Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
Broad-Winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

On July 26 of 2004, a neighbor of ours from "down the road" brought us an adult Broad-Winged Hawk that he had rescued from Rt. 1 near Reny's Plaza in Belfast. Presumed hit by a car, it had an open humerus fracture. Marc took the hawk to Dr. Herman the next day, but the fracture could not be surgically repaired, and, on Dr. Herman's recommendation, the bird was euthanized.

Then on August 10, two different people rescued a Broad-Winged Hawk fledgling found by the side of Rt. 1 near the Belfast Armory - close enough to where the now dead adult had been found to have been its offspring. The fledgling had been on the ground next to a dead sibling for several hours. It was in rough shape; it was quite thin and also had a leg fracture close to the knee. The prognosis was not hopeful, but we stabilized the bird and began our emaciation protocol. The fracture was too close to the joint for our veterinarian to pin, so, on the 13th, a decision was made to cast the leg. It was a very long shot, but we had to try, especially given the deaths of the bird's sibling and presumed parent. When Marc removed the cast on the 26th, to his surprise the leg was "not bad!" The bird seemed to have about 25% of normal joint movement, and we knew it would improve. Marc began physical therapy, and within just a few days, the leg was in good enough shape for the bird to try an outdoor flight cage. Within a week, we had decided to go for a release. It was late in the season by that time; most of the Broad-Wings had left Maine. So on Sept. 10, this bird was packed up along with late-season Swifts and Swallows on their way south for release. The Hawk and the Swallows were released in MA, and the Swifts went on to CT for release in an active roost near the home of a friend and rehabber colleague.


Grackle Nestling
Grackle Nestling

On July 11, 2004, we admitted a Grackle nestling on the verge of fledging. We still had two other young Grackles at the time, and they all went out to a flight cage on the 16th. Almost from that moment, this nestling was in frequent vocal communication with two wild adults; they sat in a tree near the flight cage, and "talked" with the youngster for hours on end. The other young Grackles in the cage did not participate in the conversation, however. On the 18th we decided to give the talkers an opportunity to get together: Diane sat in the foyer of the cage with the fledgling, and when the adults came to call, she quietly opened the door and the young bird walked out. At first, we thought we'd made a mistake, because the adults did not come down after the youngster. But they stayed in vocal contact, and we persuaded ourselves not to intervene as the juvenile flew from shrub to low tree branch to higher tree branch, always toward the persistently calling adults. Within half an hour, we saw the fledgling high in our tallest tree, perched close to one adult while the other fed it. This youngster had been brought to us from more than 100 miles away. Although it was unlikely to have been the adults' natural offspring, they certainly seemed determined and delighted to adopt it.


On May 11, 2004, Mary of West Bath was enjoying a cup of coffee on her porch. Looking across the bay she noticed movement high in a large dead pine tree; through binoculars, she was dismayed to see an Osprey hanging upside down, caught by a foot in what turned out to be a poly bait bag. She tried to contact appropriate authorities, but no one was available. Her husband Paul grabbed their canoe and paddled across the bay for a closer look. He returned with bad news -- the tree could not be climbed. Paul's plan was to cut the tree and land the top over the large branch of a nearby tree. Taking careful sight, he made his cut. The tree landed across the branch as planned, but the top broke free and the Osprey flew off with the bait bag still attached. She landed clumsily on a branch near her nest, then stumbled into it, disappearing from sight. Mary and Paul knew they had done all they could, and hoped that the bird would be able to bite the bag free of her leg. Meanwhile, their local ACO and friend Ann returned Mary's call, and told her about Avian Haven.

The next morning, Mary's visiting mother noticed a movement near the shore; through binoculars, Mary saw the Osprey tangled again by the bait bag in a tree, but this time close to the ground. Mary and her brother Maurice quickly gathered gloves and scissors, ran for the water with the canoe, and paddled as fast as they could to the opposite shore. Mary approached the bird, speaking softly and trying not to frighten her. She gently folded the bird's wings and held her while Maurice first cut the bag from her foot, and then cut the strings wrapped around her toes. Finally she was free, but her legs hung straight down, unmoving. Mary carefully set the bird on the ground, but she could only take a few lurching steps before stumbling and falling, so Mary gathered her up again and carried her to the canoe. Paul drove in just as they returned to the shore, and called us for directions while Mary settled the bird into a crate. Paul had to return to work, so Mary and Maurice headed for Freedom.

