March 27, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Raptor rehabilitation training

I recently volunteered to help the Wildlife Center of Virginia in their raptor rehabilitation program, and today I had my first training session, along with fellow Augusta Bird Club member Jim Reed. The folks at WCV are conducting a clinical study comparing which of two methods of flight training for injured hawks is more effective: letting them fly inside long cages specially built for that purpose, or "creancing," in which they are taken to an open field and allowed to fly while attached to a tether. [It's like what falconers do.] To ascertain their state of physical fitness, a blood test is taken before the flight practice, shortly after the practice, and then several minutes afterwards. I was amazed to see the skill by which Pete the veterinarian and his assistant Stacy took the blood sample, and I even got a closeup video clip. It was really something to look into the hawks' eyes and their throat "up close and personal." This image is a video still of the Cooper's hawk just before one of its practice flights. It was energetic and almost flight-worthy enough to be released back into the wild, but its tail is rather mangled, so it will need to be kept a while longer until new feathers grow in. We also worked with a Red-tailed hawk that will need a few more weeks of rehabilitation.