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Posted on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Did the election go to the birds? Injured avians make way for voting process

By Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

Ann Arbor Animal Hospital-November-2012-Bird-Center

Bird Center of Washtenaw County: Pre-move at the BC!

Photo by Bird Center of Washtenaw County

This is not a question of political position, but rather an observation of a process that takes place before and after every municipal election in Ann Arbor…and most residents don’t even know it.

The Bird Center of Washtenaw County is an organization of numerous volunteers and staff who care for injured or orphaned wild birds throughout the year. The majority of the time, the Bird Center is housed in a city-owned facility at 926 Mary St. This facility, however, is also a local polling place, so before and during each election, the Bird Center staff and volunteers find refuge in the training room at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital for a few days.

A flurry of activity takes place in order to move all of the birds (housed in laundry baskets or playpens and covered with netting) and ready the polling place for humans to cast their vote. Moving day starts at 7 a.m. when volunteers arrive to feed the birds and clean the baskets. By 10:30 a.m. more volunteers arrive in vans to transport the birds and their supplies to their temporary home at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.


The Bird Center's temporary home at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

Photo by Bird Center of Washtenaw County

The van drivers return to Mary Street to remove all items, transport them to a storage unit, and fold up all the tables and card tables. The tables are stacked at the rear of the room.

Simultaneously the morning shift of interns and volunteers feed the birds and care for them until 2:15 p.m. The second shift will have arrived at the Animal Hospital by 1:45 p.m. and will be briefed on the condition of the birds and any birds that need special care. They will then work until 9 p.m.

At 3 p.m. a cleaning crew of volunteers will arrive at Mary Street, take down the cloth shower curtains and PVC pipes that screen off our public area, and begin the big job of taking up floor mats and cleaning everything in sight. Because there are 60,000 mealworms delivered each week to feed the birds, the cleaning crew vacuums the cracks in the concrete floor and then mops so that no voter sees any trace of birds ever having been there.

The day before the election, the polling place is prepared by election officials and the birds are cared for in their temporary home. During those few days the unusual but wonderful sound of chirps and songs of birds can be heard at the Animal Hospital.

The day after the election, while results may still be in the process of being tabulated, the whole process is reversed as the birds are transferred back to Mary Street and the cleaning is done at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital. The birds are housed at the Mary Street location the rest of the year (except for elections), and hopefully they are able to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild when they are ready.

This is a wonderful partnership between the City, the Bird Center and the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital (which throughout the year also provides humane euthanasia to any birds deemed too injured for rehabilitation). These community partners all work together to assist birds and the citizens who find them in their neighborhoods.

If you are interested in learning more about the good work of the Bird Center of Washtenaw County, please see their website at

David Caddell is the hospital director of the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital, a locally owned and operated Companion Animal Hospital. David can be reached at 734-662-4474 or


Sarah Rigg

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

LA: I've talked to the folks at the Bird Center, and they surely would like a home where they didn't have to move the birds for elections but right now they can't afford it.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

wow, never knew. Why can't the voting location be changed? Isn't this hard on the birds?

Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

Hi LA, I don't have the entire history of how the Mary St. facility became a polling place and home to the BC. It is my understanding that the city donates the space (thank you City of Ann Arbor), but does need to use the facility during elections so citizens to vote. In terms of the stress on the birds, I am not a veterinarian so I cannot comment on negative impacts to the birds when moving. However, I do enjoy "the show" when the BC needs to use our facility. To my surprise, the birds appear to be calm and settled in their laundry basket nests ( the BC staff does a wonderful job of ensuring the safety of the birds ). During feeding times it can become loud with the chirps of rescued birds waiting for their catered meals. Finally, I am not aware of any birds expiring due to the move. For more information, I would suggest contacting the BC... they may be looking for volunteers! Best, David