Meet Our resident birds
Length - 16"
Wingspan - 41"
Weight - 720g (1.6 lbs.)
(physical data are approximations)
Found along the Pacific NW coast.
Migrates south, but will breed and roost in man-made structures (towers, bridge beams, building ledges)
Diurnal - prey includes live-caught birds from songbirds to geese, even herons, mammals, insects - generally catch prey in flight or on ground after aerial dive.
Territorial and solitary; Breed first at 1-3 yrs old. Uses nests of other species or tree cavities. Oldest on record lived 22 years.
Harper came to Free Flight in 2007 in his first year. He had been shot by a human. His badly mutilated wing is permanently ruined, bone and feathers do not grow properly; he can never be released into the wild for his free flight.
The Peregrine Falcon has a black hood that extends down along the side of the head in a distinctive mustache-like mark. Upper parts are a dark slate-gray and lightly barred; underparts are a whitish color at the throat shading to a buff color, elongated spots on the chest, and more dark barring across the abdomen. The adult legs, and feet with long slender toes, are bright yellow. Like the other members of the falcon family, the Peregrine has a distinct notch in the upper mandible for cervical dislocation of its prey.
Falco Peregrinus means “wandering” falcon. Harper is a male Peales peregrine falcon tiersel -- the male of the species is a tiersel and the female is a falcon. Peregrines are beautiful birds built for speed -- the falcon is the fastest animal on earth, clocked at over 200 mph in a dive or "stoop." To watch a falcon hunt is one of nature’s great spectacles. Long narrow wings carry them in a spiral ascent hundreds of feet in the air. Peregrine falcons hunt primarily birds and kill by concussion.
A falcon’s eyesight is six times more powerful than ours. When the selected prey is in its sights, the ancient ritual of hunter and hunted begins. The falcon folds it’s wings close to the body and stoops focused on its target. If contact is made, the force of the impact is so great that often the target is stunned and falls to the ground or is held helpless in the falcon’s grip. After landing, the falcon dispatches the quarry and dinner is served. Peregrine power is phenomenal.
By 1970 Falcons were listed as Endangered because of use of pesticides in the 1950s and 60s - the continental form was decimated. State and federally protected, today the population is slowly increasing in North America.
There is a feeling of awe and reverence when in the presence of a falcon. Though Harper is not aware of the consequences of his damaged wing, we are. It is our commission to educate the human population of our shared planet to prevent the maiming of and interference with wild animals like Harper so they remain wild life.
Harper was named in memory of a dedicated couple who benefitted Free Flight as volunteers during their lifetimes, and continue to share as benefactors.
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
Length - 26"
Wingspan - 67"
Weight - 1830 grams (4 lbs.)
(physical data are approximations)
Found in open habitats - widespread.
Only bird with sense of smell. Winters in southwest Roosts communally; sexes same in appearance - mature at 2nd year. Urinates down legs for air conditioning. Mostly silent - hisses when threatened.
Jerry was named for Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Jerry came to Free Flight in 1990 as a downy chick along with his nest mate -- two little bundles of white fluff with dark heads and faces. Two kind, forward-thinking timber workers brought them to Free Flight, thinking they were responsible for felling the nesting tree. Vultures do not build nests as such. Vulture parents lay their eggs in depressions in the ground, cliff ledges or in caves. The tree had fallen in the vicinity of their nest. Jerry’s sibling was released to the same area as his nest. Jerry stayed behind -- permanently grounded with an injury to a joint at the shoulder girdle of his left wing. Jerry is a favorite character at Free Flight. He is social and seems to enjoy the attention of the staff. Jerry patrols Free Flight’s grounds with the confident air of a "Full Bird" Colonel conducting an inspection. His unfortunate beginning brought him to Free Flight where he is professor of sanitation, and a valuable permanent resident.
Vultures, sometimes mistakenly called buzzards, and their relatives are Mother Nature’s sanitary engineers. Without their commitment to cleanliness the planet would be a less desirable environment. Vultures clean up after the rest of us. Being carrion eaters they eat up the remains of carcasses that would otherwise be left to decay. The planet without them – the stench, the disease-causing bacteria, the volume. All of nature owes a debt of gratitude to this perfectly designed and much maligned creature.
