Category Archives: ACBOP

Release contrasts

Marine Science Center release sign

Sometimes a rehabilitated bird needs some encouragement at the time of release. He or she might seem to not realize s/he is free. Such was the case with three juvenile Brown Pelicans that were released back in November in Ponce Inlet. The birds were rehabbed by the Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary at the Marine Science Center. The public was invited to the release. And the public showed up!

crowd gathered for bird release

Arthur and I were there to witness the somewhat confused birds eventually make their way to freedom.

Just a couple of weeks later, I had the extreme honor to release a juvenile Bald Eagle that had been rehabilitated by the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. It was not the first Bald Eagle release I had seen, but the first one I was able to release personally. It was awesome!

Bald Eagle release
Almost ready to go!

Bald Eagle talons
Killer talons, under control AT ALL TIMES!

The procedure here it to gently toss the eagle after it has had a moment to adjust to the situation. It wears a hood during transport to the release site, which helps the bird relax (I think this bird fell asleep in my lap on the drive over).

sleepy Bald Eagle
Sleeping Bald Eagle selfie

Bald Eagle release
Matt demonstrates tossing motion

The hood is removed and after a beat the bird is released with a gentle upward-motion toss. This doesn’t really leave any room for hesitation!

Bald Eagle release
No more hood!

Bald Eagle release

released Bald Eagle
Good luck, eagle!!

And then there are the rehabilitated sea turtles that may also be a bit confused at first when they are released. Here’s Benjamin, a sub-adult Loggerhead, who needed a little course correction after he was set free at water’s edge.

You just never know with wild animals, rehabilitation, and release — and that’s how it should be. Releases are pretty much always magical, even when the releasee causes gasps with unexpected flight patterns, unforeseen hesitation and surprising directional choices! Apparently November 2013 was a big month for releases — all three in this blog post occurred in that month!

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Goals for 2013

It’s that time of year! Here’s what I hope to accomplish, bird-wise, in 2013.

  • I’ll be keeping a BIGBY list again. With 115 birds last year, I surpassed my goal. That total will be hard to beat; I will be happy to get 100+ again in 2013.
  • I will be participating in the Bird-a-Day Challenge once again. My target is to beat last year’s total of 144 birds. I also strive to not stress about it too much. It’s a lot of fun but it messed with my head a bit last year. 😉
  • I would like to crack 200 birds in Volusia for the year. My Volusia life list is at 180, my 2012 list was 167 (#1 on eBird), and the eBird total for Volusia in 2012 was 249 (all as of December 30). The Big Year record for Volusia is 278 birds set by Michael Brothers in 2007.
  • I will try really, really hard to review at least 20 books this year. I post my reviews on and last year I was a huge slacker.
  • I’d like to fill in the missing weeks for Gemini Springs on eBird. Right now there are three eBird hotspots for Gemini Springs (I have suggested these be merged, but I am not sure how this process works). I use Gemini Springs and there are just two greyed-out weeks: the second in February and the second in May (from my own checklists, there are 7 weeks missing). The hotspot Gemini Springs County Park has more checklists over fewer months; between May and November there are only two weeks of data. This location appears to be used heavily by a snowbirder! 🙂 Combining all of the Gemini hotspots leaves just the second week of May missing.
  • I would like to improve my raptor handling skills at my new volunteer place, but I feel moving forward here isn’t in my hands as much as I would like. So I would consider it a “nice-to-have” if I could handle 4 more birds in 2013.

Do you have any goals (bird-related or otherwise!) for the coming year? Let me know in the comments! And best wishes for a fantastic and successful 2013!

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Celebrating Vultures: IVAD 2012

IVAD 2012

Back in September Arthur and I visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom to celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD), as we had last year. This year, most of the activities were found at the Rafiki’s Planet Watch area of the park.

There were displays about vultures, including information about vulture restaurants. In addition, the long-standing mystery of the Jungle Book vulture species identification was finally solved.

IVAD 2012

IVAD 2012

Jungle Book Vultures

At Rafiki’s Planet Watch there is a special medical exam room which allows for public viewing. Appropriately, the veterinary procedure scheduled for that morning was a routine exam on one of the park’s Rüppell’s Griffon Vultures.

Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture

Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture

A small outdoor stage hosted a short program with an education Black Vulture named Beaker.

IVAD 2012

Vultures can normally be found elsewhere in the park, too. Over at the Flights of Wonder show, we watched Audrey, a young Andean Condor, fly over the audience. Here she receives a treat from a handler. Sometimes a young King Vulture named Elvis makes an appearance.