When the bird arrived, our concerns were stress, two broken primaries (the long flight feathers on the outermost part of the wing), and of course her legs. Luckily, they were not fractured, though obviously were strained and sore. The bird the rescuers had already begun to call "Lady Osprey" was able to perch, but did so leaning against the wall of our large hospital cage. Lady was also thin; we started with fluids, but by the end of the day felt comfortable giving her a fish, which she ate with gusto. We wanted to get her back to her mate as soon as possible, and tested her flight the next morning. She flew but not strongly, so we opted for another day to recuperate. Meanwhile, Mary and Paul reported that an Osprey presumed to be her mate was flying low over the bay and calling. On the 14th, Lady easily made it up to the high perch in the flight cage.

Imping an Osprey Feather
Imping an Osprey Feather
Photo by Mary Fournier

We decided to imp the broken primaries (repair by splinting a donor feather) and get her back home. On arrival, Paul set the crate on the lawn facing the water. When he opened the door, she spread her wings too soon, and one of her wing feathers caught in the gate and twisted slightly. But she recovered quickly, stepped out of the crate, opened her wings and flew gracefully toward the water, landing in a tree near the nest. The male immediately flew to her side, and in a few minutes they both flew to the nest, as you see here.

Osprey Pair Landing on Nest
Osprey Pair Landing on Nest
Photo by Mary Fournier

But excitement turned to dismay when two other Ospreys began to swoop over the nest, and Lady was chased away. That evening, three Ospreys were near the nest, but Lady could not be identified and the next morning, no birds were anywhere to be seen. As soon as Paul and Mary returned from work that afternoon, they headed toward the shore with binoculars. Two Ospreys were in the nest, and when one left it and circled in front of Mary, the slightly askew feather was clearly visible. As the days went by, Lady gradually groomed her misaligned feather into the wing until she could no longer be identified. But by that time, Mary and Paul knew that she had secured her rightful place as the Lady of the Nest.


Goshawk
Goshawk

The first bird to use the flyway on our new Raptor compound also became a television celebrity. His story began on April 11, 2003, when Alan of Stockton Springs saw a bird on a roadside. He thought the bird was dead, but when he stopped to check; the bird tried unsuccessfully to stand. Not sure what to do, Alan went on his way to meet his cousin Bob. The two went back to find the bird still alive and Bob said, "My sister knows of a place it can go." The bird was soon on his way here.

On intake, the Hawk showed signs of a head injury: he was bleeding from his nostrils and his eyes were bulging. He also seemed to be breathing with difficulty. We treated him for trauma, and he collapsed onto a pillow. Over the rest of the day, we administered fluids and continued with trauma medication. The breathing continued to be labored; late in the afternoon, we put the bird on oxygen for a couple of hours. But by evening, there was still no improvement; we went to bed thinking the bird would not survive the night. Diane got up to check every couple of hours, and each time she thought, "He's dead" - but closer inspection revealed, "No, he's alive." The bird's breathing was so shallow as to be almost imperceptible. But by morning, the bird was holding his head up!

We continued that day with our head-trauma protocol, and ramped the bird from fluids to some simple liquid foods. The following morning, he was standing, though he seemed unable to see or hear. By the end of the day, the bird had climbed onto a perch, was taking some solid food, and seemed to respond to the sound of the cage door opening. When Diane checked the bird on the morning of the 15th, his back was to the cage door. When she said, "Hey, Handsome, can you hear me?" the bird's head whipped around in her direction.

Sight took longer to recover; by the 20th, we believed the bird had some limited vision, though one eye still had no pupil reflex. He had begun to resist hand-feeding, yet had shown no interest in food left in the cage. On the 21st, we gave the bird a road-killed Grouse - which he immediately tore into with great enthusiasm. A few days later, we moved the Hawk to our largest hospital cage, but he was soon restless even there. On May 5th, we began a series of graduations to ever-larger spaces; within a month, he was in the flyway, and soon quite at home in that space. Two weeks later, we thought he was ready to go. Major funding for the Raptor compound had come from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. On June 18th, a MOHF representative was here with a videographer to film interviews, which included the Goshawk's story. JoD was surprised and delighted when we handed her a pair of gloves and asked if she'd do the honors. Lyndsey got her camera ready, and Marc handed JoD the bird. There was hardly a dry eye among the watching staff as the bird left her hands and flew into the nearby woods.


