Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Hawk Hullabaloo and a Barred Owl Bonanza

At the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation, we serve myriad bird orders: raptors, songbirds, waterfowl, wading birds....the list goes on. However, each season brings us a new "assortment" of avian patients. During the spring and summer months, we are inundated with baby birds, mostly of the songbird variety, but we also see a number of ducks and geese as well as a few wading birds and raptors. 


This Broad-winged Hawk experienced severe nerve damage
and head trauma. He recovered successfully and was released
just in time for fall migration.
Once fall migration is in full swing, raptors dominate our patient logs - particularly broad-winged hawks. Between August and October, these rambunctious raptors are amped up for a migration that takes them thousands of miles from Vermont to South America for the winter. They are in a frenzy, and nothing can stand in the way of their instinct to move south - nothing except a car or a window. All 14 of the broad-winged hawks we have received into our care since August 1 have suffered injuries related to either a collision with a car or a window. More than 1/2 of these birds suffered mortal injuries from which they were unable to recover. A lucky few sustained relatively minor head and/or internal trauma. Describing these injuries as "minor" truly is relative, as a swelling brain and bleeding internal organs are very serious and unpredictable injuries. Fortunately, these remaining patients had successful recoveries, and we were able to release them in plenty of time for migration.


This little guy suffered a fracture of the humerus
near his shoulder. His wing is splinted to secure the
fracture sight. 
Barred Owls have also ruled the roost here in Wild Bird Rehab this fall. This woodland owl encountered a similar obstacle as the migrating Broad-winged Hawks - cars. While this hooting owl doesn't migrate, and adults of the species likely remain in the same territory throughout their lives, young Barred Owls may move quite a bit - particularly in the fall when they are forced to disperse from their natal areas. As the majority of the Barred Owls we have received into our care have been youngsters, it is likely that their increased movements to find new home ranges placed them in harm's way. Another possibility is that their pursuit of prey tempted them to cross dangerous roadways. Roads are fantastic open spaces on which prey is easy to detect. Many raptors are drawn to roads and the potential buffet they may provide, but many times this hunting strategy ends in a collision with a vehicle. 

This lucky Barred Owl prepares for release in a large outdoor
enclosure where he can stretch his wings.
As with the hawk patients, only half of the 12 owls presented at our hospital had treatable injuries. Many of the surviving patients experienced eye injuries, nearly all suffered internal and head trauma, and a few had wing fractures. We have already released two successfully rehabilitated owls, and we currently have four receiving treatment. These patients have a good prognosis, and we're hopeful they'll all make a full recovery!