Archive for the Uncategorized Category


Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2009 by Dawn

I’ve decided to take a hiatus from posting here at For the Birds.  I’m not sure when I’ll be back…I enjoy posting but my heart is not currently in it.  If you haven’t been for a visit lately, stop out and see our birds!  They (and the MRP) are my favorite things about Iowa City. 

And for those of you who are curious – no, I’m not quitting rehab.  I’m just taking a break from posting anything about it.  I may still post a few photos of new birds to my Flickr account, so stop on over there and say hello.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them here or email me at

Until next time…

Man Saves Osprey With “Mouth To Beak” Resuscitation

Posted in Uncategorized on July 21, 2009 by Dawn

I just came across this post on the Birdchick’s blog and had to share.  It’s the feel-good bird story of the year!

Life, death, and, of course, wild birds.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15, 2009 by Dawn

Guess who has two thumbs, forgot to post last week, and is already falling behind on this week?  [pointing two thumbs at self]  This girl!

Last week I didn’t really have anything nice to say, so I opted to not say anything at all.  I did get a few interesting photos but overall had a frustrating rehab session with the Cooper’s hawk and the adult red-tailed hawk.  We all have bad days sometimes, so I didn’t really think anything of it.  It was physically and mentally exhausting, as most rehab sessions should be, but it wore on me last week.  Indeed, Mother Nature is, on occasion, a harsh mistress…but is one I will keep coming back to.

Here are a few photos from last week (July 6):

Above is the adult red-tailed hawk who has been in the flight cage for a few weeks due to an air-sac injury.  This was the first time I’d been able to get any good photos of her.  She is a beautiful, magnificent bird.  If I was a bird, I’d want to be just like her.

Here she is, giving me the stink eye before I put her back in her cage.  Her eyes are a warm, chocolatey brown and are completely lovely.

For a few minutes, she decided to exercise her right to say “no” by hanging upside down from the rafters of the flight cage.  She was adamant about not wanting to fly that day, so I obeyed her wishes.  Sometimes, it’s all you can do.  They may be wild, but their body language still rings clear as a bell.

Finally, below is one of my favorite photos from any rehab session.  It’s not a particularly great photo but I enjoy the angle and the sharpness (no pun intended) with which you can see her talons.  I was holding her with one hand and took the photo with the other.  NOTE: You do not want to tangle with this one.  Or any of them, really.  They are wild and can obviously tear you to shreds.

And that’s all I have to say about last week.


And now for a brief interlude.  I am saddened to report that Plato, our resident Broad winged hawk, passed away on Sunday, July 12.  She had been a resident at the Macbride Raptor Project for 22 years (which is 6 years shy of my entire life!).  While we will all miss her greatly, she is truly a testament to the loving care that the MRP volunteers have provided year after year.  The average lifespan of a wild Broad winged hawk is 12 years.  Per Animal Diversity Web:

Based on a study conducted between 1955 and 1979, the average expected lifespan of wild broad-winged hawks is 12 years. The oldest known wild broad-winged hawk lived at least 14 years and 4 months.

May Plato soar the eternal skies, and never know a day without sunshine.  RIP, little bird.


On Monday this week (July 13), I added another bird to my rehab roster.  The juvenile red-tailed hawk, who has been in the flight cage as long as the adult with the air sac injury, is finally able to be exercised in the flight hallway.  He had a talon removed on his right foot due to in injury and infection.  His toe is completely healed and the sutures have fallen out, so his time to shine had arrived.

Monday was his first flying session, and while he did not make his 10 perch-to-perch flights (he managed 5), he did an amazingly good job for his first time.  I’ve nticed that it takes the birds a few times to realize what we want them to do.  And while I did explain the process to him – out loud, yes, because I am a dork – sometimes birds have to figure things out on their own.

