A Bird's Eye View: An Intern's Perspective on the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2761","attributes":{"class":"media-image","typeof":"foaf:Image","height":"206","width":"250","style":""}}]]My first day at my internship I learned a lot about what I would be doing for Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in my position as a marketing intern. I also learned a lot about the feathered residents at Audubon. All of them have injuries that prevent them from being released into their natural habitat, so they now have a home at the Audubon Center where they are fed, loved, and sheltered. Our permanent residents serve as the educational feature at Audubon. Guests can see them sitting high on a ledge or walking around in the sand in the “roomy apartments”. They are a great tool to use with children. A live animal really captures their attention and is even intriguing for adults too. Sometimes one of the medical assistants will walk around with a raptor sitting on their arm. You are really able to see the way their feathers lay, colors mix, and sharpness of their talons look when they are so close to you. The Center is constantly getting birds of prey brought to them. And recently they were brought a baby Bald Eagle. The medical staff that treats the birds when they arrive was getting ready to feed the baby. They asked if I would like to watch and take some pictures, perhaps to post on the blog.

We put on camouflage before entering the room the baby was in (it helps keep baby raptors from being imprinted.

Imprinting is a natural process that is part of the bird’s normal development. As a chick begins to become aware of it surroundings (begins to open its eyes), it begins to associate these stimuli with warmth, food and security. Once the chick is able to distinguish between what it considers its “family”, i.e. food source, and those that do not fit that image, it is imprinted. The social identity that is developed within the imprinting period is thought to be irreversible and lasts the bird’s entire lifetime. Birds that are truly imprinted on humans should not be released back to the wild since they have lost their natural wariness of humans and do not socialize with their own kind. We walked in and you have to be silent, you can’t say a word. Paige, one of the clinic volunteers took a clamp and started picking up the meat to feed to the baby. He was a little hesitant at first, so she turned his body to face the food, and he started to eat. He ate all the meat, turned his body facing the other way and I turned off the camera. That was not on my bucket list before but I went ahead and added it when I got home, and then checked it off.  It was so incredible.

Today was only my second day on the internship and I was given the opportunity to go on a Bald Eagle Release with Dianna , the Rehabilitation Supervisor at the Center and Mr. Kelly Smith (a generous donor to the Center and Audubon). Audubon averages about 25 Bad Eagle releases a year so this was an incredible chance for me. We drove out to the middle of nowhere. We wound our way through this neighborhood that was made up of, yes houses, but mainly fields and lakes. Dianna kept saying how perfect the area was, that she (the eagle) would really be able to stretch her wings. The Bald Eagles that are brought to the Center are only given names if they become permanent residents at Audubon Center for Birds of Prey and numbers if they are released. Luckily this bird was able to recover and be returned to the wild. She was brought in on November 30, 2010 and her injuries included a fracture to the right shoulder and a laceration to the back of her right wing near her ribs. She had been hit by a semi-truck on the right side so it was a surprise to find out she was blind in her left eye. This blind eye was not caused by the truck collision. She came in with a hefty weight so that showed that her blind eye did not impair her ability to hunt and maintain a good health. Normally birds with a blind eye are not released back into the wild for fear it will affect their ability to survive but because she came in with a hefty weight to her it was understood that this girl was able to manage and fend for herself just fine in the wild.

We found a spot to park the car and we got ready to release the Bald Eagle back to her natural environment. Dianna told Mr. Smith how to grip her by her feet and to lock your fingers under her jaw so she couldn’t move her beak around to make a move on him. We had the video ready and cameras focused. He counted down, 1….2….3… and threw her into the air. The feeling of watching her fly from his arms has no words. It was amazing and magical.


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