Raptor Internship Week 4

The focus during the fourth week of the Raptor Internship at Flint Creek was more handling (following basics, equipment, and handling part one).

After a brief review of what we learned last week, we practiced putting equipment on a bird by using only our dominant hand. Dawn devised a contraption made of Velcro strips and pencils (kestrel) or markers (hawk) to simulate a bird’s legs. Using this, we were able to thread anklets with jesses, attach leash extenders to jesses, and thread leashes to leash extenders. Boy, was it great to practice in this way. We worked in small groups and could help each other remember to keep our “bird” level and secure while we worked. Dawn told us she first learned to apply and remove equipment like this with a Red-tailed Hawk on the glove. Wow! (Many thanks to my classmate Lee for taking the video and photos below)

Working from behind, here a jess is being threaded through one of the “hawk’s” anklets

Here the jesses are being inserted into the slit of the leash extender.

Working a jess into one of the “kestrel’s” anklets

After everyone got to practice with both sets of equipment, Dawn showed us how to tie a falconer’s knot. After observing Dawn several times, we all took turns trying it out. I had a really hard time seeing what Dawn was doing exactly with her fingers and the leash, but once it was my turn I picked it up pretty quickly. Here’s what it looks like:

The piece of leash between the metal loop and the leash extender should be shorter – I need to practice that!

After lunch and another brief lecture about special handling situations, it was time for us to work with a bird once again. This time Pip, a Barn Owl, was bought in and placed on a low perch. Pip’s parents were part of a captive breeding program for Illinois. While his siblings were released, Pip was held back to be used as an education bird. He is fully flighted.

We took turns taking Pip onto our glove and (much to our initial horror) removing all of his equipment except for one jess. Pip was so relaxed he was mostly either preening (it was so very cool to hear him ‘zip’ his feathers so close!) or near sleeping as we worked on the equipment.

I think we all did really well with this exercise. The ability to practice with the Velcro birds really helped prepare us all for working with Pip on the glove.

It was another great class – I’m so glad I signed up for this internship! Next week we’ll look at the natural history of diurnal raptors and get more handling experience. I can’t wait!

Share the birds, share the love!
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