They'd been saving hard for a pet, but when the King sisters of Whangarei heard their local bird shelter needed help, they swapped one pet cause for another.

Rylee, 7, and Georgie, 5, have raised more than $450 so far towards replacing the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre's lawnmower, which was stolen overnight on June 19.

The girls had made a donation of $162 to the centre earlier in the year and are now fundraising by giving their own pocket money, and appealing for help from friends and family.

"One night some bad guys and some robbers broke through the wall and then they took the lawnmower," Rylee explains.

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It's a good summary. Centre staff arrived at work on Monday to find thieves had ripped away a piece of fibrolite and made off with the $800 mower.

Rylee and Georgie visit the centre often and like the birds because "they're really nice and they're cuddly and soft and cute".

Their mother, Amy King, said she was unsure how the ornithological obsession had started. "They love visiting here and they know all the names of the native birds."

She said the girls had not hesitated when they heard the centre had been robbed and went "straight for their money boxes".

"They instantly said they wanted to give all the money they'd been saving. I think that's something kids are really good at - being selfless and thinking of other people."

Native Bird Recovery manager Robert Webb described the girls as "a hard-case pair".

"It's really neat," he said. "When you see the young ones getting behind something because they've seen there's a problem and they want to solve it, that's a good start in life."

The centre provides help, treatment and rehabilitation for injured and ill native birds so they can be returned to the wild. It also gives birdlife education to schools and visitors.

The centre, founded in 1992 by Mr Webb and his wife, Robyn, is run by a small band of volunteers.

See givealittle.co.nz/cause/helpnorthlandbirds to donate to the new mower.