There are two types of New World vultures living in the United States, the black vulture and the turkey vulture. Jerry is a Turkey Vulture, his head and feet being reminiscent of a turkey. Vultures are not raptors, but are more closely related to storks. Vultures do not have the strong feet and beaks like other birds of prey. They find the easiest point of entry to a cadaver and dine from the inside out. The handsome red head does not have any feathers – the bird’s buzz-cut keeps its head clean where feathers would collect bacteria. Turkey vultures typically feast on
smaller carcasses and depend on their acute eyesight and sense of smell to locate their food. A vulture’s stomach acid (used also as a defense mechanism) is strong enough to process botulism and fecal matter, but they also enjoy vegetation and grains. Like a stork, the Turkey Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces to cool itself down – a process called urohydrosis.
Human impact: Federally protected. Being hit by cars while feeding on carrion, ingestion of lead from eating animals that have been shot, tangling in wire, gunshot, and electrocution.
CYRANO and DORIS
Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis
Length - 51"
Wingspan - 79"
Weight - 3,740 g (8.2 lbs)
(physical data are approximations)
Found along ocean shores and bays. Some populations migratory. Smaller and more slender than White Pelican. Primarily eat fish caught while plunge-diving.
Colonial nesters - both sexes build nest, on ground or in trees. Keep mates for only one breeding season - breed first at 2-5 years.
Generally silent after fledging
“A curious bird is the Pelican ~ His beak can hold more than his bellycan!”
The good will ambassadors at Free Flight are the resident clowns, Cyrano de Bourgerac, and Doris. Cyrano came to dwell in 1990; adorable Doris has been on the property since 2005.
The resident Brown Pelicans do not have mews or runs like the raptors. They live outside, hunker down, generally together, when its stormy, and enjoy exercise in their pool (which is drained and cleaned and refilled daily when necessary), raucously bathing, submerging, and wing flapping. Pelicans are quite odorous, and leave “whitewash” in their pool and surrounding areas.
Entertaining as they are, Cyrano and Doris provide another service to Free Flight. They forecast the weather – if a storm is brewing, the preceding day they have insatiable appetites, and spend more time frolicking in their pool, before hunkering down for the big blow.
Like other species, the Brown Pelican population declined in the 1960s and 70s because of pesticide and DDT use. Brown Pelican numbers are now growing in North America.
Unique among the world's seven species of pelicans, the Brown Pelican is found along the ocean shores and not on inland lakes. It is the only dark pelican, and also the only one that plunges from the air into the water to catch its food., foraging from the air, often from heights of 65 feet. When it sights prey the bird begins a steep plunge-dive and enters the water head-first, wings stretched back. On the water the bird will slowly pull up its bill, draining water from the pouch.
Selected as National emblem of United States in 1782. Usually found near water - lake, river, stream, ocean.
Feeds mainly on fish, waterfowl, mammals, reptiles captured in pursuit -
Nests built of sticks, lined with other vegetation - both sexes build
Breeds after several years 1-4 eggs (usually)
Juveniles wider wings and longer tails than adults
Territorial, mostly solitary or semi-colonial; monogamous,
often pairing for life.
Imagine free flight: Silent, soaring, gliding, diving – the pure pleasure, and what a view!
A Shau came to Free Flight in 1995, in her first year. “Blown out of the sky” – her right shoulder joint was shot off. With that permanent wing damage, there are no free flights for A Shau, now about 14 years old.
At Free Flight A Shau is hand fed daily. Her Bald Eagle diet consists mostly of freshly caught salmon when available, fish heads, herring, carcasses, and raw chicken necks. Being a Bald Eagle and resident princess, she commands her own routine, deciding when to eat and when to bathe. A Shau appears somewhat comical in her antics. Her jaunty run-dance in the exercise yard evokes a grin and a murmur. But hearing the piercing Bald Eagle cry, and seeing the magnificence of her stature and talons and beak, quickly humbles any unforced urge to laugh out loud. This amazing inhabitant of our planet is truly spectacular.
