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Super Senior: Sheila McKay's love of birds keeps Billings refuge flying high

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Posted at 3:50 PM, Jul 24, 2023

This week’s Super Senior, Sheila McKay, is carrying on a family tradition of loving and caring for birds.

“Oh, I just love being outside. I love Montana. I missed it when I wasn’t here,” she says.

You can find her much of the time working outside in the place she loves doing what she loves, tending to its many fine feathered and sometimes very talkative residents.

“They have got incredible spirit. Incredible joy. They get up in the morning and sing and honk and they really treasure in a sense. They are very energetic they have got a beautiful energy about them, “she says.

Sheila also has an energy about her. She’s the owner and operator of WJH Bird Resources, a 48-acre bird refuge outside Billings that she moved back here to run about 20 years ago.

“I have a law degree, so I had the idea I was going to do environmental law. I also have some veterinary experience. I have some vet school experience,” she says.

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It was the dream of her father, Warren Hancock, to build the bird refuge back in 1982. Undoubtedly some of her love for birds and other animals came from him.

“What he said was that in World War II he had seen so much death and things like that that he wanted to give back and help preserve life. He was fond of every animal. I never met an animal that didn’t love my father,” she laughs.

Hundreds of birds of all different varieties make their home here—some temporarily, others permanently.

“The ultimate goal with most of them is to release or special programs that are working with repopulation or release,” Sheila says.

Sheila leads a small staff, mostly volunteers, to keep the bird refuge up and running—passing on the love of birds that was passed on to her to others.

Click here to nominate someone for the Q2 Super Senior segment.