Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chaska Herald Story on Former TRC Bald Eagle Patient

The Chaska Herald had a nice follow-up story to a former bald eagle patient at TRC.  You can see pictures and read more in a previous post here.

Programs and Places to See TRC in June

If you can't get to our Center on the St Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, why don't you come out and see us at some of our upcoming programs around the state?  You can always find where we are appearing on our public events calendar.  We have some festivals coming up in June.  We are also appearing at a series of All About Owls free public programs around Minnesota in June.  They are intended for children ages 3-10, but everyone is welcome! Some of the cities we will be at include Wells, Winnebago, Waseca, St Peter, Lewisville and others.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Peregring Falcons Banded at Colonnade

Staff of The Raptor Center and the Midwest Peregrine Society banded four healthy peregrine chicks at the Colonnade building. There are two different bands placed on the birds’ legs; one is a federal band with nine digits, and the other is a color or project band; in this case, they are black and red. The bands will identify the birds throughout their lives as they hopefully fledge and find nesting territories. We use this information to track site preferences, population dynamics such as survival, longevity and dispersal, heredity, and other aspects of species’ biology. Blood samples were taken for later study, and the chicks were quickly taken back to their nest box. The Colonnade site is one of the oldest and most productive in the Twin Cities area; since 1991 and counting this year, there have been 74 chicks produced at this site.

The Midwest Peregrine Society, headquartered at The Raptor Center and headed by TRC’s co-founded and former executive director Patrick Redig, has a database that contains information about sites and birds for the project. This includes 13 Midwestern states and 2 Canadian provinces. At the end of the busy peregrine banding season, all of the information will be put into the database, which is available to the public.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Harmon's Countdown to Fledging!

With his parents very engaged in bringing food to the nest of the hungry chick, Harmon appears to be quite healthy and growing at the rapid pace that his species is known for. He is behaving like a normal eagle chick, often peering over the edge of his nest. At this age - almost six weeks old - he is right about at the halfway point before fledging. This is when Harmon's very visible flight feathers will be able to sustain his very first attempts at flight from the only home he has known - the safety of his nest.

Many of you have been following Harmon's story since his dramatic rescue and return to the nest a few weeks ago.  Like many of you, we are enjoying this wonderful opportunity to peer into a world normally unseen by humans. As much as we think we know about wildlife, much of their world is still hidden from us. Harmon fortunately had a much different ending to his story than many wild raptors. We look forward to continuing to monitor his progress. (Minnesota Bound Live Camera link here.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Raptor Nest Cams

It is definitely "baby season" for raptors.  Thanks to the technology available with nest cams, we can all check in and watch our favorite raptor families as they grow.  A couple of great cameras: the Decorah Iowa eagles, courtesy of the Raptor Resource Project (see the first picture - they are so big!); peregrine falcon cameras, such as the one showing the family at the Bremer building in St Paul, MN, and three cameras sponsored by Xcel Energy; and a red-tailed hawk camera sponsored by Cornell. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Raptor Center Helps Celebrate Arbor Day in Maple Grove, MN

The Raptor Center appeared at the 2012 Maple Grove Arbor Day Festival May 19 at the Maple Grove Community Center.  There are more photos here, taken by Wendy Erlien. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Former TRC Bald Eagle Patient

Jon Smithers, photographer and friend of TRC, was able to photograph a USFWS (federal) band on a bald eagle with a nest that he had been observing.  The bird is one that TRC banded as a nestling in 1998. It had fallen out of the nest (in Chaska) and had a broken pelvis. Since pelvic fractures heal best with "bed rest" and young chicks heal fractures at an amazing rate, TRC rebuilt the nest and returned it to its parents. With tincture of time, good feeding by its parents and a safer nest situation, it obviously thrived!  This bird is now a successful adult as you can see from these pictures taken May 7 this year.  Jon has a couple of videos on YouTube that he also filmed here (where you can see the bird's band) and here

Monday, May 21, 2012

TRC Summer Camps

Looking for something fun to do this summer?  There is still room in our Wizarding World of Wildlife (ages 12-15) July 16-20; Crazy About Owls (ages 6-7) July 30-Aug 3; and Grossology (ages 10-11) July 23-27.