Andean Condor

And then there are always wild vultures, soaring over the park on any given warm, sunny day.

Kettle of Black Vultures

That’s how we celebrated IVAD this year, but I should confess — I celebrate vultures as often as I can. Yesterday I celebrated by handling a Turkey Vulture patient at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey for the first time!

Thank you to my fellow volunteer Robert for taking this photo!

IVAD 2012

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Teacher vultures

I recently started learning to handle birds at my new volunteer gig at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. It’s very interesting to me how the equipment and procedures are a bit different than what I learned at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. I have started working with the handsome American Kestrel Newton, who I got to handle on the glove for a couple of hours at a program two weeks ago. Oh, it was such a joy for me to hold this precious little avian ambassador and talk with visitors during the event.

Since today is International Vulture Awareness Day, I’ve been thinking about vultures on the glove. None of the vultures at ACBOP are glove trained, but that may be for the best in my case, since I don’t have the best track record with vultures. The first time I tried to handle Junior the Turkey Vulture I ended up with a little scar on my hand. Don’t get me wrong, I love vultures, just love ’em, but after ACBOP’s Uff-da went after my ankle, I think the feeling is not quite mutual.

Anyway, vultures are part of raptor education programs and are glove trained at centers all over the world. Here are some cool photos I found on Flickr of vultures on the glove, in flight programs, or educating the public in zoos. Thanks to the photographers for sharing their photos with a Creative Commons license.

Eurasian Griffon on the glove | Vulture by Maurice Koop

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture on the glove | Turkey Vulture by Michael @ NW Lens

White-backed Vulture flight program | 2008-07-06-13h26m55.IMG_2116le by A.J. Haverkamp

American Black Vulture on the glove | Vulture by RichardGlenSailors

Andean Condor being fed
Hand feeding an Andean Condor | Andean Condor being fed by San Diego Shooter

Vera takes off
Lappet-faced Vulture flight program | Vera takes off by *Pete

Palm-nut Vulture in jesses | Sailing by patries71

Rodney - Hooded vulture
Hooded Vulture flying to glove | Rodney – Hooded vulture by piX1966

Cape Griffon Vulture in your face | Ybgvt_1b by gvgoebel

Jack Hanna ~ rare Egyptian Vulture
Egyptian Vulture with celebrity zookeeper | Jack Hanna ~ rare Egyptian Vulture by something.from.nancy

Rüppell's Vulture
Rüppell’s Vultures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge | Rüppell’s Vulture by Powered By Birds

David with the White Headed Vulture
White-headed Vulture on the glove | David with the White Headed Vulture by Richard Towell

Felix the Vulture
Cinereous Vulture on falconry perch | Felix the Vulture by RCanine

Greater Yellow-headed Vulture on the glove | 2008-03-15-13h14m52.IMG_3562e by A.J. Haverkamp

King Vulture on the glove | IMG_8945e by A.J. Haverkamp

California Condor portrait
California Condor at the zoo | California Condor portrait by San Diego Shooter

cincinnati zoo vulture feeding
American Black Vulture goofing off | cincinnati zoo vulture feeding by Paul J Everett

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Saturday: Back to School @ Audubon

A fun program is coming up this weekend at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. The Back to School Bash is happening this Saturday, August 18th.

Besides activities like Bird Olympics and Conservation Station, there will be a Meet & Greet area where, if all goes to plan, I will be introducing this gorgeous fellow to kids of all ages.

Newton, ACBOP’s education male American Kestrel

This event is free, so come on out to Maitland this Saturday from 10am to 12pm and learn about Florida’s magnificent birds!

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, located in Maitland, Florida, treats up to 700 birds of prey each year. You can follow them on Facebook here. This post reflects my own experiences as a volunteer; any errors regarding the Center and their patients or permanent residents are purely my own. Further, any opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ACBOP.

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Release rewards

I’ve been volunteering at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey since early February. Being able to help birds in need is wonderful. Being given the responsibility to release rehabilitated birds back into the wild is even more special, and exhilarating. In the last couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to release a few successfully rehabilitated birds back into the wild.

On June 28th, a lot of birds were ready for release. During my volunteer shift I assisted while other volunteers and staff caught up birds, including several Eastern Screech Owls. Two EASOs were due to be released in Deltona, and since that’s not too far from my home, I took them. When the time came for release, one bird took off like a shot. I was holding the box, but I blinked and missed it leaving! I felt a woosh but it wasn’t until I looked down in the box and saw just one owl that I knew one had gone. Silent flight, indeed! The second bird needed just a bit of encouragement to regain its freedom. It was a successful first release experience with ACBOP.

