Thursday, March 17, 2016

How You Can Help Baby Raptors

Raptor baby season is already upon us!  There are five major things you can do to help pave the way for this annual event to be a little smoother for our feathered friends:

1. Postpone cutting down trees.
  If you need tree work to be done, schedule it so it does not conflict with the nesting season of birds (and mammals) that may inhabit them.  People are often unaware of the wildlife that calls their property “home”.

2. Reduce the risk of entanglement.  One challenge of raptors living in urban settings is getting caught in soccer nets or spent fishing line.  This is particularly a problem for owls that hunt in low light conditions and are often so focused on chasing their prey that they collide with soccer nets or fishing line left dangling in trees. If you have a soccer net in your backyard, please collapse it when not in use.  If your net cannot
be closed, consider investing in a more environmentally–friendly net.  Share this information with your local schools and parks too. For fishing line, if you accidentally cast poorly and it gets stuck in a tree, make every effort to remove as much dangling line as possible.   Parents and juveniles alike get entangled in these structures and often struggle so much that they suffer non-repairable injuries.

3. View from a distance. If you have a nest in your backyard, please enjoy viewing it from a respectful distance.  Young nestlings require a fair amount of care (and a lot of food!) and distracting the parents can be detrimental. 

4. Report active raptor nests.  It is critical to get uninjured young raptors back to their original nest or foster them into another family of their species as quickly as possible.  There are many survival skills raptor babies need to learn from their parents in addition to getting proper nutrition to grow up healthy.  If you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin you can help by letting us know of active raptor nests that could be potential foster sites.  Then, if we admit an orphan in need of a new family, we will have a list of possibilities to choose from to make the best match.  Contact Lori Arent, TRC’s clinic manager at  We will not share your contact information.

5. Check if a baby really needs help.  Young raptors often do not have successful first flight attempts.  They often look awkward, and some may end up on the ground.  It
is normal for these youngsters to take a little time to re-orient, and their watchful parents are likely nearby. If you suspect a young raptor may need assistance, here is some important advice:

  • Do not pick up the youngster.  Please call TRC if you are in our area, (or if not, call your state natural resource department or local rehabilitator for consultation).  Taking a photo from a safe distance will help determine if the bird does indeed need a trip to the clinic for aid or just needs some time and space.
  • Do not feed any raptors, youngsters or adults.  First, people cannot easily provide the crucial nutrient-rich items for quickly-developing raptor youngsters (and some foods, such as hamburger are actually detrimental!). Second, it decreases the parents’ bonding activities with their young.  Lastly, if a raptor needs medical attention, it is important that they have an empty stomach when they arrive to the veterinary clinic.

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