Click here for more information and/or to register. The camps are listed under Kids' University in the downloadable catalog. Questions: 612-625-2242 or e-mail:

TRC and Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington, MN (part of the Three Rivers Parks District) will offer a week- long camp called Eagles, Hawks and Owls, Oh My! Three days will be at Richardson Nature Center having fun in the woods, fields, streams and lakes learning about raptor habitat. Two days will be at The Raptor Center getting an in-depth look at rehabilitation of raptors and adaptations of owls. August 13-17. Register via phone 763.559.6700 or

Friday, May 18, 2012

Endangered Species Day May 18

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Celebrates Endangered Species Day.  The Midwest is celebrating the successful recovery of the gray wolf, the bald eagle, and the Lake Erie watersnake. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Endangered Species Coalition are cosponsoring events throughout the country to help spread awareness of the rare and imperiled species. The Endangered Species Act is has been one of the major driving forces in the quest to stop extinction, today is a day to celebrate those successes.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News: Fish

Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program: Species Day:

The Raptor Center Spring Newsletter

You can download a copy of our Spring 2012 Raptor Release newsletter here.  We share stories and information conservation topics, our Tales from the Trauma Center, books we recommend, and lots more!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Harmon the Bald Eagle Chick Wrap-Up

The Raptor Center was overwhelmed with the support and interest that you all had for little Harmon.  Thank you to all who followed his story with us.
What did Harmon's story teach us? The Raptor Center works quickly with our partners at the state and federal levels to assist raptors when and where needed. While our dedicated staff applies its unique expertise to care for an eaglet in trouble, they are also always learning more about population issues. We never cease to be astonished at the power of these magnificent creatures to capture attention. And we are all deeply grateful for the financial support many of you provide that allows us to do this amazing work.

If Harmon makes it to his first birthday he has a fair chance to make it to 15-20 years. He won’t have his white head and tail and yellow beak and eyes until he is 5 years old. Eagles generally do not breed until they have their adult plumage. When Harmon reaches adulthood, he will hopefully find a mate and nest. Just like in the nest he is growing up in, bald eagles like large tall trees. Harmon’s nest is about 75’ high in a large cottonwood tree near water.

Harmon has a better chance in making it around humans than his recent ancestors did. Currently Minnesota has the highest population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states (approximately 1300 pairs counted in the 2006 survey). It has been a rocky road to get here – by 1963, persecution and environmental contaminants had reduced the population to 487 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states.

What can you do about the unnatural dangers to make it a safer place for Harmon and all of the other eagles fledging from nests this year?

Many things will help:

1) Donate time or money to organizations like The Raptor Center that provide care for raptors or protect habitat.

2) Use chemicals according to the instructions or not at all. Chemicals applied to our lawns and fields have a way of finding their way into our waterways and then into the fish that reside there.

3) Save and protect habitat. Bald eagles need large trees, preferably close to water for their nests. Become active at the township and city council level to make your feelings known about protecting natural areas.

4) Also make sure you vote and know what your representatives are voting on that impacts bald eagles and other wildlife.

5) Use alternative ammunition to lead for hunting. The main source of lead poisoning in bald eagles is the spent ammunition in gut piles from field dressed deer. At the very least, bury the gut piles so they are not accessible to eagles scavenging for food.
We thought we'd share a few more photos with you of Harmon's clinic visit with TRC.  These photos were taken by Ben Wilson.  The two last photos are of clinic staff checking Harmon's ear openings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Barred Owlets of the Season

When two inquisitive felines stared out the sliding doors of their home in Prior Lake, their view was a rather unusual one. On the other side of the glass was a 3 week old downy barred owl chick.  Apparently it had come out of its nesting cavity too soon, walked up a small hill, and took refuge against the wall of the house.  The home owners, after attending TRC’s Spring Bird Release on May 5th, knew exactly what to do.  They called TRC and the decision was made to drive it to TRC to make sure it was healthy.  The owlet was given a clean bill of health (and a mouse breakfast) and returned home later that day.  Finding its original cavity proved to be challenging, but once “mom” appeared, TRC volunteer and tree climber John Arent, found a safe spot to place the chick where its parents could resume its care. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

TRC Clinic Patient Census May 14

We have received 177 patients so far this year.  We currently have 39.

Bald eagle    12

Hawks - Buteos
Red-tailed hawk    11
Rough-legged hawk   1
Broad-winged hawk   1

Hawks - AccipitersCooper's hawk   3

Peregrine falcon   1

Great horned owl   7
Barred owl   2
Eastern screech-owl   1

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Raptors of Minnesota Free for Mom's!

In honor of Mother's Day May 13, all mothers can attend the 1:00 public Raptors of Minnesota program at The Raptor Center for free.  No RSVP's taken.

Meet a variety of live raptors and learn what you can do to help protect the environment we share. Program includes a tour of The Raptor Center and the outdoor housing area, home of 32 education raptors. No reservations taken. Openings available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Cost is $5.00 per child/student and $7.50 per adult.

Harmon's Radiographs

Harmon did a lot of catching up yesterday - sleeping and eating ALL day long! Dad brought more food than one little chick could possibly eat and Mom fed the little eaglet as much as she could. Now that things have stabilized a bit, we thought we would share a bit more about Harmon’s visit to The Raptor Center (TRC).