Here is a photo of his feet, sans talon:

And here is what all of him looks like:

It looks like his red tail feathers are just beginning to come in, so I would estimate him to be about 2 years old.  I look forward to working with him again next week.  Overall, he is an impressive and well-behaved bird.

[For my full For the Birds set on Flickr, go here.]

So that brings us up to date, I guess.  I did forget to mention that last week sometime we got ANOTHER red-tailed hawk in the flight cage, so that brings our grand total up to:

  • 5 Red-tailed hawks (4 juvenile, 1 adult)
  • 1 Cooper’s hawk
  • 1 American Kestrel

Right now, only the Cooper’s hawk and two of the red-tails are being rehabbed.  Everyone else is under observation only.  It will be a long, long day when all seven birds need to be flown.  But until that day comes,  I won’t worry about it. 

And even when it does get here, I will smile to myself and say, “I helped seven birds today.”  How many people can say that?  Not many.  I’m glad I’m one of them.

Business as usual.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2009 by Dawn

Whoopsie!  I keep forgetting to post about my rehab session from Monday (June 29).  This week has gotten away from me, that’s for sure.

Well.  As June was winding down, the flight cage was winding up.  I arrived at the MRP on Monday to find Mary and Luke (student employees) walking out of the flight cage with an empty mouse bucket.  They had just dropped off a whole slew of newbies, which means we are currently housing six birds in the flight cage.  I haven’t seen that many birds in there since, well, last year, I guess.  The next few months will certainly be an exercise in time management for me, as I will go from having two birds to rehab to having six.  Right now, the new kids are all under observation only but in no time at all, I’ll be up to my armpits (almost literally) in birds in need of exercise and physical therapy.

Here’s the roster:

American Kestrel


Juvenile red-tailed hawks

Juvenile red-tailed hawks

I rehabbed the usual suspects this week – the Cooper’s hawk (COHA) and the red-tailed hawk (RTHA).  The Cooper’s hawk has come a long way since his arrival at the MRP several months ago.  He is still drawing his legs to the left when he flies, which is a sign that his right side is still slightly weaker than the left.  The injury to his right wrist has healed, however, and he is getting stronger.  His flapping is much less frantic now than it was when I first met him.  Hopefully in the next month or two, he will be able to return to the wild world from whence he came.

The RTHA was uncooperative and angry during this session – just like any wild bird should be.  She completed her flights, but getting her to do so was like pulling teeth.  We all have bad days, I suppose.  I was patient with her and allowed adequate rest periods between flights.   Her breathing had greatly improved since last week (as had the weather – mid-70s this week!) and she is strong as an ox.  I have bruises and sore wrists to prove this. 

While working with the RTHA, I remembered a bit of advice that one of my trainers gave me when I began my rehab work.  He said, more or less, that “the birds will tell you what they are or aren’t willing to do.”  I am proud of myself for learning how to listen to them.  Communicating with a wild animal and being on the same page as a creature who is anatomically closer to a dinosaur than to you is exhilarating and empowering.  If I may wax hippie-dippy for a moment, I can tell you that it brings you closer to the true spirit of the animal, and thus to nature. 

We were all wild animals once.  It’s fun to hang out with animals who remind me of that.


Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2009 by Dawn

I went easy on the birds yesterday during our rehab session.  Why?  Because it was about 95 degrees here in Iowa.  Doesn’t that happen later in the summer, like late July or August?  Summer certainly isn’t wasting any time this year.  The day after the solstice and it’s already so hot that even going outside to fill the bird feeder is like spending a moment in hell, if hell was incredibly sunny.

Anyway.  It was so hot yesterday that all I wanted a smooth, easy rehab session that would begin with the birds jumping willingly into my arms, then doing their respective 5 perch-to-perch (P-Ps) flights, and once again flying straight to me so I could put them back in their cages.   If you bet $1 million that none of that happened, then congratulations – you won.  You will receive your check 10 days from…never.

