Archive for wildlife rehabilitation

Super Cooper(‘s Hawk)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2009 by Dawn

Oh, that Cooper’s Hawk.  He impressed me today.

Cooper's Hawk, Accipiter cooperii

I last rehabbed him on Thursday of last week since I was unable to make it to the raptor center on Monday (my usual rehab day).  On Thursday, I saw a marked improvement from the last time I had worked with this bird (which was 10 days prior, I believe), and today I saw even more.  On Thursday, he was making his perch-to-perches (P-Ps) just fine as long as he kept himself aloft.  Once he overshot his perch and landed on the ground, however, it didn’t seem like he was able to regain the height he had after I launched him and he stayed on the perches.  Since I have not seen him gain height by himself yet, I figured that capability would come later, once his injured wing had a chance to become more flexible and strong.

Inside the flight cage.

Inside the flight cage.

Today he surprised me.  A half an hour or so into our rehab session, he began taking off from the ground and making his perch at the other end of the flight cage.  I got very excited, as I haven’t seen him demonstrate this ability so far.  I have hope for this bird.  I think he is going to wow us all with his continued progress.  He’s gained some weight during his time in the flight cage – he has gone from 10.5 oz upon arrival to 12 oz today, which means he is not a large bird.  In fact, here is a photo to illustrate just how not big he is, compared to other birds I’ve worked with in the past:

Cooper's hawk compared to my hand (which is markedly larger due to the gloves).

On a completely unrelated note, I wore my Vibram Five Fingers shoes to rehab today, and they are spectacular.  They are the next best thing to being barefoot, and my feet have been thanking me for wearing them.  I wore them while gardening on Saturday and my feet weren’t nearly as sore as I expected them to be. 

My fivegingers.

I started wondering recently about birds’ intelligence levels and the way they use their brains.  Of course, we all know that parrots and crows are extremely intelligent.  But what about other birds  – various species of hawks and other raptors (like owls) and song birds?  Does the derogatory phrase “bird brain” really MEAN something?  I am going to have to do some more research on this.  There are few websites out there that look reputable so I’m going to try to find some books on the subject.  I probably have one, but don’t realize it because I buy so darn many books, thanks to the used bookstore at the Iowa City Public Library.

In regards to the intelligence of Cooper’s Hawks in particular, I was unable to find any useful information in a simple Google search.  I did, however, notice several entries that used such words as “clever,” “sneaky,” and one blog that I found had this to say:

I am not sure if there have been formal studies on the intelligence of the Cooper’s Hawk, but my own observations support the theory that this species has above average I.Q. There is no question in my mind that the Cooper’s Hawk “hides” behind things – trees for sure but also man-made structures like garages and rooftops prior to launching into its attack flight. 

If anybody has thoughts on the topic of bird intelligence, particularly relating to raptors or songbirds, please feel free to chime in!

The Biter.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 1, 2008 by Dawn
After six long months of not rehabbing, I finally got back into the flight cage on Saturday and rehabbed an injured great horned owl. Mary, a student employee at the MRP, was helping me and explained that they believe him to be rather young due to the fact that his feathers are still soft and clean and his eyes aren’t grainy (which happens as GHOWs age). He was found somewhere in Iowa City, and had an injury to his left wing.

This particular owl has been in the flight cage for a few weeks now, and is currently on a regimen of 10 wing stretches for his injury and five perch-to-perch flights. Since I hadn’t caught a wild, angry bird for a while, I had Mary go first and bring him out into the area where we do the flying. He wasn’t happy but we got him weighed and Mary began doing the wing stretches. She handed the owl over to me after she did a few and I took over. While I was holding him to my chest, Mary reminded me that owls have long necks and he could easily extend his to reach my face…which normally wouldn’t be a problem but this particular owl was a biter. I was wearing eye protection but I also didn’t want a chunk of flesh taken out of my cheek so I lowered him a bit and continued doing wing stretches. Every once in a while he would turn his head 90 degrees and try to bite my sweatshirt. Thankfully I was layered up since, well, it’s winter, so I didn’t feel anything.

After the wing stretches, we began the perch-to-perch flying and the owl did really well. He was a bit hard to catch when I had to launch him from my hands but once his wings were folded into his body and his back was against my torso, he was relatively well-behaved and he couldn’t get away. We did about 5 P-to-P flights but the owl was getting tired and a (little pissed) so we quit. The whole process took a little less than an hour. After that, I fed the resident owls since the regular Saturday feeder was out of town for the hoilday.

I realized while watching this owl fly that I’ve only really studied the way injured birds fly up close. Sure, we have all seen birds flying around in the skies but most of the time they are either too high or too fast for us to really observe them. The GHOW in the flight cage, for instance, pulls to the right when he flies due to the injury to his left wing. Obviously I know that his body is supposed to be symmetrical when he flies, but if there are other, smaller nuances I need to watch for I’m a little clueless. For instance, he had a few small sores on the bottom of one of his feet and I doubt I would have noticed something like that had I been rehabbing alone. I will learn to look for things like that but at this point I was glad to have someone there with me to point out the little things like that.

I’m not sure when I will get to work with him again. I told Mary I could come out over the weekend again to give it another go so we’ll see. He looks like he’s going to need to build more strength before he’s released, so I’m sure there will be opportunities.

I’m very glad to have rehabbed this weekend. It had been way too long and I just love the way it feels to hold a wild bird so close that I can see its feathers individually and even smell its breath (which isn’t pleasant, let me tell you). Letting my spirit mingle with that of a wild animal up close is a feeling I can’t get enough of.