Empire’s Wings of Wonder Begins New Chapter
The nonprofit Wings of Wonder raptor rehabilitation in Empire has helped hundreds of birds in its 31 years.
Now founder Rebecca Lessard, its executive director, is moving to a new chapter in her life.
“It’s been an absolute privilege every day to work with these birds, I’ve never lost sight of that,” Lessard said. “We still will be in existence for next year. “The only big difference is that I’m retiring from doing the rehabilitation work, so we are no longer accepting sick, injured, and orphaned raptors and I’m no longer traveling with educational birds.”
“You never know when a patient’s coming in and what their needs are,” she said. “When we have a number of critical patients coming in all at once or within a few days of each other, it’s extremely demanding work.”
Her birds’ flight pens are being torn down with the materials recycled. Lessard said some parts were hard to see go.
“We had up to 14 different flight pens here, the smallest was 6 feet by 8 feet and the largest was 16 feet by 100 feet,” she said. “Seeing the 100 foot flight pen dismantled, there was some nostalgic kind of grief. Wings of Wonder was only one of three organizations in the entire state with a 100 foot flight pen [for bald eagles].”
Lessard is not through with her work yet.
“What I’m going to be doing is working with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians to create a raptor center up in Harbor Springs with an adjoining Tribal Eagle Aviary,” Lessard said. “This will be the first tribal eagle aviary east of the Mississippi, so it’s really exciting.”
And passing that legacy on means so much to her.
“To see this legacy continue, there’s just no words,” she said. “It’s such a gift.”