Harmon arrived at TRC very depressed, slightly dehydrated and exhausted. The wing that had been entrapped was swollen and bruised and there were puncture wounds on the eaglet’s back. Perhaps the most important step we took was to stage our treatment and diagnostics so as not to cause excessive stress.

We tended to the most critical things immediately –rehydration and wound care. The puncture wounds were infested with maggots, which were removed immediately as they can do tremendous tissue destruction in a very short time. Over the next 24 hours, Harmon’s wounds were treated and retreated, medications for pain and inflammation were given as well as food, and further diagnostics were done. Blood was drawn to check for infection and he was also checked for parasites.

Radiographs taken on Saturday showed no fractures, although the wing was still a bit swollen (note arrows on radiograph showing right wing with increased white areas). Harmon was eating well, although we never fed him when he could see human faces due to the risk of imprinting.

Imprinting is a critical development time in which the chick “learns who it is” and bonds to its parent, developing lifelong behavior patterns.

A very interesting thing to note on Harmon’s radiographs - like all very young chicks, his bones are only partially formed. The radiographs show that the joints are not formed yet (compare to radiographs of an eagle chick that is 1 month older). At this stage, normal chick bones are very soft, almost rubbery. This might have saved him from being hurt even worse while struggling.

Another characteristic of young animals is their amazing capacity to build new tissue (ie – growth). When injured, this capacity is turned towards healing, which accounts for our ability to get Harmon back to the nest so quickly. With his wounds sealed over, the swelling in his wing gone and his energy returned, we knew the best place for him was back with his parents.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Tremendous Outcome for Little Harmon

What an amazing finale to a very busy few days for Harmon, the eaglet. Critically aware of the risk that bald eagles often abandon a nest after disruption, we all waited and watched yesterday, hoping the parents would return after we replaced the eaglet in the nest Sunday night. By mid-day, we began to consider our next steps, still hoping we would not have to take action. With a fresh US Fish and Wildlife Service special permit for intervention, we headed back out to the nest site. Our friends from MN Bound and Broadband were waiting nearby as we scouted the area late in the afternoon. Jim was the first one to see the adult female near the nest. With her so close to the nest, we began to consider leaving things one more night. We were sure the eaglet was healthy enough to go another night and knew that the female was close enough to deter any predators. While we observed, we were also in contact with staff members watching the web cam. We never had to make the final decision to intervene. At almost exactly the same time that we tentatively planned to take action (7pm), we watched as the adult eagles finally entered the nest. As we celebrated jubilantly, our colleagues gave us a play by play description of the chick’s behavior. Soon, the chick was stuffed with the fish we had left behind on Sunday and settled down for post-meal nap. This morning, the adults have been hunting well, and have brought more food than one chick could eat to the nest. A tremendous outcome for this little eaglet!

Thanks to all who helped in so many ways – FWS for special permits on short notice, Broadband for equipment and assistance, TRC staff who worked throughout the weekend and the many nest-watchers who were so supportive. Stay tuned for more stories this week on Harmon’s visit to The Raptor Center.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Video of Harmon being fed in TRC Clinic

Here is a video taken by TRC staff.  It is of Harmon being fed in TRC's clinic when the chick was here May 5.  The staff member's face is obscured by a sheet so that the chick would not imprint on people.

WCCO also ran a story on the chick here.

Spring 2012 Raptor Release Facebook Album

New pictures from the 2012 Spring Raptor Release have been posted to facebook.  Click here to view the album.

Update on Eagle Chick

While we wait patiently to see if the adult eagles return to the nest, we thought we would take a moment to respond to some of the questions we have received in the past 48 hours.

Many have wondered if the eaglet is male or female – a distinction that is very hard to make at this age. As male and female bald eagles differ only in size, it can be quite challenging to identify sex in a three week or younger chick. The only way at this point to know for sure would be to do a DNA test. Or just wait until it grows up. The eaglet’s weight was another common question – a little over 1 kilogram or 2.5 pounds!

What did we leave in the nest with Harmon? We left several pieces of fish in the nest when we returned the eaglet. We know that the most important cue for the adults to return to the nest is the eaglet’s food begging cries – our hope in leaving the fish was that once the adults came in, they would not have to take the time to hunt, but would have “fast food” available with which to feed Harmon.

Did we stay in the area to see what happened? What happens next? While we took care to note the presence of the male and female perched about a ¼ mile away, we attempted to leave the nest area as quickly as possible. One of our major concerns is that eagles will often abandon their nests if disturbed during nesting. Clearly, this whole episode has been a major disturbance, albeit necessary if the eaglet was to survive. We – like you – are waiting patiently to see if the parents will come back this morning. And as we wait, we are in discussions on the next phase of Harmon’s journey should the parents not return to care for him.

