Final Words

Except for the use of the recorded calls, the techniques described in this handbook are not new.   A number of authors have described how to reunite young raptors with their parents, and many wildlife rehabilitators routinely assist juvenile raptors in this way every year.   However, the practice is not as widespread as it might be, because of the difficulty of finding the actual nest or locating the young bird’s parents.  This frequently discourages wildlife rehabilitators from taking the time in the midst of a busy season, when there are so many demands on their time.  Using the recorded calls takes a lot of the guess-work out of those cases where the parents are not still tending other young, and hence can not be easily located.  Being able to call in the parents can make it much less time-consuming and much less chancy to reunite juveniles with their parents. I hope it will encourage wildlife rehabilitators and other licensed personnel to make reuniting the number one priority for any healthy juvenile raptor, unless the parents are known to be dead.

At the Alabama Wildlife Center we have completely restructured our Juvenile Raptor Program to make reuniting and fostering our first priority.  Every young raptor is carefully screened on admission to ascertain whether or not it can be reunited with its family in the wild.  If not, every effort is made to foster the bird, or to set up an on-site hacking station. This shift in emphasis towards reuniting has resulted in a tremendous improvement in our entire program.  Fewer birds being raised by the Wildlife Center’s overworked staff makes for better quality of care for the remaining orphans that cannot be fostered or reunited.  It also ensures a much less expensive food bill!

Every fledgling raptor faces enormous challenges as it leaves the nest and begins to master the skills of hunting live prey.  Even though the hunting instinct is inbred, and does not have to be taught, most fledgling predators lack the experience and physical coordination to hunt successfully, and they require weeks—sometimes months—of practice to become proficient.   During this critical period, the protection and support of experienced adults contributes enormously to the young bird’s chances of survival.

Band returns have proven that young raptors that are hacked out or raised in a flight cage and offered live prey can survive in the wild for a normal life span.  But the wild-raised juvenile will always have the advantage.  The goal of all wildlife rehabilitators is to give their wildlife patients the best chance of surviving when returned to the wild.  By this basic rule, reuniting a juvenile raptor with its parents should be the wildlife rehabilitator’s highest priority.

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