On July 12th I came in for my volunteer shift and found out that a couple of birds were ready to be released in my area. Between cleaning and other regular volunteer duties, I helped a bit with shuffling birds from rehab mews to flight chambers and preparing healed birds for release or transfer. This included a young Osprey to be released in DeBary, and a Barred Owl to be released in Deland.

Both releases were fantastic. In each case I contacted the party that originally found the injured raptor and was responsible for getting it to the Center for treatment.

The whole family came out for the after-dusk release of the Barred Owl, who was found in the middle of the road and was presumably struck by a car. The owl’s recovery took several weeks. The release went flawlessly! She flew out of the box and straight up into a tree, resting and taking in her surroundings. Since this release was done after dusk, light was too poor to capture any images.

The Osprey was released earlier in the afternoon at Lake Monroe Park in DeBary, and Arthur took some great photos of the action.

Osprey release
A quick look around just as the box was opened

There are at least two active Osprey nests at Lake Monroe Park. This is the park at the end of the Spring-to-spring Trail, so its a spot I know well. The young Osprey had been found on the ground just under a week prior to her release – she was caught up in Spanish Moss(!). The young bird was strong and healthy – just a little bit klutzy to get so caught up in the moss as to require rescue.

Osprey release
Stretch and go!

After being monitored in a flight chamber, it was time to release her back where she came from. We released her close to her nest, but on the far side of a gravel driveway in order to give her a nice long “runway” for takeoff.

Osprey release

Osprey release

The release was attended by the rescuer, who stood close to me as I opened the box, as well as two interested park employees and one park visitor, seen in the above photo.

Osprey release

Osprey release

As you can tell, she was eager and ready to go! She leaped out of her box and flew right to her nest. In the below photo it looks like she’s making a beeline – the nest is top center. She veered right and flew a wide circle around the nest, eventually approaching from behind. A parent and sibling were in the area and began to vocalize as soon as our girl was airborne.

Osprey release

Osprey release
Home at last!

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, located in Maitland, Florida, treats up to 700 birds of prey each year. You can follow them on Facebook here. This post reflects my own experiences as a volunteer; any errors regarding the Center and their patients or permanent residents are purely my own. Further, any opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ACBOP.

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Cooper’s Hawk nest replacement

Last week Arthur and I had the opportunity to help out some baby Cooper’s Hawks that got into trouble when they fell out of their nest. On Saturday, May 19, we went out to a residential neighborhood in Deltona where we found three baby hawks on the ground. One was dead, but still warm. We gathered up the survivors and searched the ground for any other babies. We noted the location of the small nest that remained in the tree. An adult bird was also seen flying around, kakking at us. I should note here that we mistakenly thought the babies were Red-shouldered Hawks (RSHA). Our initial report was that they were probably RSHA; despite several clues (kakking adult, tiny nest, we were not attacked) to the contrary, we didn’t consider anything else. Of course, Audubon Center for Birds of Prey staff member Sam knew right away they were NOT RSHAs.

One of two baby Cooper’s Hawks settling in for a quiet night

The next morning we brought the hawks to ACBOP for examination and care. As the birds were given a clean bill of health, it was determined they could be returned to their nest tree, with a little human help.

Monday afternoon we returned to the Deltona tree site to meet Jim, ACBOP volunteer tree climber. When we arrived we were somewhat surprised to find another baby Cooper’s Hawk on the ground. It was alert and seemed well-fed so it was determined that it could be returned to the tree with its nestmates – of which there were three. ACBOP had received an additional Cooper’s Hawk orphan, about the same age as the Deltona birds. It was added to the group. So four babies fell, and four babies were returned.

The fourth Deltona baby

Jim found a good spot in the original nest tree to place a new mesh platform to act as a replacement nest. Once Jim was in the tree, we sent up the new nest and other supplies he needed to attach the structure to the tree and make a cozy nest surface.

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Jim starts by finding a good spot to secure his gear

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Going up!

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Moving on up!

two nests
The white bag indicates Jim at work; my finger points at old nest

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Can you find Jim in this overview photo? Click here for a hint!

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Readying the platform

When all was secure, the babies were sent up. On the way, they began to peep. Shortly after, an adult Cooper’s Hawk made an appearance. It approached the tree a few times, but didn’t get close enough to Jim to pose a threat.

four baby Cooper's Hawks
Four babies ready to go back up

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Precious cargo!