Stay tuned for more updates.  Photo 1: There was water in the bucket of the boom truck, and so Dr. Ponder set the eagle chick on the ground so it could rest while they worked.  Photos 2-3: Jim Mussell takes good care of the chick as the bucket lifts them to the nest.  Photo 4: Jim brings the chick to the nest. 

Kare 11 Covers the Eaglet's Return

KARE 11 was there when the bald eagle chick was returned to the nest.  Please keep watching our blog and Facebook; Dr. Ponder has some personal photos that we will share soon.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chick Returned to the Nest!

Jim Mussell, arborist and The Raptor Center volunteer, made sure the nest was secure and safe for the eaglet's return.  He carefully set the youngster in the nest. 

Thank you to all who sent their good wishes for this eaglet.  The Raptor Center treats all raptors, from the chicks hatched this year to migrants like the snowy owls that were brought into our clinic in need of care.  We could not do it without your support. You keep us flyhing!

Bale eagle chick to be returned to nest

The bald eagle chick had one last medical check up this morning.  It is currently on its way back to its nest.  Wildlife biology and medical professionals met and determined that the eaglet was healthy enough to be returned.  Go to the Minnesota Bound website to follow this return live!   You can catch the KARE 11 piece on the chick when it was first brought into The Raptor Center here. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bald Eagle Chick Rescue

As followers of MN Bound's Eagle Cam are aware, yesterday was an eventful day in the life of a very young eagle chick here in Minnesota. Thousands of people around the world watched as the eaglet, less than three weeks old, struggled for hours trying to free its entrapped wing. With the chick getting weaker and authorities concerned that the eaglet was entangled in fishing line, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a special permit to allow intervention at the nest. After climbing into the nest and freeing the chick's wing (which was trapped by nest structure, not fishing line), tree-climber and avian expert, Jim Mussel noted the chick's poor condition and chose to remove it from the nest, bringing it to TRC for medical evaluation and care. (Click here for the rescue video). 

When the eaglet arrived late yesterday, it was immediately provided supportive emergency care. The chick's wing was bruised and swollen from being trapped and it had multiple wounds on its back that had become infested with maggots. With the chick very depressed and a bit dehydrated, we are staging its exams, diagnostics and treatment to prevent too much stress to its weakened body. This morning, the chick is stronger, eating well and looking substantially better. There are many considerations when working with a bird this age including preventing nutritional problems and abnormal behavior development. And we know that with no other chicks in the nest, the parents will not hang around for very long without a chick to feed. We do not yet know how long it will take the chick to recover enough to be returned to a nest (or even if it will recover enough). We will, however, keep everyone updated on a daily basis while the chick is with us.
As always, we are very grateful for those of you who provide support for The Raptor Center's work - without you, we would not be around to assist in situations like this. For those of you who would like to know more or make a donation, please click here.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Saturday May 5 is our Public Raptor Release

Saturday is our Spring Raptor Release - rain or shine!  The event is 11am to 2pm, with program starting at 12noon.  Meet our education raptors, and watch as we release several rehabilitated raptors.

Please bring your used ink jet printer cartridges to benefit our Recycling for Raptors program. 

No pets, please.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Raptor Center at North Trail Elementary

Kate Hanson brought some of The Raptor Center's winged ambassadors to a program Wednesday at North Trail Elementary School.  Rick Orndorf took these photos, on behalf of Sun This Week. 

Baby Raptor Species is a Turkey Vulture!

If you guessed Turkey Vulture for our latest Facebook Cover Page, you are correct!  This was a patient last fall.  The bird had an interesting story.  Here it is again: 

Turkey vultures, the only nesting vulture species in MN, usually choose remote sheltered areas such as rock crevices, caves, hollowed logs or abandoned structures to raise young. One pair decided to take advantage of a wood shed canopy in Marine on the St. Croix. With a pristine river view and quiet landscape, it seemed like the perfect spot, at least until the property was put up for sale and the serenity disturbed by visits from potential buyers. The female vulture, brooding its single chick, spooked off the nest and left the vulnerable 4-5 day old youngster exposed.

Found by some children, the chick was taken to TRC and immediately placed in a 90 degree F incubator to provide it with the warmth it needed. Due to the high level of activity at the recovery site, it was decided that the youngster could not be reunited with its parents. TRC staff quickly networked with a licensed WI rehabilitator who already had two permanently disabled vultures that have raised babies in the past. So, a few days after arriving, the vulture chick, now warmed and eating well, was transported 4 ½ hours west on the wings of compassion by two dedicated TRC volunteers to its new parents in WI. The adult vultures immediately bonded with the chick.

The foster adults are permanently disabled birds that have helped raise orphan vultures in the past. They immediately took their new charge under their wings and raised it to be a hissy, feisty, ground stomping juvenile – all traits that are desirable if you are a young vulture!