Audubon in Action

How Audubon Helps Raptors Through Rehab

Give us your flightless, your hurt, your wounded raptors yearning to fly free…

Raptors are adept hunters, with keen eyesight, sharp instincts, and fierce claws. But they also seem to have a penchant for getting into scrapes. Local rehab centers play an important role nursing these fabulous birds back to health. The most common accidents to befall raptors are vehicle strikes, falls from nest, unknown trauma, territory fights, and poison. But while many of the injuries share a common cause, the cures can be very specific to that individual bird, says Samantha Little, a Veterinary Technician at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. "Treatment plans and protocols depend on species, age and injury and vary as to how long they are here for our care," Little continues. "Our ultimate goal is to get them back into the wild.”

To learn more about the issue, meet six birds who have been treated by one of Audubon’s raptor rehab centers:

Bald Eagle

Age: Adult Female
Rehab Center Name: Audubon Center for Birds of Prey
Reason for being in rehab: This Bald Eagle was admitted at the end of September for a vehicle strike that fractured the left coracoid (shoulder). After treating the bird’s fracture in the clinic, the patient was moved to the Center’s rehabilitation mews for recovery. The Bald Eagle is currently under rehabilitation and will be transferred to the Center’s 100’ Magic of Flight barn, which can be viewed live on the web through the Eagle Eyes program. After time to regain strength and practice flight, she will be released back into the wild. 

Burrowing Owl

Age: Immature
Rehab Center Name: Audubon Center for Birds of Prey
Reason for being in rehab: This Burrowing Owl, a species of special concern in Florida, arrived at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey having been caught in barbed wire, which caused a fracture to the right elbow and coracoid (shoulder). The fracture then calcified, which prevented full extension of his wing.  This patient is now non-releasable and will have a permanent home at Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. The bird will be glove trained to educate the public on the importance of Burrowing Owls in Florida. The Center places non-releasable patients as education ambassadors throughout Florida and beyond. 

Bald Eagle

Age: Hatch Year
Rehab Center Name: Audubon Society of Portland
Reason for being in rehab: This Bald Eagle, likely female, was found suspended by her leg in a tree. When she was able to extract herself and came down, she was unable to fly off. The bird had a fractured leg. Pins were put in her talon to stabilize the fracture so it would heal in the correct alignment. She has been in rehab since the first of August of this year and her fate is still guarded. If the bird is unable to gain full use of its leg it may have to be transferred to a placement in captivity.

Lacy Campbell, the Wildlife Care Center Operations Manager recalls the local response to rescue this Bald Eagle.

“I got a call first thing on a Saturday morning about an immature Bald Eagle. The caller had been watching the nest all year, seeing these birds grow, and watching their maiden flights out into the world. Then they noticed that one of the birds was actually hanging upside down by its leg in a tree. [After they sent photos and we spoke over the phone] I had an arborist ready to [help] the bird down. As I was heading out the door I got the call that the bird had managed to get itself free and flew off... Hours later when I received a call that they had found it and had enlisted the help of the police, I went down to get the bird… But it was pretty apparent when I got there that she was not able to stand…

The fact that these people were watching these animals is pretty remarkable. If they wouldn't have been paying attention, the bird probably wouldn't have survived.”

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Age: Adult
Rehab Center Name: Audubon Society of Portland
Reason for being in rehab: This Saw-whet Owl hit a window at a school and suffered from temporary leg paralysis. The bird has been in our care since the first of October this year and will be released if it is able to perch and hunt well. According to Lacy Campbell, the Wildlife Care Center Operations Manager, this is a particularly optimistic tale.

“We see this all too often. Birds hit windows and have temporary or permanent leg paralysis. Usually they don't turn around. As of today, [this] bird is standing and is able to maneuver normally. It’s pretty special. I don't think anyone was expecting it to get better. But every once in a while they do, so we try our best to help them recover. Once we’re sure that the bird is healthy and has no other issues, we’ll get it in a flight cage to see how it flies.” 

Great Horned Owl

Age: Adult
Rehab Center Name: Sharon Audubon Center
Reason for being in rehab: This Great Horned Owl came to Sharon Audubon Center completely emaciated with an injury to his right foot resulting in the loss of a talon on his back toe and a maggot infestation. The pain of the injury and his inability to hunt effectively likely caused him to lose weight over time, decreasing his energy and strength to fly. Eventually he was “grounded” and a concerned citizen found him on the ground, freezing and soaking wet after a large storm. He will be in rehabilitation at least through the winter to gain back weight and muscle mass. Because the use of the hallux (back toe) in most raptors is essential in effectively catching prey, this Great Horned Owl’s ability to hunt will be restricted and would end starvation. Because he will not be able to survive in the wild, the center will find him a permanent placement as an educational resident.  

Black Vulture

Age: Juvenile
Rehab Center Name: Sharon Audubon Center
Reason for being in rehab: This Black Vulture was seen walking around a horse farm with an injured right wing for three days. His parents stayed by him in nearby trees the whole time, watching over him. On the third day of being seen on the ground, Sharon Audubon Center was called for a rescue on September 19, 2015. Upon arrival, he was found in a window well, scared and in pain. The cause of his injury is unknown. He is still undergoing treatment and physical therapy for his injuries, but will not be able to be released back into the wild. The permanent damage to his wing has left him non-flighted, preventing him from being able to soar high in the sky to find food and to escape predators. Once his injuries are healed, rehabbers will likely investigate options for permanent placement as an educational resident.



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