The Cooper’s hawk was immediately stubborn about being caught.  He flew up into the higher parts of his cage – the parts I can’t reach – and stayed there.  I sighed very loudly at him to let him know just how exasperated I was, as the sweat began to cascade down my cleavage.  I left his cage in hopes that my not being there would prompt him to fly to a more reachable spot, but he stayed put.  After what seemed like an hour, but was probably more like 2.5 minutes, he decided to come down.  I snatched him off his perch and he put up more of a fight than usual.  Thankfully he’s a little guy, so keeping a handle on him wasn’t hard.  We started out on several successful P-P flights, but once he missed his perch he had difficulties getting enough elevation to land there again.  He ran-flapped down the length of the flight cage a few times, with me following behind him going, “Pfff…sigh…” and such.  Finally he decided to shape up and he resumed his P-Ps.  

He was panting heavier than I’ve ever seen him pant before – his tongue was hanging about an inch out of his mouth.  Here he is, panting his little bird-heart out:

Gosh its hot!  Why dont you leave me alone, lady?

"Gosh it's hot! Why don't you leave me alone, lady?"

I made sure to give him sufficient rest time between flights since it was offensively hot and he seemed to not respond well to the heat.  I know I don’t.  The moment the temperature rises above about 87 degrees, I am rather unpleasant to be around.  The moment the COHA completed his 5 P-P flights, I scooped him back up and put him back in his cage so  I could move on to the red-tailed hawk with the air-sac injury.  Normally we would want to keep the bird flying to see how long he can go before getting tired, but it was so hot that I know neither he nor I were interested in doing more than necessary.

The red-tailed hawk (RTHA) is one wild bird.  Of course all the birds I rehabilitate are wild, but this RTHA doesn’t let you forget it for a moment.  She won’t let me get close enough to get a decent photo, but that’s a good thing – that’s what we want.  The moment I come near her, she flies off.  But like I said, this is what wildlife rehabilitation is about.  She, too, was very stubborn about being caught (but she always is).  When I was finally able to reach up and grab her leg as she sat on her perch, she immediately used her other foot to grab my right wrist and did not let go.  Though it was 95 degrees, I added a sweatshirt layer over my tank top before catching her because her feet tend to go every which way and I can’t really see where they’re going because I’m trying to keep from getting flapped in the face by her almost 5 foot wingspan.  Even with the added protection of the sweatshirt and the leather falconer gloves that come almost halfway to my elbows, her grip was impressive and painful.  I’m actually surprised she didn’t break the skin through two layers.  When I moved my right arm/wrist/hand in the slightest, she tightened her grip and I winced each time…but I did not let go.  I pity any small critter who finds himself there.  It’s not a comfortable place to be.

She performed beautifully, as usual.  Since it was so hot, I kept a close eye on her breathing and gave her long rest periods between flights.  Just as I did with the COHA, I did not press for more than 5 P-P flights due to the weather.  I could tell she was tired at the end because she let me approach her and I was able to easily catch her off the perch.  I’d like to think she was thankful for a short session, but I know she was just mad at me for having the audacity to come near her in the first place.  

She tilted her head back and gave me the stink eye as I carried her back to her cage.  I wish I could explain to the birds what I’m doing and why.  Actually, I do – so I guess I wish they could understand me.  Maybe on the day they’re released, they understand.  If I ever meet a bird I’ve released, I’ll ask him and let you all know.

Welcome to the world, Layla!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2009 by Dawn

This is my first non-rehab related post on this blog, but it’s too exciting not to include.  My niece, Layla Morgan Breitbach, was born on June 11, 2009.  She is 100% awesome.  Let’s all welcome her to the world, shall we?  More photos at my Flickr page.   For more information on my photographic services, visit the Dewey Street Photo Company website!

Red-tailed hawk video.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2009 by Dawn

i think i love you, originally uploaded by kitty cat bandit.

The new RTHA in the flight cage performs a perch-to-perch-to-perch flight and catches me a little bit by surprise.