Spring is nesting season for birds, including raptors, and the Southeastern Raptor Center, or SRC, at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine wants people to know what to do if they encounter a young or orphaned raptor on the ground.
Orphaned is the term applied to a young raptor that has been abandoned and may have fallen from its nest.
“Raptor nestlings can fall out of their nest during this time,” said Stephanie Kadletz, a raptor rehabilitation specialist with the SRC. “If they do, it might be from being blown out in a storm, or they were moving about more as they grow and simply fell over the edge. They might not be able to fly or could be injured, so if someone should encounter one of these young birds, there are certain things to be cautious about and aware of.
“First off, don’t kidnap the bird,” Kadletz adds.
“Some raptors, particularly owls, do not build their own nests,” Kadletz said. “They take over previous nests of other birds or nest in the nook of a tree. Because they don’t build their own nests it may not be in top condition and the chick can fall out.
“If they are too young to fly and not injured, then it is important to try to re-nest the bird if possible. But before approaching the bird to pick it up, step back and watch to see if the adult bird might be nearby.”
If there are signs of a parent bird nearby to care for the young raptor, then attempts should be made to return the young raptor to its nest.
If a young raptor can’t be returned to its original nest, a substitute can be made from a wicker or laundry basket with holes drilled in the bottom and pine straw placed on the bottom and then secured high in the original nest tree.
“If this is done, it is still necessary to observe the new nest from a distance for at least 24 hours after returning the young bird to be sure the parents are caring for it,” Kadletz said.
In the case of finding an injured or orphaned raptor, they can be brought to the SRC or the finder can go to Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, www.outdooralabama.com, to find the list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Alabama, according to Kadletz.
“We have staff here from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday-Friday,” she said. “We can be reached by phone at 334-844-6347 for assistance with injured or orphaned raptors. These raptors can be brought to the Auburn University Small Animal Veterinary Clinic 24 hours a day.”
(Written by Mitch Emmons, firstname.lastname@example.org)