Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bittersweet news on two injured raptors

On Tuesday, I shared the story of a male turkey vulture with a broken wing whose retrieval I took part in. I talked to Laura from Indiana Raptor Center yesterday, and I'm sorry to say that he had to be euthanized. Unfortunately, the amount of dead tissue in the bone was too great. However, he will have a worthy second life, as he is to be mounted and presented to a local nature center for use in their interpretive programs. He lives in my memory, too. After years of watching these birds as they soared on thermals or congregated around a carcass, I was able to see one up close, to touch it, to watch as it greedily accepted a meal of raw beef. I hope I'm not too sentimental in supposing that I saw some avian form of joy in him as he ripped off pieces of meat, flinging it back and forth and spraying us with the gatorade it had been dipped in. Birdspeed, momentary friend!

Turkey Vulture rescue
Patti cradling the turkey vulture as she places him in a box for a nap.

But I save a bit of news that, while not entirely happy, has a little more sweet than bitter, I think. On Monday, I also got to see a Bald Eagle in the center's flight barn. I had previously been in the barn with Great Horned Owls. This was a totally different experience. Eagles are a LOT louder than owls, and this bird watched me more intently than the owls did. When the center received the eagle, he was in terrible shape, emaciated, with an enlarged heart and liver. Patti and Laura's skills have brought him back to flight-readiness, and though he doesn't have many days ahead of him because of the condition of his liver, he will get to live them in the sunlight, on the shore of whatever nearby lake he chooses. You can't ask for much more than that.

Bald Eagle
A soon-to-be-released bald eagle in the flight barn.

To have an eagle fly less than four feet away from me and feel the wind off of his wings was a thrill.


  1. One of my endearing memories of spending time in the Hell Creek in 2010 was seeing the turkey vultures circling idly above us as we laboured in the heat. We have buzzards here in the UK, but seeing vultures was a real wildlife highlight.

    It's been great to see these birds close-up and sorry to hear the lad's not pulled through. Great posts, and it's good to think of you guys helping these beautiful animals when they're in trouble.

    1. Thanks, Stu. All accolades go to Patti and Laura for the hard work, I'm just the occasional pixel-pusher for them! I look forward to participating in a surgery or necropsy sometime - though I sometimes fear that my squeamishness will hamper my ability to truly help, I've found that in the moment, when asked to do something to help, my brain switches modes and it's all business. Less worrying about injuring myself or the bird, just acting. I find the biology of them too fascinating to look away. This from the guy who gets a little ill just *thinking* of watching a gory movie.

  2. Sad news indeed. Do you think you may have the opportunity to share pictures from his worthy second life, too?

  3. So cool to see a post on TVs! I volunteered with a couple of wildlife rehabbers, one had a black vulture as lecture bird (very raven-like: "hey, nice earrings!" peck!) and one had a TV (very shy, liked it if we stood in FRONT of the perch at lectures, so he could hide beihind us). Awesome, misunderstood birds. Even when they barf (phweeeeeeeeeeeeeeew!).


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