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Back you go!

Another baby gets returned!

Cooper's Hawk nest replacement
Another successful transfer!

Once the babies were secure in the new nest and Jim was on the ground, the adult hawk flew into the tree. We didn’t see it approach the babies directly, but we took our leave without lingering to give the reunited family some peace.

Everybirdy’s home

adult Cooper's Hawk
Very interested in the latest development

The next morning, May 22, Arthur and I drove by the nest to see if everything looked good. We could see two babies in the nest, which still looked safe and secure.

baby Cooper's Hawk
One baby a day after replacement

On Saturday, we drove over to check the nest again. Now we could see all four babies, three of which were perched on a branch close to the nest. The fourth baby rested in the nest itself. Again we saw one adult flying nearby the nest tree. As we drove away, we finally saw that there was a second Cooper’s Hawk associated with the nest. With the great difference in sexual dimorphism in this species, we could easily see that it was a male and female.

four Cooper's Hawk babies
All four babies – look closely in lower right corner of platform to see fourth baby

adult Cooper's Hawk
Attentive adult Cooper’s Hawk

Good luck, Cooper’s Hawk family!

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, located in Maitland, Florida, treats up to 700 birds of prey each year. You can follow them on Facebook here. This post reflects my own experiences as a volunteer; any errors regarding the Center and their patients or permanent residents are purely my own. Further, any opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ACBOP.

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A new volunteer gig

I started volunteering at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey at the beginning of February. One morning a week I help with regular maintenance tasks like cleaning up after rehab birds, cleaning up after education birds, and cleaning up after display birds. 🙂 Yes, there is a lot of cleaning. But I also get to spend some time with some gorgeous birds of prey. The people there are pretty nice, too, but so far I’ve only taken photos of the birds. All of the pictures/video in this post were taken with my iPhone.

This beautiful male Barred Owl was in a rehab mew one day when I was cleaning.

Barred Owl

On my first day I was invited by a fellow volunteer to “water the Ospreys.” Ospreys are typically high-strung, and the three birds on display were very vocal while we were in their space – until they were being watered. These fish-specialists love the water and remained calm as I gently sprayed them with water from the hose. Here are a couple of wet, happy Ospreys.


On my first day I also got to meet Uffda, a Black Vulture who seems to have a chronic sneezing problem. She got her name from the funny nasal noises she makes. In this photo she is scratching her neck on the rough gravel.

Black Vulture

This beautiful adult Bald Eagle has permanent injuries that leave him non-releasable. He is suffering through repeated issues with his wing which need to resolve before he can be placed with an education facility. He has a very sweet demeanor for an adult wild Bald Eagle; I couldn’t take my eyes off of him while I cleaned up his small rehab mew.

Bald Eagle

On my second day of volunteering I got to meet a rascal Black Vulture called Jeff. Jeff was presumed male until she laid an egg years after being placed at the Center. While I was cleaning up in her building I left a plastic bag with discarded food items in the hallway. Somehow Jeff managed to reach outside of her mew and snatch the bag. You can see how close together the slats are – I don’t know how she did it! Later I gave her a squeaky dog toy to play with.

Black Vulture

After I was done with my duties on my second volunteer day, I took a little walk around the grounds of the Center, where I found one of those water-lovin’ Osprey having a bath.

On February 23rd the Center released their 441st Bald Eagle. I was lucky enough to be invited to watch the eagle get caught up in the flight chamber. Once the bird was secure I got to place the hood over the eagle’s eyes. The bird was brought inside where it was weighed and later (in a separate building) a federal band was placed around one of its legs.

Banding a Bald Eagle

Last Thursday I got to clean up the display mews. The birds on permanent display in these mews have injuries that prevent their release back into the wild. As far as I understand, none of the display birds are glove-trained, but they are certainly used to having their enclosures cleaned out each day. There are thirteen separate mews holding sixteen different species (if I am remembering everyone!).

Red-tailed Hawks
Luke and Lynn, Red-tailed Hawks

Turkey Vulture
Charlemagne the Turkey Vulture gives me the stink eye

Mississippi Kite
Dancer (I think), Mississippi Kite

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, located in Maitland, Florida, treats up to 700 birds of prey each year. You can follow them on Facebook here. This post reflects my own experiences as a volunteer; any errors regarding the Center and their patients or permanent residents are purely my own – and I do expect there might be some errors as I am still learning my way around the center and getting to know all of the birds. Further, any opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ACBOP.

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Posted in ACBOP, Rehabilitation | 2 Comments