The Wild Bird Center

Nestled in a chain of over 10,000 islands, the middle Florida Keys lie beneath a major migratory flyway for over 100 avian species. The Marathon Wild Bird Center’s sole purpose is to rescue, rehabilitate and release both migratory and resident wild birds when they become sick, injured or orphaned. Our rescue service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our major emphasis has always been to ease the suffering of these vulnerable creatures and to return them to the skies as soon as possible. In addition to our rehabilitation efforts, we take great pride in our many conservation education presentations in schools, libraries, and at community events that help to reduce the occasions of injury and lessen the environmental hazards that place these birds at risk.

The Marathon Wild Bird Center has been in operation since 1995 when Kelly Grinter, founder and director, first began tending to these needy birds from the backseat of her car. Today, more than 25,000 feathered patients later, Kelly and her one employee, together with a team of loyal volunteers, assist an average of 750 animals each year. 

The Marathon Wild Bird Center rescued 558 birds in 2023 and enjoyed a release rate of 41%. An additional 130 animals, such as small mammals (raccoon and opossum) and chickens, also arrived and were promptly relocated to the proper sanctuary or rehabber. Total patients admitted in 2023 – 688.

We are grateful to be located at Crane Point Hammock Museums and Nature Center in Marathon. You can visit the Marathon Wild Bird Center while exploring this 63-acre tropical oasis, but please be aware that your admission fee to the museum covers the upkeep of this huge property. It does not go directly to the birds. Donations made directly to the MWBC are used to cover food, medical and maintenance costs to keep us operating and we couldn’t do it without the independent support of visitors.

Our History

The Marathon Wild Bird Center, Inc. was originally hatched as Marathon Wild Bird Rescue, a Chapter of the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, Inc. in Tavernier, Florida, in 1994 after Kelly Grinter, a graduated graphic artist from Massachusetts, completed a longtime dream internship (at the Tavernier facility) working hands-on with animals. Eventually, with the aid of Richie Moretti, founder of The Turtle Hospital and a member of the Florida Keys Land & Sea Trust board of directors, operators of the facility agreed to allow her to utilize the Crane Family’s original carport as a small, permanent stabilization area for injured birds prior to being transported 44 miles north to a more established facility.

In March 1995, Kelly and several newly trained volunteers, converted the Crane’s carport into a small space to treat and confine birds until stabilization of the patient and transport could be arranged. Three years later the chapter became its own 501(c)not-for-profit organization and in 2000 incorporated and took on the name of Marathon Wild Bird Center, Inc. No longer just a rescue organization, volunteers and local veterinarians gave their time to help see patients through to release! The Crane’s old tennis court became the home of a variety of habitats. Most exclusively for rehabilitation patients. However, a 40’x20’x10’ section became the flight cage, a place that would eventually become home to a mix of pelicans and double-crested cormorants that could not be released back to the wild.

Over the next two decades, thousands of visitors to Crane Point, and schoolchildren on field trips, have had the opportunity to learn not only about our native birds, and those that migrate through the Keys, but also about the many ways humans conflict with wildlife and what can be done to prevent these hazards.