Help and Information: Rehabilitation of Birds of Prey.
Turbary Woods
Rehabilitation of Birds of Prey

Rehabilitation of Birds of PreyThis is probably the most frequent question asked of wildlife rehabilitators. It is also the hardest to answer. It is difficult to explain in a few concise sentences. The truth is the profession is relatively new on the scene and is still struggling to come up with its own description. The hawk board is currently working with D.E.F.R.A in setting up standards and guidelines for all raptor centre's and sanctuaries.

Wildlife rehabilitators wear many hats. During the course of a single day wildlife rehabilitators function as animal caretakers, nutritionists, behaviourists, emergency medical technicians, naturalists, natural historians, educators, secretaries, animal housing specialists, capture and transport specialists for injured wildlife, and record keepers, providers of legal expertise and assist the public with wildlife issues. We do not get financial assistance from the government. In fact, most wildlife centres are self supported or supported by donations only.

It is a mistake to assume that wildlife rehabilitators are all veterinarians. That is not the case. It is also true that most veterinarians, unless they are wildlife veterinarians, are not wildlife rehabilitators nor are they equipped to handle wild species. Wild animals have very different needs than domestic animals. The focus on caring for wild species is to keep them wild so they will return to the wild. Everything from handling to housing and food offered is specific to the individual species.

In the U.K. not all wildlife rehabilitators are licensed.

Wildlife rehabilitators care for wild animals indigenous to the region in which they live.

Turbary woods has Raptor Rescue Accreditation so we are governed by their code of conduct. We also work closely with the local Police and their Wildlife Liaison Officers, the R.S.P.C.A, The B.T.O, and of course the caring members of the general public.

Considerations for wildlife species are complicated and incorporate many professions. It is impossible for one person to be everything to each animal species. Networking among wildlife professionals is often the key to successful releases. Many wildlife centres specialize in certain species such as mammals, or one type of mammal. Birds are another specialty that requires specialized housing and time constraints.

The knowledge of the natural history of the wild patient cannot be underestimated. If there is one “most important”, part of working with wildlife it is a deep understanding of the animal, its habitat and requirements to survive successfully in the wild environment. Knowledge of natural history is an integral part of the work a wildlife rehabilitator does. Frequently rehabilitators work with a wildlife biologist, ornithologist, or other wildlife specialist to facilitate return of the animal to its own natural habitat. Many centres specialize in working with certain species, and network with others that have other specialties.

Wildlife rehabilitators are not always veterinarians; however, the two professions interact frequently and rely on one another for specialized care of wild patients.Turbay woods have access to several local veterinary surgeons who have specialised knowledge in owls and birds of prey. If surgery is needed for an animal, it is done by a qualified wildlife veterinarian. However, the after care nursing, hunt training and physical therapy needed to get the animal back to the wild state is done back at the sanctuary.

Wildlife rehabilitators have to be housing specialists for the animals in their care. Each creature has specialized needs that are not always apparent to the casual observer. Raptors, for instance, have very sensitive feet. Their specialized needs for footing and perches cannot be overlooked. To do so may well be a death sentence to the raptor. At turbary woods we have 5 special isolation aviaries used in conjunction with raptor housing. Birds with the eyesight of raptors tend to fly against wire, cut their delicate feet, and break off important flight feathers. A bird with broken feathers cannot fly adequately to feed and protect itself in the wild.

Proper housing keeps the animal inside safe, sane and prevents predators and domestics living in the area from entering the caging or frightening the recovering animals.

Wildlife rehabilitators have to be willing and able to teach young predators to hunt successfully. This is not an easy job. Nor is it for the faint of heart. Some find this difficult as predators eat other living animals. That is a fact that cannot be disputed and must be respected. It is part of the natural history of the animal in captive care.

Wildlife rehabilitators have to know and understand many habitats for release considerations of the animals they rehabilitate. Many rehabilitators count on wildlife specialists to assist with this information. In some cases, D.E.F.R.A. must be notified before a certain birds are released from a rehabilitation centre.

Wildlife rehabilitators need to understand physiology, nutrition, and behaviour of the animals they rehabilitate, for release considerations of the animals they rehabilitate. Many of the young animals/birds that come into rehabilitation centres are orphans. Without parents to teach them, the youngsters must rely on a combination of the rehabilitator and natural instinct to fill in the blanks of life for them. Wild ones have to know what they are and how to survive when they are released to the wild. No one is going to be there to help him or her once they leave the protection of the centre. Skilled centres understand that fact and do all they can to arm the animals with the information and skills they need to survive on their own.

To be a good wildlife rehabilitator requires more than loving animals. A compassion for wildlife is understood, but just a beginning to care of wildlife. In the final assessment, many aspects play a role in caring for and releasing strong healthy and well-adjusted wild birds.

Perhaps in the final assessment, it is about respecting the wild one. Respecting him for who he is and making sure, he is safe and well prepared to survive as a wild creature without further interaction from man.