Category Archives: Rehabilitation

FWRA 2015 Symposium

At the end of September I attended the Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association annual symposium in Haines City. I was fortunate enough to be granted a partial scholarship and I was happy to be able to attend the full three days of the event.

The days were packed with lectures and lessons about rehabilitating all kinds of creatures, with a focus on Florida natives. A group of veterinarians from Canada came to speak as well, so attendees got to hear about some of their special patients as well.

One of the programs I attended was about invasive species, where a few animals were brought for show and tell. The proper capture and handling of Burmese Pythons was presented, with some fun photo opportunities afterwards.

Young Tegu lizard. These invasives are a big problem in Miami-Dade, Collier, and Hillsborough counties.

Burmese Python
Burmese Python bite

Burmese Python
Holding a Burmese Python

Before the conference, I was a bit concerned that much of the symposium would be over my head, but that wasn’t really the case. The organizers did a great job of presenting different topics that would interest all kinds of skill and experience levels in wildlife rehab.

Besides the formal presentations, I really enjoyed getting to know other attendees who work in rehabilitation across the state and beyond. Meal times, plus evening activities like workshops and crafts, left attendees plenty of time to mingle while having creative fun. I made a hawk t-shirt with bleach. The perch-making workshop was very popular. Being such a newbie when it comes to rehab means that I was able to learn a lot from my fellow symposium participants as well.

perch-making workshop
Perch workshop: make and take

During the symposium I also managed to finally see my most-wanted Florida species in the wild — a Coral Snake! During the before-dinner break on Thursday night I was walking back to my room to freshen up. There were always people walking around the grounds, except for when I stumbled up on this beautiful snake. There was NO ONE to share it with! I was smiling like a total goofball, taking photo after photo of the snake (and maybe talking to it too, maybe). Coral Snakes are one of our venomous species, known to be docile and own-business-minders. So awesome!

Coral Snake
Lifer Coral Snake!!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Festivals & Events, Florida, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

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!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in ACBOP, Florida, Not Birds, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

My visitors came from *where* in May 2013?!?!

Here are the highs and lows revealed in last month’s Statcounter logs for my little birding blog…

Some righteous dude or dudette searched for bigby birding rules. Yes it does. Rock on.

Someone wondered, are there hummingbireds in cook county Illinios? I love the chance to plug me a little eBird. Yes, there are hummingbirds in Cook County, IL.

And then someone else wanted to know do northern saw-whet owls live in Chicago to which I say: eBird has the answer. Unless you were wondering about non-releaseable education birds. I only know of one, Boopie.

To the folks looking for a brownish duck with red beak and a duck with red beak, I’m hoping you found what you were looking for. My best guess would be Black-bellied Whistling Duck if your search was anywhere near Florida USA.

Someone wanted to know: do american goldfinches remember things? What a wonderful thing to wonder. 🙂

Someone searched for field museum free admission bring bird… does that mean raptor handlers get in for free? Sweet.

To the person searching for Gardening robins nest in our arborvites, should we remove it?: NO

To the person wondering American robin chicks affect of taking picture, Cornell’s NestWatch site is a wonderful resource for information on nest monitoring. Read the educational materials and take the online certification to become a nest monitor and share your data with ornithologists.

Two searches that made me giggle: what is a wood duck afraid of? and duck imprinting on high school student.

That last one seems oddly specific so it struck me as funny, but in reality a bird imprinting on a person is a serious matter. It is illegal to take a wild bird and keep it. It is nesting season now and I was extremely disturbed to find this search in my Statcounter: what to feed a baby bard owl. Two days later from the same IP address came the following search: how often do you feed a baby barred owl. An IP lookup tells me the search came from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dear person who is caring for a baby Barred Owl in Cedar Rapids: Please get your bird to a licensed bird rehabilitation center as soon as possible. If your bird has become imprinted it cannot be released into the wild as it would never be able to fend for itself. Licensed rehabbers can properly care for injured or abandoned wild birds, and can facilitate nest replacement if feasible. No one can raise a bird better than its own parent. Please don’t keep the owl. Thank you.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Funny, Rehabilitation, Search Terms | Leave a comment

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

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in ACBOP, FCWR, Festivals & Events, Rehabilitation, Zoo | Leave a comment

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.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in ACBOP, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

Raising Baby Brown Pelicans

One of the most remarkable stories of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is the success they have had in breeding captive Brown Pelicans. In 1974 a captive pair of Brown Pelicans successfully raised a chick, named Pax, to fledge and leave the Sanctuary. This was the very first time a Brown Pelican had ever hatched in captivity.

