Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nero the Turkey Vulture's Training Journal Entry #1

Handsome Nero!

This is Dan Hnilicka, Interpretive Naturalist at TRC.  I wanted to share a few entries from a training journal I started as I began working with Nero, TRC’s education turkey vulture.

Training accomplishes a lot of things; it helps our birds be comfortable with the different situations and environments in which they teach, and to become comfortable with the staff and volunteers they work with.  It also provides a framework for how to introduce new objects (like enrichment toys) and behaviors that we encourage for a safe and less stressful experience.  Once the birds know what to expect from a trainer and a situation, they have choices of how they want to react.  

I have several goals for Nero; one is to introduce myself to him as an ongoing trainer and human he will interact with; another is to create a series of behaviors in which he knows how to do, and then be able to introduce other new trainers to him. My plan is to target train him to touch his beak to a ball on the end of a pole. We'll begin by desensitizing him to the target pole with food reinforcement and then luring him to touch it with a piece of food on the ball. Then, we'll slowly fade out the lure once he knows that touching the ball results in food afterwards. That's the plan, but we'll find out what Nero thinks of it as we move forward!
You can see in the far left that Dan has placed a bit of food
on Nero's perch and he is flying to it.

Dan is introducing the target to Nero, using food as
a lure.

Dan is getting Nero used to associating food with
the target.

Dan has a bit of food in his hand.

Nero touched the target with this beak!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fall Raptor Release Event 2015

The bald eagle "America" was released today by
Jeff Payne of 3M at our Fall Raptor Release
event at Carpenter Nature Center.
She is healthy, and ready to join
her wild cousins back in the skies once more
It means so much for TRC to share this event with our friends! Thank you to all who came out to celebrate these wild raptors being returned to the wild. It is because of your support that we can be here to help these sick and injured birds back to their rightful place in the skies.

Volunteer Amy D. with Lois the great horned owl.

Pi and Maxime the bald eagles had many photographers today!

Volunteer Sue M. shows off a male kestrel, one of TRC's education ambassadors

Quite a crowd showed up today!

Dawn Krueger released a Cooper's hawk.

Jamaica the red-tailed hawk surveyed the crowd.

Casper the red-tailed hawk has appeared in quite a few
Raptor Release events over the years.

Pi the bald eagle certainly looked handsome this day!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rainy Thursday in Minnesota

It's been raining for a couple of days here in the Twin Cities.  Some of our education winged ambassadors - like Bailey the red-tailed hawk - took the opportunity to preen feathers while it rained. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Broad-winged Hawk Patients at TRC

If you follow our raptor clinic patient census, you know we have 12 broad-winged hawk patients right now. Some are in individual patient cages while their injuries heal. Others are in large flight rooms or in managed areas for exercise before their release.

We thought you'd be interested to see the differences in adult and juvenile (hatched this year) plumage and eye color, among other things.  These two photos were taken from the front and back of two birds.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sept 5 is International Vulture Awareness Day

Nero, TRC's turkey vulture
Saturday, Sept 5, is International Vulture Awareness Day.  Vultures around the world play important roles in ecology.   Of the 23 vulture species, 14 are listed as threatened or endangered, and without proper conservation initiatives, their numbers will continue to decrease drastically.  Understanding the threats they face is the first step toward finding ways to help vultures.

TRC’s winged ambassador turkey vulture, Nero, celebrated his 40th birthday last year.  He continues to be an important teacher on our staff for the more than 150,000 members of the public TRC reaches each year.  Dan Hnilicka, one of TRC’s interpretive naturalists, has been working together with Nero on some training.  It’s important to TRC to ensure that the birds have healthy bodies, and that their minds stay engaged.   Stay tuned - we’ll post some entries from Dan’s training journal very soon!