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About the Sanctuary

Located on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida, the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is a truly unique place.   Founded in 1971 by zoologist Ralph Heath, the Sanctuary is the largest non-profit wild bird sanctuary in the United States. It is staffed by experienced professionals and dedicated volunteers. Similar to a human hospital, it is equipped with emergency facilities, a surgical center, and indoor and outdoor rehabilitation areas. An average of 15-20 wild birds are admitted every day for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, approximately 90% of these injuries are directly or indirectly attributable to humans.

The Sanctuary is considered to be one of the top avian rehabilitation centers in the world. Up to 5,000 wild injured birds (159 different species ) were admitted to the hospital each year  for care. Happily, over 80% of the birds that survive the first 24 hours are successfully  rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

There are a variety of species that are permanent residents at the Sanctuary, ranging from tiny song and garden birds to the majestic birds of prey. Although the goal is always to release the birds after they have recuperated from an illness or injury, those who have sustained injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild are kept permanently at the Sanctuary or given to another reputable facility. Any offspring these permanent residents produce are released into the wild.

One of the Sanctuary's biggest success stories is the captive breeding of the Eastern brown pelican. This groundbreaking program has aided in educating zoological facilities and wildlife refuges all over the world in addition to reestablishing this species in the wild. Due to its innovative breeding program and groundbreaking rehabilitation techniques, the Sanctuary has been featured in a variety of media: The New York Times, The Smithsonian, 20/20 , The Today Show and On The Road With Charles Kuralt, to name just a few. Some of the Sanctuary's permanent residents have even starred in Disney films.

Over the years the Sanctuary has been firmly established itself as a Central Florida attraction. Over 100,000 visitors tour the Sanctuary grounds each year. It's a destination for tourists from all over the world, and is conveniently  located near other attractions in the Tampa Bay area. Due to its location on the Gulf Coast of Florida near St. Petersburg, the Sanctuary is perfectly suited to a bird watching vacation. Many stroll the grounds of the Sanctuary enjoying the tremendous opportunities for photography.

Admission to the Sanctuary has always been free of charge. It is the  mission of the Sanctuary to educate the public about the plight of our wild birds as well as care for them. We want everyone to have a chance to visit, enjoy and learn. Visitors are encouraged to tour the open-air facility and beachfront. Groups of ten or more can book tours in advance, and such tours are also free of charge - donations are always welcome! The facility is open 365 days a year from 9:00 a.m. until sunset. The Sanctuary is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

Private donations are the Sanctuary's only means of support and for a small donation you can become a Member of the Sanctuary or join our Adopt-A-Bird program. With the continued support of people like you, the Sanctuary will be able to continue its life-saving mission for years to come!


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