Thursday, May 31, 2012

General update: 5/31/12

Well, it seems like slow season has come to a close.  Yesterday there were two calls for bird rescues (a downed Eagle and a baby Kestrel) before the Humans opened their doors for the morning!  Before 9:00 they received two more calls (another Kestrel and a baby Screech Owl), and later in the day the Humans picked up a Kestrel that had been both oiled and caught by a dog. Whew!  That means my weekly updates may be a little more interesting from here on out (although I can always hire a Cooper's Hawk to write for me--that was entertaining!).

Anyways, here's what's going on at the RMRP:

There are now FIVE Bald Eagles in rehabilitation!! 

 Yeah, that's right, five insatiable and difficult Bald Eagles, a mix of immatures and adults.  The newest arrival is this year's kid, still growing in feathers. He fell out of his nest but didn't damage himself too much, so the Humans are going to try their best to get him back into his next as soon as possible.  If there's a chance for a kid to be raised in the wild like they should be, the Humans try to make that happen. Even with the kid hopefully leaving soon, that leaves four Eagle-sized appetites to feed, and four Eagle-sized doses of medications, bandaging materials, vet consults, and cleaning materials. If you can help by throwing some money or fish our way, the Humans would really appreciate it. Click the "donate" link to the right!

We got in an Eagle, but kicked out a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, the one with head trauma and a fractured metacarpus (wing).  Of course, a Sharpie eats next to nothing compared to an Eagle, but a trade is a trade, and the Humans aren't complaining.  He flew out of sight faster than you can blink, and hopefully he'll steer clear of windows in the future.

Another baby Great Horned came in with mild abrasions. He's hanging out with me right now, until he can fly well enough to join the others.  This one is particularly cute, and he spends a lot of time cozied up next to me.

All the other birds are status quo, nothing to report except general improvements overall!

Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention that the Cooper's Hawk is getting pretty close to release.  He's still convinced that he's been "captured" and is being "held against his will", but he's healing well and should finally be leaving me alone soon.

Alright, that's all for now. I'll be sure to let you know how the new admissions are doing!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Q&A: How to Deal with Chicks

Q: One of my readers, a young male Human, wrote in the other day with this question:  "You said in a recent post that I could ask you any question, even non-bird-related ones, so here goes nothing: I just can't understand chicks! How am I supposed to deal with them? Do you have any tips?"

A: An excellent question, and you couldn't ask a better Owl! Chicks are my specialty! Although I must admit, I'm confused that you think this question isn't bird related. I have a lot of advice regarding chicks, but I condensed it to five easy-to-remember points for this post.

1. Watch your manners: When I spend a lot of time around chicks, I tend to overeat--I swear sometimes I think the only thing we do together is eat!  And I know I should be polite and let them eat first before I dig into my meal, but sometimes the temptation is too much.  Then they get mad and glare at me over dinner. It's too stressful for me, so my recommendation is to always let the chick eat first.

2. Don't worry about impressing them: They already think you're the coolest thing in the world just because you want to spend time with them. Everything else will come naturally--dealing with chicks is instinctive.

3. Be a good role-model: An important thing to remember when you're spending time with chicks is that they are very impressionable. Since you want to have the best chicks of all, make sure you act extra tough around them. Lots of posturing and aggression. They'll eat it up!

4. Try not to take it personally: Often times the chicks that used to adore you suddenly stop paying attention to you. It's because they outgrow you when it's time for them to move on.  It hurts a lot when this happens, but try to remember that it's just part of dealing with chicks in the first place--try not to take it personally. You'll meet more chicks soon.

5. Presents: Who doesn't love a present? If you're still unsure whether or not your chick is happy, give her a mouse. Chicks dig mice.

I hope that helps, young male Human! Thanks for writing in with your question! Remember everyone, my email is, and I answer any question you can throw at me, bird-related or not!  Another reminder, if you haven't yet subscribed to this blog you can just enter your email in the box on the right side of the main page.  Then you'll receive an email whenever I post something.  It takes a few days for the subscription to kick in, though, so check back for a little while!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A plea from the Humans

Good morning everyone!  The Humans are all atwitter this morning, talking about how their van broke down yesterday.  From what I gather, the van needs at least $1200 of work before it's road worthy again!  Now, being an Owl, I don't know much about cars (except that they hurt when they hit you), but I know that it's very important to the RMRP to get this van going again.

The van is essential to getting to all the education programs we do around the state.  Have you seen one of our programs yet?  We're kind of famous for them, you should check us out.  Anyways, the van fits all the equipment, birds, volunteers and staff necessary to pull off one of our famous education programs, and without it--we're stuck.

