TUCKED away down a dirt track in Bury is a hospital that specialises in tending to the injuries of some of Britain’s wildest birds.

More than a thousand animals, ranging from birds of prey such as kestrels and owls to magpies and wood pigeons, pass through Greenmount Wild Bird Hospital each year, and receive treatment before being released back into the wild.

It is one of few facilities of its kind in the country, with birds often arriving from as far afield as the Scottish Highlands and London.

“You would not believe where people drive from because there are not many places like us,” said the hospital’s manager Natalie Stewart-Kerr.

“We have got a rook in at the minute from Scotland. For us, getting them back to where they came from is the major thing.”

When birds are first admitted, they go straight into the hospital unit where they are kept in metal cages and cared for by staff and volunteers.

Birds are regularly taken to a vets in Bury town centre to receive treatment.

Once on the mend, they are then moved into an aviary in preparation for a soft release.

This means the bird is able to leave the aviary via open hatches, allowing it to get used to flying again in a bid to regain some of the strength it may have lost.

It is then free to return to the wild whenever it wishes.

“We try to do quite a quick turnover with them,” said Ms Stewart-Kerr.

“How long they stay with us depends on the bird and what is wrong with it.

“They have to go back as soon as they can because they are wild animals at the end of the day.

“We try to keep it as natural as we can here for the birds, but setting them free is what this is all about.”

The hospital was first set up during the 1960s by bird lover Irena Zalasiewicz, who ran it from her home.

The house quickly became a menagerie of all manner of species of birds, so with the help of Hilda Crook, Kathleen Common and Kate Maden, the hospital was established as a registered charity in 1979 at the Kirklees Valley, in Garside Hey Road, where it still stands today.

Over the years, demand has led to the hospital expanding in size, and it is now able to house hundreds of birds at any one time.

Currently, there are two part-time staff members, as well as a team of volunteers, including work experience students from nearby colleges.

Ms Stewart-Kerr began working at the hospital back in 1984, aged 17, and has remained there ever since.

She said: “Our aim is to take in sick, injured or orphaned birds and get them right and release them.

“I do this because I love it. There is nothing more rewarding than working with things that need help.”

Despite the fact it has been around for 40 years, keeping the hospital running still proves to be a major task. It is funded purely by donations from the community.”

“It is expensive to keep it going,” explained Ms Stewart-Kerr. “The food bills alone are at least £2,000 a month.”

“But it is difficult to ask people to pay because not everyone has the money to do that.”

Financial matters are not helped by the fact the hospital currently requires a new gull aviary after its last one collapsed recently due to wear and tear.

An online fundraising page has been set up to help cover the £3,500 cost.

Ms Stewart-Kerr said: “We have 20 gulls living with us, but they are now in an aviary that is not suitable for them.”

Another worry for the hospital is the possibility of another dry summer.

During last year’s heatwave, the hospital was inundated with admissions, resulting in a desperate plea for more volunteers.

Meanwhile, the drought also led to ponds at the hospital drying out, creating further problems for staff.

To donate and help the hospital’s bid for a new aviary, visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/newgullhome.