It’s official!

Today marked the official start of my weekly duties as wildlife rehabilitator at the Macbride Raptor Project. This has been a goal of mine for over three years, and it feels good to have put in the work, training, and dedication needed to pursue my dream. Now, every Monday, I will put myself and my tender flesh up against wild and most likely angry raptors.


juvenile red tailed hawk

I worked with two birds today: a juvenile red-tailed hawk and a great horned owl. I began with the red tail, because I thought he would be easier. I’ve worked with the owl before, and he is surly, bitey, and stubborn. The red tail actually proved to be more of a challenge than I originally suspected. He was easier to catch than I thought he would be, but once I got him into the flying area he made it quite clear that he was unwilling to do any actual flying.

At one point, he resorted to laying down on his back (a stance they take when trying to foot their prey / opponent) and trying to foot me. He succeeded in grabbing my glove but missed my actual hand. He clung to the glove and wouldn’t let go, no matter what I did. I left him laying there – on his back – for literally five minutes, glove in talon. I sat on the bench, waiting for him to boost himself back up but he stayed put. Finally I got up, calmed him down a bit by covering his face with my other (gloved) hand, removed the glove from his sharp talons, and got him back up and flying.

Well, not really flying. He would not move. He sat on the perch, seemingly enjoying the chest and belly rubs I had started to administer. After an hour or so of clapping my hands at him, pleading with him, giving him positive encouragement and space, I scooped him up and put him back in his cage. Next time you will fly, friend. Next time you will fly.

great horned owl in colorful fall leaves

great horned owl

The great horned owl was a pleasant surprise. Like I said, I’d worked with him before and had found him to be a most unpleasant and cantankerous wild animal. Since I’d had issues with him in the past, I was prepared for battle. Thankfully, he was in a good (?) mood. He was slightly less bitey today than in the past (he’s the armpit biter, for those of you who saw the bruises) and was definitely much more willing to fly like he was supposed to. Rehabbing him only took about 30 minutes, but he did manage to bite my arm really hard at the end and leave a bruised welt – through two layers.

Bites, pinches, and scratches are the price I pay. I will always wear my wounds with pride. They make me who I am and come from the birds I love, even if they will never love me back.

FUN FACT: Juvenile red-tailed hawks can be identified by their yellow eyes and their lack of red tail feathers.  As the birds age, their eyes begin to darken to a deep brown and their red tail feathers grow in.


2 Responses to “It’s official!”

  1. You are one brave woman, Dawn! Being a wimp, I’m in awe..

  2. […] began with the red tailed hawk, who I fully expected to be as much of a pain in the butt as he was last time I flew him.  If you will recall, I spent nearly an hour chasing him along the floor of the flight […]

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