BACK TO THE WILD!
Residents Gallery - Hawks
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THE BIRDS OF PREY
AT "BACK TO THE WILD!"
Among our most mysterious creatures at "BACK TO THE WILD" are numerous species of hawks and owls - the Birds of Prey - the Raptors. They truly intrigue visitors who come to the center. Many people bring up myths and stories about them that have persisted since early civilization - that owls are believed to possess magical powers or represent evil or bad omens. Of course, we now understand that these magnificent birds are a wonderful part of our natural world - whose presence in the environment is vital and necessary. Hawks and owls consume enormous quantities of harmful, crop-destroying rodents and insects, helping to achieve a balance in populations. They are environmental indicators, telling us of the condition of the planet. Their greatest enemy is man - either directly or indirectly, as man continues to alter their habitats and erase natural areas from the face of this earth.
There are 22 raptors housed here at BACK TO THE WILD, whose injuries will not allow them to return to the wild. Since these injuries are most often directly related to human carelessness and disregard, we make a great effort, through educational programming, to stress conservation, habitat protection, wildlife laws and our personal responsibility as caretakers of the earth. That is why rehabilitators believe in using disabled wild animals - victims of man's carelessness - to help make people become aware of the environmental problems facing wildlife today. These non-releasable animals make a powerful impact on listeners and provide a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about our natural world and how important their presence is in the whole scheme of things. Used as educational tools, they serve as ambassadors of their species, to benefit other wildlife, and instill in children especially, a sense of appreciation and respect for all living things.
There are over 50 raptors housed here at BACK TO THE WILD, whose injuries will not allow them to return to the wild. Since these injuries are most often directly related to human carelessness and disregard, we make a great effort, through educational programming, to stress conservation, habitat protection, wildlife laws and our personal responsibility as caretakers of the earth. That is why rehabilitators believe in using disabled wild animals - victims of man's carelessness - to help people become aware of the environmental problems facing wildlife today. These non-releasable animals make a powerful impact on listeners and provide a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about our natural world and how important their presence is in the grand scheme of all living things on our planet! Through our educational programs, these wonderful creatures serve as powerful educational tools, acting as ambassadors of their species. They will help us continue to benefit other wildlife, and enable us to instill in children especially, a sense of appreciation and respect for all living things.
Although I feel privileged and honored to be in the presence of these majestic creatures and to be able to work so closely with wild animals, I know that to them - it is an intrusion. When I look at these beautiful creatures each day, here at the center, in their cages, I know that this is the down-side of rehabilitation. I know they will never know freedom again. But how fortunate we are, to be able to use their tragedies to help restore human respect, appreciation and concern for the future of all species and our earth's well-being as a whole. When children attend our programs, I see them listening, learning and becoming aware. Our goal is that through the educational programs we provide, we will help children to make better decisions - informed decisions, as they grow to become the adults and leaders of our future.
MEET OUR "WILDLINGS" HERE AT BACK TO THE WILD!
Pictured here are some of our permanent residents. They are not named, as we feel it would contribute to them being thought of as "pets".
They do not really belong to anyone and never will - they belong to the wild!
Our oldest beautiful Red-tailed Hawk was admitted to the center October 31, 1993. She had been shot and lost part of her left wing. In her struggle to gain flight, she battered and broke her right wing also. Someone's cruelty ended her freedom. But she remains a proud and noble bird, representing a species that has overcome habitat destruction and adapted so well, her kind have become the most widely distributed of all diurnal bird of prey. They are year-round residents in Ohio and are our most common large hawk.
Red-tail hawks are the Classic "buteo" and are often seen soaring over open country, riding the thermals or perching conspicuously on a branch or fencepost near a field edge or along a highway. What better place to find a great meal than in the grassy edges along roads and in the medians! Unfortunately, this causes large numbers of red-tails to become victims of cars. Our Red-tail has been holding the attention of thousands of children and adults each year at our programs. She has inspired a great number of children to become involved in environmental activities and volunteer programs from aluminum can recycling to car washes to help raise funding for the center. This hawk eats at least six mice or two medium or one large rat each day! Despite her large size and appearance with a wingspan of 48", Red-tails average about 3 to 3 1/2 lbs. Females are almost always larger in size and weight than males.
Our second Red-tailed Hawk, used in Educational Programs here at the Center, just arrived in the fall of 2002. Another victim of a car strike, she is left with a crippled wing and the loss of one eye. This will severely limit her ability in successfully catching prey. She, along with two other Red-tails, joins our efforts here at BACK TO THE WILD in reaching children and adults of all ages, with our message to respect, appreciate, preserve and protect our natural world.
There are four! Our oldest female kestrel arrived at the center in November of 1996. She was found in someone's yard, near starvation. The reason was quite apparent. She was blind in one eye. We do not know what happened to her, but she quickly recovered here at the center. With her loss of depth perception, she would not be a good candidate for release. Our male kestrel was hit by a car in January of 1999 and has permanent wing damage. They share a cage here at the center and seem almost content even though I know they long to be free in the wild! Two other Kestrels have joined us as our Educational Ambassadors. They, too, are victims of car strikes.
Our feeling is that these unfortunate wild creatures can now better help us send our message to the public about habitat destruction and poisoning of their food chain. These striking little falcons consume enormous quantities of insects and small rodents. They are, sadly, in constant danger from the misuse of pesticide and rodent poisons, as entire fields where they hunt are sprayed with chemicals and barns and outbuildings are treated with poison rodent baits. American Kestrels are considered the smallest birds of prey in North America. They are about the size of mourning doves. The kestrel is the only cavity nesting hawk in Ohio, using abandoned woodpecker holes. They will readily accept artificial nesting boxes. Most raptors, whether male or female, have similar plumages, but the male kestrel's plumage is distinctly different from the females. This is known as "sexual dimorphism". As with most hawks, eagles and falcons the male is usually smaller than the female. Look for the American Kestrel perched on telephone lines along highways or hovering in place, over open fields.
Our male Rough-legged Hawk was spotted in a field by a caring passer-by. Fortunately, we were alerted and were able to rescue this impressive bird. We were saddened to see that his wing was nearly severed. Rather than euthanizing this beautiful bird of prey, we chose to have him become part of our educational programming. He is "melanistic", being very dark in color.
Our female Rough-legged Hawk was struck inadvertently by a Sheriff's cruiser in Ottawa County. Her injuries were extensive including a broken beak, perforated crop, broken wing and fractured skull. She lost her left eye and can no longer hunt or fly - an unfair end to a wild creature's freedom. Rough-legged hawks are unique with their legs feathered to the foot and their noticeably small feet, for such a large bird. But they come from the cold, rugged terrain of the arctic tundra where their physical characteristics are adaptations to a harsh environment. The Rough-legged Hawk is one of North America's largest hawks. They occur in a wide range of color variations from very light to a dark, melanistic color. Voles and lemmings make up most of their diet on the tundra - and here in the lower 48 states, where they show up in winter migration. In Ohio, they can be observed flying low over open fields searching for voles and other small prey during winter.
This hawk is a newcomer, arriving just a few weeks ago. She has had to face surgery but has recovered very well. She is already eagerly eating her share of rats and mice and shows a great will to live! We only hope her sacrifice of freedom will somehow benefit other wildlife and teach humans to become better caretakers of our earth and its inhabitants.
FLIGHT CAGES FOR RAPTORS
These flight cages are an important part of the center where the raptors may stretch their wings and fly. The flight cages are designed in an L-shape to allow the birds to build flight muscle, do physical therapy, and become "conditioned" before they are released back into the wild.
Go to the next gallery for Owls.
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This was last modified on April 17, 2009.