Imping an Eagle Feather
Imping an Eagle Feather
Photo by Lee Ann Hoffner

On July 8, 2003, we got a call from the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. They had just received a Bald Eagle that had been fished out of the Androscoggin River near Brunswick. We sent someone to fetch the bird, and when they arrived, we found several maggot-infested wounds on one leg. There were also several broken primaries (wing feathers); we assumed the damage had occurred during the bird's capture. By the end of the month, the leg had healed nicely and we turned our attention to the broken feathers. The bird had begun its molt, so, with the approval of Maine's Inland Fisheries & Wildlfe, we decided to wait for new feathers. By the end of September, they were nearly all the way in, and we began to talk about moving the bird into the flyway. But in the first half of October, the same feathers all broke again; we clearly had to reconsider our assumptions about how the previous ones had been damaged. One speculation was that an old injury might have compromised circulation in part of the wing, which could, in turn, weaken feathers that grew from there.

We thought the bird would be happier in the flyway, so let him into that area while we discussed alternatives with Maine's Eagle biologist, Charlie. Keeping the bird in captivity for another year, while waiting out another molt,was one option. Another was attempting a feather repair technique known as imping: the broken-off portion is replaced with a comparable portion of an undamaged feather molted by another bird (epoxy secures a splint inserted in the shafts of the original and the donor feather). This type of work requires more skill than we had - especially because, in this case, the feathers had broken very close to the skin. The first weekend in November, at the New York State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council conference, we explained the situation to our friend Rose, who has extensive imping experience - in fact, she was giving a talk on imping at the conference. "I think I could do it," she told us. Charlie approved the plan, and on Dec. 12, with Marc, Diane and Terry assisting, Rose repaired the feathers. Her sister, Lee Ann, photographed the procedure, which took about two hours in all.

By early January it was clear that the new feathers would hold; the bird was flying more and more strongly and we felt he could go soon. Because this was a full adult, we wanted to be sure she was "in circulation" for breeding season. This bird's story had also reached the ears of Governor Baldacci via a family connection to one of our board members and we were delighted when the Governor expressed an interest in being part of the release. We waited out the deep-freezes of January and set our sights on Feb. 1. No one could have asked for better weather; it was indeed a "good day to fly." Together, the Governor and Marc gave the bird a lift-off, and we all watched in awe as the bird left their arms, circling overhead before heading down the nearby river.


Osprey Hatching
Osprey Hatching

On June 11, 2003, a wildlife specialist with the USDA, brought us an Osprey in the process of hatchling and three eggs, one of which was pipping (just starting to hatch); the nest had been discovered on a lobster boat about to put out to sea. Raising Ospreys in captivity is rarely practical because of the difficulty in providing them with role models and opportunities to fish. After discussing the situation with state biologists, we decided to keep them only long enough to stabilize them, and to adopt them out before they began to visually recognize human caregivers.

Osprey Nestling
Osprey Nestling

From his boat trips to monitor Eider colonies, biologist Brad knew the location of several accessible Osprey nests. On the 17th, he took Marc and the two older chicks out with him. They looked for nests that had less than four (the typical maximum number per clutch) chicks about the same age - and by the end of the day, each one had found a new foster family. Meanwhile, the other two had hatched - one on the 13th, and the last on the 17th. Brad and Marc found them foster families on June 25.


Chimney Swift Nestlings
Chimney Swift Nestlings

Chimney Swifts breed in Maine in July and August. Typically, they have left our area by the last week in August to begin their long journey south to the gulf coast, and from there to the Amazon basin. We released what we had thought would be the last of the Swifts we raised in 2003 on August 24. But on the 22nd, we got a call from Skowhegan about four very young Swifts that had fallen into a fireplace that day. This was the second clutch in this particular chimney; an earlier nest had also fallen on July 14th, and all the nestlings had died by the time a local rehabilitator was called in. It is quite unusual for Chimney Swifts to start a second nest, especially this far north where the breeding season is so short. These birds were only a few days old; there normally would not be enough insects to feed them well into September, when they would fledge.

