workers regularly drop off road kill and dead rats,
which feeds the birds. Day-old bread donated by local stores, and apples,
pumpkins and other fresh veggies from local farmers help feed squirrels
Kids from nearby Tryon Juvenile Detention Center even help pain signs
and make bird feeders, while learning about compassion for animals
Despite the enormous lifelong commitment to the animals, Debacher doesn’t
not feel shacked down. He says sharing an occasion movie and a sandwich
in town with his wife, Betty Ann, and their 16 year old daughter helps
keep him going.
He said, “This is my paradise and I love it.”
The Berkshire Bird Paradise welcomes visitors. For information or to make
a donation go to
If you would like to be a part of this
good work please