Wildlife rehabilitators are urged not to give up on a healthy juvenile raptor just because it can’t be reunited with its own family. During the busy nesting season, rehabilitators who are actively reuniting should have knowledge of a number of nest sites. For juveniles that can’t be reunited, there are quite a few other ways of getting the young bird back into the wild:

Fledgling Screech Owl ready for fostering



If it is done properly, fostering is a good option for young raptors that can’t be reunited with their own parents.  If a known nest or nest basket contains a single juvenile, it is a simple matter to add a second juvenile of roughly the same age and species. Click here for a case history  Branchers can also be fostered. The safest policy is to limit fostering to families that are raising only one other juvenile. However, in cases where a pair of breeding adults has lost their entire brood, a brood of the same size has been successfully substituted. Click here for a case history

Swapping to keep the nest active

If a bird is admitted with medical problems that will require more than 24 to 48 hours to resolve, and there are no other juveniles still in the nest, it is a good idea to foster a healthy juvenile of about the same age to keep the parents in their active parenting mode. The sick or injured juvenile can be reunited later, even after a separation of a week or more. Click here for a case history


Replacing non-releasable juveniles

Non-releasable juveniles may be replaced at the nest site with healthy juveniles of the same species.  If the nest site is known, and/or the adults have been located, and there are no siblings, the replacement juvenile or juveniles can be almost any age. Click here for a case history


When Fostering is the Only Option

Young nestling Black Vulture                       Photo by Tim Junker

Some Birds must be reunited or fostered in order to have a chance to survive as adults in the wild.  For example, Black Vultures are fed by their parents for up to 8 months after fledging, and spend their lives as members of a tightly knit social group consisting mainly of related individuals of several generations.  Unrelated juveniles raised in captivity and released at fledging age have little hope of being admitted into a flock, and may even be attacked.  It is much the best option for Black Vultures to foster them as quickly as possible to a wild nest containing no more than one other juvenile. This demonstrates how important it is to research details of breeding behavior when considering care options for any new species.  Click here for a case history



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