Tag Archives: raptors

Trump administration changes Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Golden eagle.

Golden eagle. Photo by Tom Koerner. Courtesy USFWS.

The Trump administration says it will no longer criminally prosecute companies that accidentally kill migratory birds. The decision reverses a rule made in the last weeks of the Obama administration.

For more information, see this NPR story.

See this long list of birds protected by the MBTA.




On Turkey Vultures

turkey vulture

Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
Courtesy National Park Service /Brad Sutton

by Tracie Hornung

I watched the turkey vulture swerve and bank above the highway, and thought of my friend who cringed when I recently mentioned the species. I had forgotten, until then, that her reaction is quite common.

I imagine it’s that bald red head, looking as if it had just emerged from the bloodied mass of a carcass. (It may have.) Or the silhouette against the sky of sharp wings that appear torn and scraggly. A living, breathing, soaring symbol of death and decay.

But I was surprised when I got to know a couple of turkey vulture teenagers at Rowena Wildlife Clinic. It’s true -– up close they still aren’t beautiful. But the first time I encountered them, I was touched to realize they were shy and not the slightest bit aggressive. In fact, they scampered away as I brought their meal of dead rodents into their enclosure.

In time, they grew to accept my presence but stayed cautious. That’s their innate personality; raptor experts know them to be gentle, but elusive birds. Their only real defense is to vomit a lump of foul-smelling semi-digested meat, which deters most creatures. Fortunately, the teenage vultures at the rehab clinic were never threatened enough by me to do that, but I’m glad they always remained wary.

Once when my husband and I were driving a narrow road through a forest, I commented how sad it was that all the birds in the area, even those away from the road, immediately flew off. But smart, or course. They were, rightly, just working on surviving.

So whenever I see a turkey vulture soaring in a thermal, I don’t see a symbol of death and decay. I see a bird going about the business of being a bird.

For more about turkey vultures visit Cornell University’s All About Birds website.

Tests show no lead: recent bald eagle patient has chance at recovery

Bald Eagle

One of RWC’s recent bald eagle patients. Photo by Ron Kikel.

by Tracie Hornung

Rowena Wildlife Clinic recently got some good news: An injured bald eagle found this week in Hood River, Oregon, is not suffering from lead shot poisoning! See the story of its rescue in the Hood River News, written before tests showed the bird is free of lead.

However, bald eagles and other raptors are still not safe, especially since the new head of the Interior Department, Ryan Zinke, on his first day on the job signed an order to roll back a policy that would have kept lead out of wildlife refuges.

The policy Zinke reversed would have phased out lead ammunition and fishing tackle from national wildlife refuges by 2022. Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that persists in water and soil for years.

Birds are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Birds of prey eat animal carcasses that contain lead shot fragments — making lead poisoning an enormous threat for iconic species like bald eagles and California condors. And ducks and waterfowl rooting around the bottom of wetlands accidentally eat discarded lead.

Rowena Wildlife Clinic has often seen the effects of lead poisoning in raptors. In fact, just last winter, despite her best efforts Dr. Cypher lost a bald eagle to lead poisoning. Although no one could say with certainty how the eagle came to ingest the lead, it was a stark reminder that lead poisoning is an ever-present threat to wildlife.

Many hunters and fishers appreciate the necessity of protecting wildlife from lead. But others who complain that ammunition made of other metals cost too much compared to lead shot have won over politicians currently in office.

However, it isn’t just wildlife that suffer from lead poisoning. Humans who eat animals killed with lead shot are vulnerable, too, especially since it has a propensity to shatter into minute fragments. See this video from the Tulsa World

A recent study found that children are even more susceptible to lifelong problems related to lead poisoning, including lower IQ, poor muscle coordination and damage to the nervous system, including kidneys, and/or hearing. See Kids’ Health for more information.

If we can’t convince politicians that wildlife are worth saving from the effects of lead, perhaps they will be more sympathetic to the human threat.

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center offers Earth Day presentation on non-lead hunting

Oregon Zoo’s Non-Lead Hunting Education director, Leland Brown, will present a program from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. April 22 at the Discovery Center in The Dalles, Oregon, titled “Non-lead Hunting: Continuing a Tradition of Conservation.” Get more info here.

Ski slope staff save freezing Barn Owl

by Tracie Hornung

As employees of Mt. Hood Meadows were on the ski slopes doing their jobs earlier this month, one of them spotted a nearly frozen Barn Owl in the snow. Meadows staffer Carrie Sidwell picked up the poor bird and skied down the slope with it in her arms!

Photo by Nick Adams

Photo by Nick Adams

The owl was transferred to Rowena Wildlife Clinic where rehabilitator Carol Rodrick began first response protocols, including putting it in an incubator to warm up. Although the bird did not appear injured, it was so cold and thin she was afraid it wouldn’t survive the night. But by morning it was standing up in the incubator and looking at her! 

