Chapters & Centers

Returning Injured Raptors to Florida Skies

An inside look at the Center for Birds of Prey Raptor Trauma Clinic.

On the shores of Lake Sybelia, the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey opens its doors to injured owls, eagles, hawks, falcons, and other birds of prey from across the state of Florida. Every year, the Audubon Raptor Trauma Clinic admits nearly 700 injured and orphaned birds of prey. But how do they get here? Why are they injured? How can we help them?


atients arrive with concerned citizens, animal control services, other rehabilitation facilitators, FWC officers, and volunteers trained in bird rescue. In 2018, the clinic received birds from 30 Florida counties. Once a bird is admitted to the Raptor Trauma Clinic, they are evaluated and treated for trauma, as most patients are extremely stressed due to their injuries. While trauma is expected with 40% of admissions, common injuries are caused by vehicle strikes, falls from nests, poisons, territory fights, and electrocutions. Baby season is our busiest time for bird care, and during May alone the center admits 20% of its annual patient load.

Care at the Clinic

Treatment varies depending on the injury and the species, and includes x-rays, lab work, and even surgery. Babies that jump too early from the nest may have a short stay at the clinic as staff work to quickly reunite them with their families. On the other hand, burns from electrocution can severely damage feathers which may take months to molt and grow back.

The clinic’s lab plays an important role in diagnoses of disease and raptor research, as staff perform bloodwork analysis, examine stool samples, and test blood for lead poisoning. Working alongside partner veterinarians from Winter Park Veterinary Hospital, the Center for Birds of Prey has even begun using cold laser therapy and acupuncture to accelerate healing. Once a patient is stable enough for rehabilitation, they are transferred to outdoor structures to gain strength and stamina for release back into the wild.

Keeping Birds Healthy

To care for the raptors, the Center for Birds of Prey must raise funds to treat each species and injury; for example, the average cost to rehabilitate a Bald Eagle is $3,000, and includes food, medicines, x-rays, surgery, and housing. The cost of care continues to increase each year, and our team relies on donors and partners to support our work. Volunteers remain an essential component to achieving our mission to treat, rehabilitate, and release these special birds back into the wild.

We are lucky to have volunteer tree climbers to help with baby returns, volunteer rescue teams, and individuals that care enough to get these raptors help.

To Keep Birds Safe, You Can

Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides to protect waterways; many raptors eat fish as part of their main diet.

Properly dispose of trash while driving Litter attracts rodents to roadways, which in turn attracts raptors. Many are injured due to vehicles.

Properly dispose of fishing line Raptors injure themselves when entangled.

How you can help, right now