Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter


1638 East Beach Drive, Oak Island, NC 28465

Heaven on earth exists on one of North Carolina's southern barrier islands. Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter, operated by Mary Ellen Rogers since 2007, gives sick and injured birds a chance both to heal and to fly and find food again. After moving to North Carolina in 2003 and purchasing a cottage named "Sea Biscuit," Mary Ellen realized that there was no rehabilitation center for the local shorebirds that swallow fish hooks, get tangled in fish nets, or otherwise injured or orphaned. Local animal control and turtle volunteers encouraged her to care for injured birds. After volunteering at the SC Center for Birds of Prey and the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter to gain experience, Mary Ellen obtained state and federal permits and was able to open Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter. Now dedicated solely to birds, rather than being a large facility, the shelter is in the lower level of Mary Ellen's small beach house and in her back yard. Due to the nature of their illnesses or injuries, some birds are kept inside in cages during recovery while others, particularly Brown Pelicans, are outside. The backyard now holds three wooden and plastic-netted enclosures. The large enclosure, 12 feet by 30 feet and 12 feet high, allows birds to flight train and even hunt their own food prior to release. The medium one, 8 feet by 16 feet and 8 feet high, is for songbirds and gulls or birds needing a lot of privacy. The newest is 8 x 10 and an "L" on the 8 x 16. It is for the little birds who need flight training prior to release. The Shelter is not open to the public in order to safeguard the animals from unnecessary disturbance and noise.

Today while I was making this webpage, Sea Biscuit had a busy day. Within three hours, Mary Ellen received an new emaciated Red-throated Loon that had been bitten by a shark, a cardinal mauled by a cat, and an orphaned mourning dove.

On the following blog site and in the two newletters you can read details about the numbers and species of the birds and the veterinarians and volunteers who help.


Caring for sick and injured birds is a full-time job. It requires rising before dawn, intense labor and money for medication, food and supplies. Examples of early morning tasks, many repeated throughout the day, include preparing special diets for different species of birds, changing towels in cages, cleaning a 30-gallon aquarium, and weighing babies. Additional chores includes putting fresh water into each cage and adjusting heating pads and heat lamps for young birds. Many birds must be hand fed. Some are taken outside for the day. Some birds are tube fed and bandages must be changed. Several loads of towels must be washed and dried and each bird's medical chart must be updated after each feeding.

Cheerful, vivacious and petite Mary Ellen joyfully talks to both birds and visitors without indicating that her work is difficult. The outcomes for patients vary. Most heal well enough to be released into the wild. Some lack the ability to fly or to see well enough to survive in the wild. Mary Ellen delivers them to facilities that can care for them. A significant number die from serious illness or injury. Mary Ellen contributes those birds to our state museum which, in turn, shares some of them with institutions in other states needing particular specimens.

Our 2008 - 2009 winter was the coldest in memory. Many Brown Pelicans got frost-bitten feet. During exceptionally cold weather, before the temperature fell in the evening, Mary Ellen had to transfer each pelican from her yard to her house to protect it. Despite Mary Ellen's dedication, some of the Brown Pelicans arrived with severe frostbite, had their feet trimmed by a veterinarian, and are maimed. See photos below.

Click here to see the Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter Wish List. You can help. Because Mary Ellen has very limited space, unless you have medical supplies that you could send, the simplest way to help would be to send a check. Contributions are tax deductible because Sea Biscuit is a 501(c)3 organization. Last year Mary Ellen paid $1,150 to obtain that status. Your child's class could adopt the Shelter as a project, raising money or saving dimes or pennies for a year. If you are among the 10,000 visitors to each of our islands every week during the summer and enjoy our coastal birds, make a donation that will be helpful and appreciated.

My website, www.okeefes.org, has well over 11,000 separate visitors per month. For 11 years I have worked hard developing it. My photos are used at no cost by universities, schools, aquaria and museums throughout the United States and even overseas. Search engines use scores if not hundreds of my photos. Now I ask you to consider sending a contribution, no matter how small, to the Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter. Thank you.

Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter
Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter
Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter -- photos by Dottie Brown
Mary Ellen Rogers with the pelican with the frostbitten feet shown below on the right, 03/24/09
Two volunteers happy about the pelicans' recovery, ready to release them
frostbite in pelican
frostbite in pelican
Frostbitten feet of two Brown Pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis
Brown Pelican in new hot tub while two others stand by, 03/24/09
Brown Pelican, 03/24/09
Red-tailed Hawk, 05/21/08
Juvenile Screech Owl with injured eye, released after 106 days at Sea Biscuit, 05/21/08
Young Starlings, 05/21/08
Northern Gannet
Mary Ellen Rogers holding Red-winged Blackbird
Common Loon, juvenile
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Wood Duck Ducklings under heat lamp and with heating pad, 04/05/09