The Bald Eagle, distinguished by its adult coloration - white head, white tail, very dark brown body, yellow eyes, massive yellow beak, is a member of the accipitrid family, specifically the fish-eagle group. Bald Eagles take several years (up to 6) and several plumage changes to attain their adult appearance – all white head, all white tale. And, they are not bald at all. The name is derived from an Old English word meaning “white.” These birds of prey have feet characterized by strong toes and very sharp talons allowing the bird to grip and kill prey. The strongly hooked bill (beak) is the weapon for tearing apart the kill. The incredibly strong feet are used for the actually killing. With its very strong grip, a Bald Eagle can press up to 300 lbs. (in comparison to a fit, average-frame male, pressing 80 lbs.). Eyesight is up to eight times sharper (“eagle eye”) than humans. The Bald Eagle has a relatively large head, and long, straight-edged wings. This eagle flies with slow, shallow, powerful wingbeats, and soars with wings held out flat. Eagles and Osprey hunt from perches and from high in the air, taking prey in spectacular dives.
Eagles are quite vocal around each other, giving soft kak kak kak kak sounds when chattering together, as well as various chirping whistles. Juveniles tend to have harsher, more shrill calls. Although usually quiet in flight, they will sometimes give a keeya...keeya...keeya....
Juveniles resemble Golden Eagles in being generally brown, but they lack the golden head, and their legs are only feathered halfway to the foot. Immature birds of both species are brown with areas of white; young Golden Eagles have areas of white on the tail and the base of the flight feathers, while young Bald Eagles show more variable patterns of white speckling.
State and federally protected, both under the Migratory Bird Treat Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act; no longer listed as endangered, but threatened under the Endangered Species Act Bald Eagle.
Unfortunately, human impacted behaviors still affect this soaring giant: gunshot wounds, collisions with vehicles, powerlines (electrocution), and poisoning.
Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus
Length - 22" Wingspan - 44" Weight1 - 1400 gms (3.1 lbs.)
(physical data are approximations)
Found in wooded habitats and deserts - doesn’t migrate.
Nocturnal, primarily - hunts mammals up to rabbit-sized and as large as porcupines.
Mature in 2nd year; nests as high as 30-50' in tree opening, 2-3 eggs.
Hoo-hoo and soft melodical trill; clicks when threatened.
Free Flight’s Otis commands attention with his striking appearance, wonderful golden eyes and pleasant vocals – distinctive Whoo! hoo-hoo-hoo. He was taken from the wild in his first year, 1990, and thereafter obtained by Free Flight from another rehabber. Otis has been at Free Flight since February 1999. He is a majority favorite amongst staff, consisting entirely of volunteers.
His relatives can be found in most parts of the North American continent. Otis maintains his boxy bulk by dining mostly on hand-fed mice and raw chicken necks, however, these powerful birds tackle prey as large as skunks, and are the only animal to actually eat skunks. (The greathorned owls that are admitted to Free Flight for rehabilitation often carry that distinctive odor.) GHOs also prey upon and eat other owls. Nature’s system of balance makes owls mostly nocturnal – that is when their preferred prey is out and about. Owl eyes are stationary and do not move, but the head has the exceptional design of rotation (up to 270º, including upside down), having 14 vertebra in the neck (humans have 7). In addition to having vision far more acute than that of humans, owls rely on their exceptional ability to hear their prey for their hunting success. It is quieter at night, and they don’t need to see prey to find it – they listen for it.
While Otis sports fine feathers showing various shades of beautiful browns, Great Horned Owls can also be a very dark brown and even black.
Although Otis is able to fly, he cannot be released. His is not a physical disability; though not imprinted, he is habituated. He was raised by humans and did not receive the socialization a young owl needs to survive in the wild. He did not learn what it means to be an owl from his owl parents, such as signs of affection, family life, and the skill of hunting live prey
Owls are mostly nocturnal so Mr. Otis is in charge of the night watch at Free Flight where he will remain for the rest of his life (which could be up to age 40). Otis provides all of us a great service in helping to educate the public that wild things are just that – wild – and belong in the wild and not held in captivity as personal pets.