Oh yeah, it's also the beginning of "booth season", meaning almost every single weekend until the end of summer is booked with outreach programs at festivals and events like the Boulder Creek Fest and the Renaissance Festival.'s bad timing.

And one more thing: when the birds need to be transported to the Vet Teaching Hospital for medical consultations and surgeries, this is how they get there!

The little van has been around for a long time.  It's another example of how good the Humans here are about using their resources: they make a little go a long way.  And this little van has gone a long way.  But we really need it to go further...

So if you can spare a few dollars or more, please click here for the donation page at the RMRP website and contribute some money to fixing our van!  We'd all appreciate it, Humans and birds alike!  Thank you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest writer for the weekly update: Cooper's Hawk

So, we still have injured accipiters in house here at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.  All accipiters are extremely high-energy, and there's one in particular--a Cooper's Hawk--who's getting on my nerves.  It's like someone gave him a triple shot of espresso and asked him to sit still in a corner.  Forget about it.  So in an effort to keep my manic neighbor calm and quiet for an hour or so while I catch some daytime shuteye, I offered him the job of writing this week's update.  Good night, and good luck!
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It appears that the evil animals that walk upright and poke me with very sharp, tiny, pointy things (the Owl calls these creatures "Humans") all gather together once a week and talk about us Raptors. They call it "Rounds", but I call it "plotting my demise". So they plotted my demise last night, and this is what they said:

First, they talked about the other Cooper's Hawk that was here, the big gorgeous female who could have squashed me like a bug.  So hot.  She came in about one moon before me, after hitting a window in a Human house and shattering it.  She broke her skull, too, but she never let that get her down, and she was always trying to kill the Humans.  She was awesome.  So, she's been missing for two days, right, and I'm thinking the worst has happened, that the Humans plotted her demise, and followed through on it!  And I'm listening in on this meeting of theirs hoping to hear what they did to her, right, so I could be ready to kill the next Human to come near me, but then they said they released her.  In an "area with fewer windows" they said, and then they all laughed.  Huh.  I wasn't expecting that.  What did she do to them to make them let her go?  I hope I figure it out soon so I can get them to release me as well.  My wing is almost completely better, and I was spending all my time flying in tight circle in this little cage they had me in, and almost escaping every time the Humans tried to catch me, and I guess the Humans didn't like that because this morning they moved me to a much larger cage.  Now I can really begin strengthening my wing and preparing for the day I manage to escape.

Anyways, they also talked about a Sharp Shinned Hawk (he hit a window, too, like me and the other Cooper's), and how he's in a really big cage and how he's flying so fast that no one can seem him long enough to judge how his wing is healing.  They all laughed at that, too.  Then they started talking about releasing him! I have to figure this out!

After the Sharpie, they talked about an American Kestrel that's in the small medical room where the Humans use the pointy things.  She was my neighbor until I moved out today. She got here after I did, and she says she was hit by something (like a car) that messed up her head and her balance, and then she was chewed on by a cat for awhile.  She's been having a really rough time standing up and holding her head straight and eating and everything, but yesterday she started eating on her own, and now she can stand sometimes, and she holds her head the right way more often than she holds it the wrong way, so I think she's getting better, too.

Then the Humans talked about the Bald Eagles.  There are four of them, and I can't keep them straight, but I know that there are at least two that are doing well and getting stronger and healthier. I hope they leave soon because their fish stinks and they poop everywhere. Bald eagles are so gross.

There's also a Red-Tailed Hawk that they call the Undead Red-Tail because he's been sick with a mystery illness for two moons now, and he just won't get better, and because he has no blood in his veins, and because he had this weird lesion thingy in his throat for a long time. He's only a kid, but he's really mean and vicious, but he's still a little subdued because he's trying to fight off whatever infection he has, so he hasn't had a chance to unleash his fury. The Humans don't know this, but when he's finally feeling well they'd better watch out!

After that the Humans starting talking about something called "Renaissance Festival" and started walking around in these really weird clothes, and I lost interest and left, so then I went back to my...OOH, QUAIL!!!  KILL IT!!! OH, IT'S ALREADY DEAD...EAT IT!!!
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...Wow, accipiters have short attention spans.  Thanks for reading, I'll be back on board tomorrow! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New baby!

The Humans coming into my cage left behind a new baby Great Horned Owl!  This one is even smaller than the last one, and is already very full of Great Horned personality (by which I mean he's clacking and hissing and trying to talon the Humans).  What a good kid!

