“Mother of Avian Rehab (aka “The Bird Whisperer”)”
We've all heard the expression “put your heart into your work” and we thought we had an appreciation of what that meant. Then we met Marge Gibson. Her heart belongs to the birds. Hers, quite literally, IS an Eagle Rare Life.
Marge is an internationally respected avian rehabilitator whose life’s work has truly defined the field. Her research and documented case studies have provided invaluable insight into behaviors, nutritional needs, disease, rehabilitation procedures and post-release data of native bird species that is utilized worldwide. A dedicated educator, she shares that knowledge through countless intern programs, public education events, and rehab consultations around the globe. Most importantly, Marge and her non-profit organization, Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI), are responsible for the rehabilitation of over 10,000 injured and orphaned wild birds, of which approximately 1,100 are Bald and Golden Eagles.
While her rehabilitator beginnings date back to her childhood in Antigo, WI, it was during her time in California that things began to solidify. After training as a medical technologist, she met her husband, Don, a pathologist. With her passion for the avian world and Don’s support, they began a journey which has touched more lives than they will ever imagine.
For the next 40 years Marge combined her medical background and avian expertise into a field of study that had not previously existed. Her efforts benefited the California Condor Recovery Project, founded the Orange County Bird of Prey Center, pioneered the treatment of lead poisoning and West Nile Virus in birds, and directed the Eagle Capture and Health Assessment team in Alaska following the Valdez oil spill in 1989.
By 1990 the Gibson’s had returned to Wisconsin to be near family and begin a quiet life of retirement. They formed Raptor Education Group, Inc. as an outlet to continue educating the largely misinformed world about raptors and their valuable role in the ecosystem. Before long, however, they realized there was an overwhelming need for rehabilitation services for native birds, specifically eagles, and found themselves operating a 24x7x365 care facility!
In the years since, REGI’s role has continued to grow. State and federal cutbacks for wildlife programs has resulted in both a greater need for REGI’s services and an increased challenge in raising operating income; all of which now comes from public donations and the remains of the Gibson’s retirement fund. Today, REGI has grown to 11 patient buildings, a small clinic, and one of the country’s largest flight buildings for exercising Bald Eagles and other patients before release.
While this doesn't sound like retirement, Marge never complains. With approximately
700 patients annually, the concept of “vacation” has been replaced with early morning admissions, sleepless nights, and the challenges of raising funds to fight another day.
To the birds, she is their advocate. Their voice. A second chance at life.
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