Human impact: State and federally protected. Collision with vehicles, poisoning from ingesting poisoned rodent, gunshot wounds, electrocution from contact with powerlines, entangling in wire.
Found in mixed conifers, deciduous woods, riparian areas Winters in Calif., Arizona, Pacific NW, Great Basin Strictly Nocturnal - hunts deer mice, small insects Mature in 2nd year Lives approx. 8 years Tree nest in holes 14-60', will use nest boxes Call is repeated low whistled toots - like saw being run across whetstone.
Possibly overlooked at first, once you see her you can’t stop looking! This tiny, beautiful Northern Saw-whet Owl, Golia, came to Free Flight in November 2003. She had a permanently damaged shoulder, and cannot fly. Golia is not imprinted – she is habituated to her Free Flight environment. Feng shui is very important to this tiny raptor who is definitely queen of her roost at Free Flight.
Northern Saw-whets belong to the Strigid family, small to large predatory birds with dark brown, gray, black, or reddish plumage. They are often countershaded with paler underparts. This coloration allows them to be mostly unnoticed, camouflaged, looking like part of a tree or other surrounds. The Northern Saw-whet’s eyes are yellow. Adult owls look alike, with the male being smaller. The facial disc, characteristic of all owls, is composed of stiff, lacy feathers, and frames white, v-shaped eyebrows, and a black bill. Owls generally have round heads with flat faces and movable ear-like or horn-like feathers that function in camouflage and display. Owls have 14 vertebra in their necks (humans have 7), which enables them to rotate their heads 270º, including upside-down. The main prey items of the Northern Saw-whet Owl are mice – especially deer mice. Adult mice usually are eaten in pieces in two different meals. This resourceful owl has a food storage technique of burying mice in snow, and retrieving and thawing from the cache for later consumption as needed.
Though State and federally protected loss of prime breeding habitat is a problem for this little woodland owl, which extends from southeast Alaska across southern Canada, and down into the western US, west of the Rockies. W inter range covers the same areas, but some owls will migrate further south and east across the US. These owls are also lost as a result of being human impacted in collisions with cars and windows.
Though State and federally protected loss of prime breeding habitat is a problem for this little woodland owl, which extends from southeast Alaska across southern Canada, and down into the western US, west of the Rockies. Winter range covers the same areas, but some owls will migrate further south and east across the US. These owls are also lost as a result of being human impacted in collisions with cars and windows.
Red-shouldered Hawk - Buteo lineatus
Length - 17"/19"
Wingspan - 40+"
Weight1 - 630 gms (1.4 lbs.)
(physical data are approximations)
Habitat usually near water/woodland.
Migrates to southern California.
Diurnal - mainly hunts mammals, snakes, frogs, lizards, snails, birds.
Co-exists with Barred Owl.
Sexual maturity at 2 years - sexes look alike, female larger.
Large nests of sticks, bark, lichen, moss placed in main crotch of tree 20-60' up Clutch of 2-5 eggs.
Milagra is the Spanish word for “miracle.” This beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk came to Free Flight in 2006 as a juvenile. She was imprinted on humans. The word “imprint” means literally to establish in the mind. Though Milagra is fully flighted, she will never soar on her own in the wild. Humans unwittingly deprived her of the nurturing, socialization and training her own kind, her red-shouldered hawk parents and siblings would have provided for her continued natural existence.
In the wild, the Great Horned Owl can take a Red-shouldered Hawk as prey, but the powerful, aggressive Red-shouldered Hawk is also capable of taking a juvenile Great-horned Owl.
Buteos are soaring hawks. Red-shouldered Hawks have a distinctive shrill, ear-piercing cry, kee-aah, often given repeatedly. Milagra is quite skilled in the delivery and pitch of her call. At Free Flight Milagra is hand fed mice, raw chicken necks, sometimes a scrap of rabbit. She eats on the handler’s glove and though testy when hungry, once satisfied she is content to stay perched on the glove or in her outside exercise pen. She often mantles (protects) her meal by hovering with wings spread. Mantling over her food is a display that she sees humans as competition for her catch – a result of imprinting. Milagra is being trained to “free” fly on a creance to retrieve prey from her handler’s glove – she is now flying 42' – what a thrilling, beautiful sight! While staff at Free Flight is learning to work with her as skill levels are developed, the level of respect for her magnificence and prowess is not diminished in her handling – she is a showy, beautiful, dangerous raptor.
Protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Information from migratory counts indicates a long-term decline, though reforestation of former agricultural land in the NE United States may assist reestablishment in some areas. Although the western population has likely declined due to habitat loss in California, it is considered stable and might be helped by the northward
expansion of its range into Oregon.
Human impact: collision with cars, pesticides, habitat loss.
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Length - 16" Wingspan - 42"
Weight - 1 lb. (460 g)
(physical data are approximations)
Many habitats - prefers open areas, grasslands. Not generally migratory
Nocturnal - hunts mammals including rabbits, rodents, birds. Nests in hollow trees, caves, abandoned buildings. Breeds first at 1 year old or less 5-7 eggs.
Remains with mate for life Oldest on record - 34 years.
Bo, Beau-diddily, Bozo - the performer. He’ll likely respond to any name, as long as you feed him, let him perch on the glove. If he is ignored (hard to do!) or not immediately acknowledged, he’s likely to give the hissing, raspy “scream” which is the call of the Barn Owl. He’s striking in appearance, with his classic heart-shaped face. The feathered heart shaped facial disc is for the hearing sensor feathers.
Bo came to Free Flight via US Fish & Wildlife escort in early 2008. He was confiscated from a human household by federal agents. Bo, likely from the time he was a fluffy white nestling, was being raised as a household pet. Unless you have a federal or state license, IT IS UNLAWFUL TO CAPTURE AND KEEP WILD BIRDS! Today, Bo has Free Flight as his forever home because he is imprinted by humans. He totally identifies with us. He doesn’t really know he’s an owl. He hasn’t learned to use his feet like owls do to bngrab and hang on to their prey. The feet and talons of a raptor are a major part of theirbsurvival kit. At Free Flight Bo is hand fed on the glove – he can hold the mouse in his talons and nibble at it, but mostly he sucks the whole thing down, leaving just a piece ofnthe tail dangling from his beak, savoring the dining experience with his furry-lidded eyes closed. He appears to have a grin as he makes the final tasty swallow.
This is not to say that Bo cannot be a dangerous bird. He has a very sharp beak for
piercing and tearing, and sharp claws (talons). He is still an owl by genus, though hisimprinted brain does not wholly recognize. He is no longer fully flighted.
The Barn Owl is one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, found on all
continents except Antarctica, and on many oceanic islands as well. It has been introduced by people to some of the few places it did not already occur, including Hawaii, the Seychelles Islands, and Lord Howe Island.
Barn owls are a medium-sized, long legged owls, white or mostly white underside, with round head without ear tufts, and heart-shaped white face. The back is tawny, marked with black and white spots. Dark eyes.
Up to 46 different races of the Barn Owl have been described worldwide. The North American form is the largest, weighing more than twice as much as the smallest race from the Galapagos Islands.
The Barn Owl is one of the few bird species with the female showier than the male. The female has a more reddish chest that is more heavily spotted. The spots may signal to a potential mate the quality of the female. Heavily spotted females get fewer parasitic flies and may be more resistant to parasites and diseases.
The Barn Owl has excellent low-light vision, and can easily find prey at night by sight. But its ability to locate prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has ever been tested. It can catch mice hidden by vegetation or snow.
Some birds must remain with Free Flight since they are no longer capable of survival on their own. We have named our resident education birds which require regular human interaction. However, our rehab patients are not named and human contact is kept to a minimum. We respect the wild nature of birds. They are diligently returned to health, and released back to the area where they were rescued. Their freedom is our priority.
CARING FOR OUR BIRDS
Since our resident birds don't wear their talons and beaks down as they would in the wild, we have to cope them regularly.
Dave Ledig, from US Fish and Wildlife assisted by volunteer, Pam, cope Harper's talons.