He told me that he was trapped in a window well of a house for a few days and couldn't get out.  But his real mom was still bringing him food, so he wasn't too skinny or weak when he was brought to the RMRP.  Now he just needs to finish growing in feathers and put on a little more weight before going to join the other kid.

Aw, he's food begging from me already! What a good kid!

General summary and Open House wrap-up!

Good morning to you all!  With the hubbub of the annual Mother's Day Open House last weekend, I got a little distracted from updating my blog, so this entry will be full of information for you.

First off, we released another bird!  The Great Horned Owl with the luxated elbow flew out of here on Monday, so big congratulations to him and to the Humans who helped him (both medically and financially)!  When he was released, he flew up to a tall tree, perched on the tiniest branch available, and was promptly greeted by a very displeased and noisy American Kestrel.

As for the other birds in rehabilitation, there are still four Bald Eagles in house!  And they're still eating like pigs, so if you have a surplus of trout to donate to us, we'd love to have it!  Whole and frozen is best. Call the RMRP for details.

There are also the three accipiters (forest-dwelling bird-eating hawks) going through rehab.  All three of them were likely window strikes, with the Sharp-Shinned Hawk being caught by a cat afterward (talk about a bad day).  All three are doing well, destroying button quail with no regard for the mess they're making, and steadily healing their injuries. I hope they get out of here soon because their energy level is waaay higher than mine, and I can almost feel the air humming around them while they're here!  Makes it hard to sleep, grumble, grumble....

On a sadder note, the Humans admitted an American Kestrel the other day that had been caught in a woodpecker trap.  I'd never heard of a woodpecker trap, so I looked them up and found out some interesting information: live traps are generally ineffective, so the kind of "trap" that is more commonly used is a snap-type rat trap mounted on the side of a house or placed in a nest box (which is where the Kestrel ran into one--"Ooh, look, a nice home for me to raise a family in!"...not).  They're allowed as a last resort for woodpecker removal, but require a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  To any Humans out there with a woodpecker problem, please do your research and try to find more humane ways of getting rid of woodpeckers before resorting to lethal trapping (there are plenty of humane methods to try).  For the record, the American Kestrel caught in the woodpecker trap didn't make it.

Now, onto some good news!  The Open House was a huge success!  Enormous thanks to everyone who came by to check out where I live, meet my neighbors and friends, purchase items in the gift shop, and donate generously!  I was resting in my cage for the day, but the birds who did come out say they had a good time, and the Humans were in high spirits! Thanks again!

Hm, there are Humans coming into my cage!  I have to put away my computer and act owlish!  Bye!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This week's general update

The biggest news (to me, at least) is that my baby has become a good enough flier to graduate to another cage. After all, a mom with a bum wing isn't very good at teaching a kid how to fly. However, thanks to me, that kid was sent over to his new mom with a healthy Great Horned Owl attitude (if he took the "Which Raptor Are You?" quiz, he would definitely get "Great Horned Owl"). Still, I sneaked into his new cage to see how he's doing, and it's clear to me that while he may be able to fly with his new mom, he obviously liked me more:

In other news, the Undead Red-Tail likes to perch with his foot outstretched like a total goofball. He's still under the weather and fighting off an illness/infection, but he's improving daily.

He spends most of his time like this
The Swainson's Hawk that survived a run-in with a methane burner last year is molting out his feathers, and the Humans are hopeful that his new set will be high-quality so he can be kicked out of here this year. Here's a pic of what a feather molted from a hawk that caught on fire looks like:

Amazing that he's okay, isn't it?

There are still four Bald Eagles in house, all plodding their high-maintenance way through the rehabilitation process. And we also have three accipiters (two Cooper's Hawks and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk) at the center, which is a pretty high number for them, too. All three were admitted with impact injuries, probably from hitting windows. This includes the Cooper's Hawk shown below, the one that actually shattered the house window she ran into.

After demolishing a button quail for lunch
The Turkey Vulture that was going to be released now-ish is instead molting in a new set of flight feathers. I think he's doing on purpose so he can keep room service as long as possible. But when he's done growing in new feathers (a couple of weeks), he'll be out of here, too.

And, finally, the Great Horned Owl with the luxated elbow flies great despite the wing droop, and started on Rat School yesterday. Rat School (or Mouse School, depending on the size of the bird) is when the Humans put the about-to-be-released bird in a large flight cage, and give the bird live prey for a few days. Instead of simply flying down to a perch to eat pre-killed rabbit, the bird has to catch and kill the prey itself. Happily, the Great Horned Owl killed his rat. Killed it dead. Full marks for the Great Horned Owl!

That's all for now!


