NASHVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Patti Reynolds has had a busy summer, with long hours of driving, talking to people on the phone and caring for birds.
Not just any birds; they’re birds of prey, including bald eagles, barred owls, great-horned owls and hawks. It’s all part of her position as president and executive director of the Indiana Raptor Center near Nashville.
The long hours are shared with the center’s vice president and education director Laura Edmunds, who also helps with educational talks to groups, often with an owl or eagle on her arm.
This year has been busier than most — Reynolds said the center’s “patient” population is up. She’s not sure why but speculates it could be due to an increase in the West Nile virus in bird species. Or it could be because south-central Indiana had a very wet summer.
“We also think that, in this part of the state, it is because the prey base is down because of all the rain we’ve had, so animals are just having a harder time finding food. And youngsters, if there’s less to hunt, it’s going to be harder for them to take care of themselves,” Reynolds said, adding that currently the center is getting two to three calls every day about young birds in trouble.
Because of that, the center is housing and caring for 70 birds of prey. About 40 of those birds are considered patients and 30 are “resident” birds that will never be released back into the wild. Reynolds said the center has housed more than 90 birds this year and “there’s still months to go,” so she expects that number to increase.
The center gets between 90 and 120 patients most years. “This year it’s going to be more, 120-130,” she said. “We also do about 100-200 educational programs a year.” About half of those are off site at schools, libraries, churches and other gatherings.
Caring for all those birds takes a lot of money — for food, vet care, transportation, facility maintenance and more. Food, according to the center’s website, is the largest part of the annual budget. For birds of prey, food consists of rats, mice, quail, chicken, beef, fish and food supplements.
“It’s all meat, and meat’s expensive,” Reynolds said. “We get shipments of 200-300 pounds of frozen rats and mice at a time. They come UPS from suppliers.”
Reynolds said they also purchase quail from Minnesota and they have a butcher in Brown County who will process deer for them at no cost. The center is also on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ list for receiving venison.
“We’ve cut back on feeding chickens because you have to make sure the flock you get is free of Avian flu,” she said. The center rarely uses road kill unless they know it’s a fresh kill. Those road kill finds help feed the center’s black vulture, Igor.
Reynolds hopes to raise money to help finish the center’s cage building project. The flight cage, used for birds almost ready to return to the wild or that need to stretch their wings and fly, is being expanded.
“We’re working on the project right now,” Reynolds said. “By the end of fall, it’s going to be almost 140 feet long.” The cage is being built so that it has another cage at one of the ends where birds can be housed.
The flight cage is just one of many cages needed to house birds of prey on the 41/2 -acre property near Nashville. The actual location of the property is not disclosed on its website and promotional materials to help protect the birds, some of which are federally threatened or endangered.
Reynolds said the center usually has between 25 and 30 resident birds. Some of those birds are trained and used in educational programs at the center and elsewhere to help people better understand birds of prey.
“A lot of the ambassador birds we have were patients that we had that were non-releasable,” Reynolds said.
Most do not have the mobility to fly. She said six of the ambassador birds were raised by people as pets and, therefore, can’t be released into the wild because they have been imprinted on people instead of their species. Reynolds said it’s against the law to release a bird that has been malimprinted into the wild.
Other resident birds are used as foster parents for young birds that are brought to the center. “They were birds that were non-releasable but they were not suitable to be used as ambassador birds, so the choice was either to test them with youngsters to see how they would do or euthanize them,” Reynolds said.
After young birds are stabilized at the center, they are often placed into cages with a foster bird of the same species. That bird teaches the youngster how to fly and how to hunt. “They have a role model that looks like them and acts like them,” Reynolds said. “It’s like having a replacement parent.”
The center’s foster barred owl died recently, but Reynolds said that hasn’t affected the younger barred owls. “We get so many barred owls that they kind-of raise each other,” she said.
A few of the center’s birds are used for falconry by Laura Edmunds, the center’s vice president, education coordinator and curator. Edmunds uses Harris hawks to hunt for rabbits. She’s also taught other people about falconry although she doesn’t have an apprentice at the present time.
Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, http://bit.ly/1NbNztI
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com