Mt Hood Barn Owl

Photo by RWC

The ski staff understandably wanted to know why the owl was at such a high elevation, especially at this time of year: It’s probably because of Hood River County’s recent weather. It has been an exceptionally long, cold and snowy winter. And in its quest for food and warmth, the owl may have caught a warm updraft that swept it to the ski slope. Fortunately, the ski crew was in the right place at the right time!

The crew named the bird Cutty and it continues to be cared for at the clinic. Carol says she is “guardedly hopeful” that Cutty will recover.

“Thanks to Carrie, Wes and Nick,” Carol said in a Facebook posting, “for picking up the Barn Owl and transporting it to the clinic. We depend upon people like you to look out for our injured wild friends.”

Visit Cornell University’s All  About Birds website to learn more about Barn Owls

Oregon Fish & Wildlife struggling to help non-game species

Western Pond Turtle

Western Pond Turtle. Courtesy USFWS.

If you’re reading this, you must care about non-game wildlife. But with a long history of relying on fishing and hunting fees to fund only Oregon’s game animals, non-game species have been left in the dust.

The series below, which appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting, explains the problems and possible solutions to helping Oregon’s non-game wildlife before it’s too late.

Part 1: Wildlife Neglected: How Oregon Lost Track Of Species It’s Supposed To Protect

Part 2: Wildlife Neglected: Lacking Support, Conservation Falters At Oregon Fish and Wildlife

Part 3: Wildlife Neglected: To Fund Conservation, Oregon Hopes To Succeed Where Past Efforts Failed

Take a look at some of RWC’s beautiful patients

Rowena Wildlife Clinic is lucky to have volunteer Frank Rodrick of StrayShots taking photos of the clinic’s patients. Below is a small selection of his excellent photographs. Click on them to zoom in.






Story of the Saw-whets has a happy ending

By Tracie Hornung

Saw-whet Owls

Photo by Tom Keffer

A local landowner, who cut down a tree containing a Northern Saw-whet Owl nest, brought in two chicks this spring to Rowena Wildlife Clinic. Although he made the mistake of chopping down a tree during nesting season, he did the right thing by searching for the contents of the nest and for the owl parents.

When he couldn’t find the parents he took the baby birds to RWC. (Since the typical clutch size is four to seven eggs, there may well have been more chicks or eggs that he did not find.) Dr. Jean Cypher put them in an incubator for the first week, and a hack box for the next two weeks as she fed and cared for them.

Then the hack box was transferred to a tree on the edge of a forest, a perfect environment for the chicks. They would be safe inside, and be able to see out as they got used to the world they would soon enter, with its varying temperatures, sights and sounds.

A volunteer fed them each a dead mouse every dusk and dawn. Every three days she changed their bedding, as they cowered in fear in the back of the box while she worked. She said they were “very docile, quiet and curious. Sometimes they would cluck at me.”

As they grew bigger they grew bolder. And it became apparent that one was female and one male; female owls are typically larger than males. During their last week in the hack box the birds started flapping their wings, lunging at the door and even hanging on it.  The volunteer said, “It was like they were wondering, ‘Is she going to open it?’”

The volunteer could tell the female was ready for release.  But she wasn’t sure the male was, and she didn’t want to open the door until she was sure they could both fly and perch safely. So instead of taking the risk of opening the door for the every-three-day bedding change, the volunteer waited five days.

On the fifth day she opened the door slightly. The owls hesitated. The volunteer said she thought to herself that they must not be ready for release yet, but she opened the door a little wider. Suddenly the female exploded out of the box, flying over her head and landing gracefully on a branch 10 feet away. For another five minutes the two birds stared at each other, one on the branch and the other still in the hack box. Then the male flew out, too, also landing successfully on the same branch. The two followed each other up to the end of the branch and back down, over and over.

For the rest of the day and the following day they perched in the tree above the hack box. On the third day the volunteer said she couldn’t see them but she heard them calling from another grove of fir trees. She continued to leave mice out for them in case they weren’t ready to do their own hunting. She did that for a week, but the young owls never took them. Dr. Cypher told her if they had been hungry – and not hunting on their own – they would have taken the mice. So it is highly probable that sister and brother Saw-whet are now out exploring the world successfully on their own.

Northern Saw-whet Owl Fast Facts:

A Northern Saw-whet is a tiny owl with a catlike face, oversized head, and bright yellow eyes. Saw-whets are one of the most common owls in forests across northern North America (and across the U.S. in winter). They are highly nocturnal and seldom seen. Their high-pitched too-too-too call is a common evening sound in evergreen mountain forests from January through May.

For more information, visit the Cornell Lab of Orinithology website.