We were surprised again when, on the 25th, we received a call about another young Swift that had been raised by someone affiliated with a veterinary clinic. Unfortunately, this bird and a sibling whose death prompted the referral had been fed a low-protein formula for companion birds like parakeets for two weeks. The Swiftlet had signs of a mouth infection and was significantly underweight for its age. For the first few days, the bird begged frantically and almost constantly for food. We were able to resolve the mouth problem and soon the bird was gaining weight. But two weeks later, when the bird began its practice-flapping, it dropped several flight feathers - a likely sequel to earlier malnutrition. Now we had to wait for new ones to grow in, and we were running out of time. By the third week in September, the four babies were ready to go, but the older fifth bird still had several important wing feathers only about half-way in.

Swifts had long since left Maine, but we were monitoring their southward progression and considering several options. We spoke to Swift rehabilitators in several states. A large roost in NJ that we had used before for late-season Swifts was still active on Sept. 30, and we were hoping it would hold out a bit longer. Mike, who monitors the site for NJ Audubon, agreed to count nightly from then on and keep us posted. But we knew we needed a back-up plan. A colleague in MD posted a query to a local birding list and received a reply from the Baltimore Bird Club member Carol, whose Swift Watch Team had for some years monitored a huge communal roost in Baltimore. Their records indicated that Swifts could be expected in that area until the third week in October, and Carol agreed to "stand by." The forecast in both areas looked good for the first weekend in October, and the birds were all finally ready to go.

But on the evening of Oct. 2, Mike called to say that heat had been turned on in the building he'd been watching, with smoke driving hundreds of Swifts out of the chimney into a chilly autumn evening. Diane called Carol to say "It looks like Baltimore is our best bet after all." The next morning, we placed the Swifts in a roomy artificial chimney in the back seat of the car, and Marc headed south. It had been agreed that he would stop in NJ and look for another roost; folks at NJ Audubon's had seen Swifts in the air that afternoon, but they were nowhere to be found by dusk. A "hotel room" for Swifts was arranged at The Raptor Trust, and Marc and the kids left for Baltimore the next morning.

He met Carol about 4 p.m. and they were joined shortly by other members of the Swift Watch Team in a parking lot near the Mill Center of Hampden. Gradually Swifts began to approach the enormous chimney. At 6 p.m., when there were about 20 in the sky, Marc handed the fledglings, one by one, to members of the team for release. Within a minute or two, about 250 more Swifts appeared to greet the newcomers. From then until about 6:30, every few minutes, one or two Swifts flew down low, to perhaps 10' over the heads of the team - almost certainly our youngsters. By 7 p.m., about 5,000 Swifts had converged and entered the chimney. We couldn't have hoped for a better release, nor could we have imagined more helpful and gracious hosts than the Baltimore Swift Watch Team, to whom we (and the Swifts!) extend our deepest and most heart-felt gratitude. Because this site is a major stopover for Swifts migrating south along the Eastern Seaboard, it's conceivable that the parents of our youngsters were among that group; we like to imagine that they were reunited that night in the Baltimore skies. Swifts roosted in the Mill Center chimney for about another two weeks before heading further south.


Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

On June 24, 2003, Scott from Bangor found a fledgling Pileated Woodpecker on a road in Carmel. Presumably, she had been tumbled by a car. Scott brought the bird to us immediately. Although we found no fractures or wounds, the bird was unable to stand or cling to a log. But after two days of intensive care, she suddenly "came alive" and started thrashing in the hospital cage. Over the next two weeks, she graduated to larger and larger enclosures, and flight that was at first clumsy and tentative became strong and sure. This problem child absolutely refused to eat on her own, though. Several times a day, Marc had to net and force-feed her. In the wild, young Pileated Woodpeckers depend on their parents for food for some time after fledging, but this bird would neither accept food from her "foster father" nor eat from food cups; further, she was becoming increasingly frantic in the cage and the force-feedings seemed more and more stressful. With some ambivalence, but concerned that she would injure herself in continued captivity, we let her go on July 6. We expected her to head in any direction away from us; to our surprise, she stayed on the property, close to the house and cages, though she did not take food from any of the cups we had secured to several trees. She let Marc approach her quite closely several times, and on the 8th, did not resist capture. Once back in the flight cage, the bird's personality changed completely. She welcomed hand feeding, and a week later, she began eating on her own from food bowls in the cage. On July 25, we released the bird again; this time, she readily visited the feeding stations, as shown in this photo. We saw her daily for several weeks, during which period we heard another Pileated calling on the property. Gradually we saw our bird less frequently, and by September, she and the other Woodpecker had moved on.


See 2004 archives for more interesting cases from earlier years at Avian Haven.

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4/25/2011
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