Looks like the Humans got creative and made a quiz called "Which Raptor Are You?"  Of course, I went ahead and took it and got "Great Horned Owl"!  Pretty spot on, really...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why American Kestrels are AMAZING!!

Note: Since I'm busy raising a kid, I'm handing this week's "bird of the week" over to my neighbor education bird, the American Kestrel.  I really hope I don't regret this...

Good afternoon! I'm so excited to be writing on a blog instead of Twitter! I have so much to say, and for once I'm not limited by 140 characters! Such! Okay, I should hold back on the exclamation points, otherwise the Great Horned Owl will come through and edit them all out. She can be so stodgy sometimes!

Okay, so, American Kestrels! I'm going tell you about why I (ahem...why we) are so awesome! But there's so much to talk about, I don't even know where to start. How about we start with the basics?

American Kestrels are falcons, just like the Peregrine Falcons that everyone seems to know about and love, except we're much smaller. For instance, I weigh 117 grams at the moment, about the same as a quarter-pound burger.

Kestrels are only about 8 inches long, and a lot of that is tail (I have a magnificent tail), with a wingspan about the same as your fingers if you made a bird-shape with your hands, like that ------------>
We are the smallest North American falcon, and also the most common (but that doesn't make us any less special!)

American Kestrels are actually one of the only North American raptors with a color "sexual dimorphism". That's a fancy Human word that means "males look different than females". The ladies are a russet brown color all over, while the males (like me) have bluish-grey coloring on their wings and heads. In the picture to the left, the male is on the right/bottom, and the female (yowza!) is on the left/top. You can also see there that the male and female have very different tail patterns and streaking patterns.

Just so you know, the other North American raptors with overt sexual dimorphisms like that are the Merlin (another falcon) and the Northern Harrier. I'm sure the Owl will write more about them later.

Also, like most falcons, we have that stylish "chinstrap" mark below our eyes. It's there to help us see better in the sun, just like how football players and baseball players smudge black paint below their eyes to get rid of glare.
See the resemblance??
Kestrels can live just about anywhere. We're very adaptable like that! We'll live in meadows and deserts and cities, although we prefer to hunt in semi-open areas more than in congested places like forests. Ooh, speaking of hunting, we're really good at it! And we have some really cool tricks up our wings that the other raptors don't have.

Probably the coolest thing about me (I mean, about Kestrels...) is our vision! We can see in the UV spectrum, which is the big key to our success in mouse and vole hunting. When voles and mice run around in the undergrowth, they leave urine trails behind them which they can smell and use to get back home. Well, Kestrels can do one better, because while voles can smell their own pee (ew, by the way), we can see it! So we can fly around until we spot an area with a lot of urine trails, then hang out there and wait for the delicious vole to return to his burrow...and, well, you know what happens next.

The green spot circled in red is how I see vole pee. Are you jealous yet?

Seeing in the UV spectrum makes a lot of things more noticeable and interesting, like the feathers of other birds, and otherwise-unseen patterns on flowers:
Saw-Whet Owl feathers in the UV spectrum
I don't really care about flowers, but it's still a cool picture
As for how we actually catch voles, it's really interesting, too! Our wingtips are specially designed to allow us to hover. Now, I'm not talking the same caliber of hovering that hummingbirds pull off, but we do hang out in the air without really going places, so yeah, it's hovering. It requires the right kind of breeze, then we flap the wing tips just enough to stay airborne while looking down at the ground (at those vole trails!) waiting for lunch to come scurrying along. Then we swoop down, and, like all raptors, catch the little snack with our feet.

The other [far easier but slightly less fun] way to hunt is to hang out on a branch tip or a powerline and wait for something to walk by. If you keep your eyes peeled while driving along a highway, I guarantee you'll see loads of Kestrels either hovering or perching on powerlines. 

Other than mice and voles, Kestrels are big on hunting bugs. Oh yeah, bugs. So tasty and full of protein! We're really big fans of grasshoppers in particular, just like the Swainson's Hawks are.

This is me editing my Physical Form after the Humans are done writing it. 

Um, wow, am I running out of things to talk about? That can't be possible. Kestrels are renowned for having lots to say all the time. In fact, I often see the Humans covering their ears so they can block out the piercing "klee klee klee!" sound we make! We're also very critical and can't help but comment on everything going on around us.

Huh. Well, I guess I am out of things to say. But don't worry, I'm sure I did a stellar job writing this, and I bet the Great Horned Owl will let me write about the other falcons, too! And if I did forget to mention something here, I'll just post it on my Twitter account (@RaptorProgram). Catch ya later!!