By Lauren Adams,Lead Wildlife Keeper
Ah, winter. The “quiet” season in wildlife rehabilitation. Around here, we call it Barred Owl season. When the cold air creeps in, the mornings are frosty, and nighttime descends in mid-afternoon, this is when New England is up against its toughest test. Barred Owls, unlike many birds that populate our skies in spring and summer, do not migrate south, but rather prefer to stick it out during t
he dreary months. These hearty birds are adapted for cold nights, snow-covered landscapes, wintry storms and scarce food supply. Like true New Englanders, they are tough cookies.
This is why Barred Owls are one of my absolute favorite birds to rehabilitate. And lucky for me, this is our most common patient that we see this time of year. Since the beginning of October, we have seen 28 Barred Owls come through our doors, making up more than half of our total patients in that time. Despite their adaptations to survive under harsh winter conditions, they have not adapted to the greatest challenge of all, the ever-expanding presence of humans. Barred Owls are no match for slick roadways, fast cars and blinding headlights. Most of these birds have been victims of vehicle strikes and suffer a variety of injuries from head trauma to fractured wing bones.
But toughness prevails, and there’s no quit in these birds. They bounce back remarkably from severe injuries and poor condition. We have been able to release many of these owls back into the wild, lively and healthy. As the weather gets colder, the snow falls, and the deep freeze sets in, we expect to see many more Barred Owls come in. Good thing we are ready for them.
Current patients in care:
5 Barred Owls:
Actually a low number for us right now. 2 are in the flight cage as a pre-release stage. The other 3 are in various stages of rehab, on medications, fluid therapy, and lots of TLC.
1 Northern Goshawk
This gorgeous male came in weak and emaciated, but very feisty. He had lots of feather damage and parasites, but no significant injuries. He is doing very well, and has ended his course of meds and is now self-feeding.
1 Coopers Hawk
This large female arrived with signs of significant spinal trauma. After being stabilized for a few days at another rehab center, she was transferred here for continued care. She has shown some incremental improvement on treatment, and will hopefully continue in that direction.
1 Rock Dove
This little guy came in with a wing injury, and could not fly. He has since regained almost full use of his wings, and is starting to fly out in one of our rehab aviaries.
We have had lots of successful releases lately, mostly Barred Owls, but one great triumph was the release of a very handsome adult male Long-tailed Duck.
This extremely rare case came in to us November 8th when some kind folks in Brattleborofound him underneath their car looking not quite right. This poor guy was most likely on his migration route from breeding grounds in northern Canada to the coast. He was almost completely non-responsive on intake, unable to stand, or open his eyes. His breathing was labored, and he had a mild head twitch, a sign of neurological damage. We did not have high hopes for this guy. In the absence of any physical signs of trauma, we suspected toxicity. We put the bird on a treatment of IV fluids, vitamins and nutritional support, and over two weeks, he showed drastic improvement. He started standing and opening his eyes. His breathing difficulty and head twitch cleared up. We were able to introduce him into water where he immediately started bathing and preening. Once he was able to dive and flap his wings, we set up a transfer for him to a wildlife rehab center in Cape Neddick, Maine, where they could monitor him for a little longer before releasing him into a flock right along the Maine seacoast. I am so impressed with this bird’s improvement, and thrilled to report that he was successfully released last week. You can see picture of the release on the facebook page of The Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine.
Well, that’s about it for updates. We are currently at patient #531 and counting…