At the time, in the mid-1970’s, the Brown Pelican was an endangered species. Between 1975 and 1982, over 130 baby Brown Pelicans successfully fledged into the wild after being reared by captive, permanently injured parents. Many more have followed since then. It was obvious during our visit that the Brown Pelicans continue to breed very successfully at the Sanctuary. The baby birds we saw will one day be freed, too. When the babies are ready, the top of the Brown Pelican enclosures will be removed and the healthy birds will be able to leave.

Baby Brown Pelicans
A parent sits with three babies

Baby Brown Pelicans
Though they are in an artificial environment, the birds are comfortable enough to breed successfully

Baby Brown Pelicans
Another nest, more sweet babies

Baby Brown Pelicans

Baby Brown Pelican
Look at that little pouch!

Baby Brown Pelican
Two adults sleep near their young chick

Baby Brown Pelican
Baby pelican skin

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is located at 18328 Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores on the west coast of Florida. The Sanctuary is open 365 days per year, from 9AM until sunset. Admission is free. The nonprofit relies on donations to care for up to 8,000 injured birds each year. Visit their website to learn more.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

Sanctuary Residents & Loafers

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Florida, is the largest wild bird hospital in the United States. They treat up to 8,000 injured wild birds per year, in addition to caring for around 600 permanent resident birds. Permanently injured seabirds, plus others including raptors, songbirds, waders, and seabirds, are given a home at the sanctuary.

90% of the birds cared for by the Sanctuary become injured as a result of accidental or intentional human action.

During our visit to the Sanctuary last month, we saw many of the permanent resident birds.

American White Pelican
American White Pelicans gather together in a corner of their roomy enclosure

American White Pelican
Later, the American White Pelicans spread out for some serious snoozing

Northern Gannets
Permanent resident Northern Gannets

A Sandhill Crane and Great Blue Heron shared an enclosure with other large wading birds

The Sanctuary also attracts wild birds, who know that it might be a spot for getting an easy meal. Black-crowned Night Herons were nesting in nearly all of the trees on the Sanctuary grounds. Other species of heron, along with Brown Pelicans and other seabirds, were also visiting the Sanctuary while we were there.

Employees Only
Employees only, present company excluded

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Just one of many Black-crowned Night-Herons loafing around the Sanctuary

Non-releasable birds of prey, songbirds, woodpeckers and rails also live at the sanctuary. We got to see a couple of raptors as they were taken out onto the glove during our visit.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Non-releasable Red-shouldered Hawk on the glove

Short-tailed Hawk
Non-releasable Short-tailed Hawk on the glove

Among the many, many permanently injured Brown Pelicans at the Sanctuary, some birds tending to baby pelicans. Stay tuned – I’ll have more about the Sanctuary’s success with Brown Pelicans in a future post!

Brown Pelican
A Brown Pelican and a Double-crested Cormorant, both probably former patients, visit the Sanctuary

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is located at 18328 Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores on the west coast of Florida. The Sanctuary is open 365 days per year, from 9AM until sunset. Admission is free. The nonprofit relies on donations to care for up to 8,000 injured birds each year. Visit their website to learn more.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary Structures

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Welcome to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary

Following our slow chase for the Possum Branch Green-tailed Towhee last month, Arthur and I headed to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Florida. I first heard about the sanctuary from my friend Karen, who volunteered there last year after wanting to do so for several years.

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Brown Pelicans and Black-crowned Night-Herons form part of the welcome committee at the Sanctuary

The Sanctuary was founded in 1971 by Ralph Heath, on the Heath homestead. The Sanctuary grew rapidly into on of the world’s largest wild bird hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Today the Sanctuary is comprised of several re-purposed buildings, plus many bird enclosures, cages, and mews.

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Injured birds are cared for immediately upon arrival

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Huge aviaries for permanently injured, non-releasable seabirds

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Mews for resident raptors and songbirds

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Owl mews

We had a lovely long visit at the Sanctuary, where we got to see a bit of the work involved in caring for up to 8,000 birds per year, plus a large contingent of permanent residents.

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Arthur watches a video in the (temporary) educational center; founder Ralph Heath is on screen

Of course we were there to see the good work done at the Sanctuary, and to visit the resident birds. I will have more about both in the next post. I think you could guess from that photo of the entrance at the top of this post — not all of the birds we saw were inside enclosures…

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Shall we visit the gift shop, or take photos of Black-crowned Night-Herons?

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is located at 18328 Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores on the west coast of Florida. The Sanctuary is open 365 days per year, from 9AM until sunset. Admission is free. The nonprofit relies on donations to care for up to 8,000 injured birds each year. Visit their website to learn more.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Florida, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

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.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in ACBOP, Rehabilitation | 2 Comments