Monday, April 23, 2012

First Babies of 2012

We admitted our first baby birds of the 2012 season in the form of two little Great Horned Owlets. These two came from separate nests and are of different ages. Great Horned Owls are very early nesters (they begin nesting in January here in Wisconsin), and they are usually among the first babies to arrive at our clinic each year.

This Great Horned Owlet was found in Marathon Park in Wausau on the ground. Her parents were nowhere to be found so a trusted volunteer caught her up and brought her to REGI. She is approximately 6 weeks old. She is fairly thin and it is likely that her parents abandoned her.

This little Great Horned Owlet was found on the ground in the northwoods. He had fallen approximately 50 feet from his nest onto the ground. The kind people that found him noticed his sibling had been killed by some crows. To save him from the same fate he was brought to REGI. This owlet is younger than the first at only about 10 days old. His egg tooth can still be seen at the tip of his curved bill. This little white bump on his beak helped him to break out of his egg just a few days ago. It will soon fall off and he will be left with a perfectly normal-looking beak. (To see a video of this little owlet eating his supper visit our YouTube Channel at

Aside from the babies we also admitted a few adult birds. One of those birds was this Mourning Dove with a broken wing. Mourning Doves are very common and frequently overlooked, but they are really lovely birds. The beautiful blue around the eye and their black spots make them quite stunning. Their mournful cooing call gives these birds their name, and they may coo back to you if you mimic them. The loud whistling sound they create when they fly is produced by the feathers of their wings and not the voice of the bird. These doves tend to hold tight and take off at the last moment which makes them fairly vulnerable to being hit by fast-moving vehicles.

This adult Mourning Dove came in with a broken right wing. The wings have been taped together to allow the bones to heal in the proper position. 

On Friday we were visited by Dr. Shelli Dubay's Techniques of Captive Wildlife Management class from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Dr. Dubay's students make a yearly trip up to REGI to learn more about avian rehabilitation and education. They get a rare look into the lives of avian rehabilitators and get to learn a little more about why we do what we do. They also get to meet a few of our education birds and learn what makes a raptor. We look forward to seeing them and Dr. Dubay each year! This year the class got an extra treat in the form of a mid-April snowstorm. After having 80 degree weeks in March we were greeted Friday morning with three inches of beautiful snow. It's hard to get bored with the weather in Wisconsin! It's always changing!

The captive wildlife management class from UWSP are photographed in the aftermath of Thursday's mid April snowstorm. 

In the spring some of our education birds begin to lay eggs. To prevent breeding we typically don't house males and females together, therefore the eggs aren't fertilized. Like chickens, a natural process in a wild bird's life is to lay eggs whether they're fertilized or not. One of our education Eastern Screech Owls surprised us the other day with two beautiful eggs. After she realized that they weren't going to hatch she easily gave them up.

These two perfect eggs were laid by one of our little Eastern Screech Owls. The size of these eggs is quite surprising since the little owl that laid them is hardly taller than 6 inches. 

This is the pretty little red-phased Eastern Screech Owl that is the "mother" of the unfertilized eggs in the photo above. Pretty shocking that this little lady laid eggs with a larger diameter than a quarter!

That's all for today. Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We Say Goodbye to One of REGI's Best

Tomorrow we say farewell to one of our licensed rehabilitators, Katie Farvour. As sad as it is for us to lose her, we know she is going to do great things at her new job. She accepted a position at the Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. There she will be helping them create a raptor education program!

Katie graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point where she majored in Biology. She went on to work for the World Bird Sanctuary and the Milwaukee County Zoo doing live bird programs. Since August of 2008, Katie has been a full-time avian rehabilitator here at REGI. She has touched countless lives during her time here, both avian and human.

An older photo of Katie with one of her favorite resident birds, a Pelican nicknamed Peli. Although admitted as a wild adult, this American White Pelican took a liking to Katie. He would build her nests and spare her from the usual "goosing" he would do with his giant beak to most employees as they walked past. Their relationship was something special.

Katie releases one of the seven Bald Eagles she helped to rescue and rehabilitate after they were found close to death from being poisoned. Watching these seven birds regain flight after such a horrific ordeal was an unforgettable moment for all who were there. To read our blog from this release on June 2, 2011 click here.

Katie transferring a Trumpeter Swan from one enclosure to another. Her gentle demeanor helped her gain the trust of so many patients. 

Thanks for all the memories, Katie.
From all of us here at REGI, good luck! We will miss you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Great Horned Owl, Poisoned Nuthatch, Patient Updates, and Volunteers

I have to begin this blog post with some very sad news. The Snowy Owl, whom we've all been rooting for, has suddenly passed away. She was showing wonderful improvements and we were expecting a better outcome for her. The loss of any patient here at REGI is fraught with sadness, and the death of this Snowy Owl is no exception. May she rest in peace.

We recently admitted a Great Horned Owl into the clinic which seems to have had a tussle with a skunk. She has some minor abrasions to her keel and a tear in her patagium (the membrane of skin along the leading edge of the wing which aids in flying). She also has a horrific odor of skunk. She has been in the clinic for only a few days, but already the entire room smells like you wouldn't believe. If you're wondering what a Great Horned Owl was doing with a skunk, you're probably not alone. As odd as it may sound to us, Great Horned Owls regularly hunt for skunks. The odor, which makes us head for the hills, does not bother the owls one bit because, as like many other birds, they don't have a very good sense of smell. Occasionally a Great Horned Owl goes after a particularly feisty skunk and winds up with some injuries. 

This Great Horned Owl was admitted with some minor abrasions and smelling of skunk. It is likely she was injured while hunting for a skunk as a meal. 

Monday we admitted a little nuthatch that was found by two young boys on a playground here in Antigo, WI. One of the boys, Douglas, is the son of our director of education, Molly. The nuthatch was in good weight and showed no signs of external injuries; however, it was unable to fly and was having convulsions (a clinical sign of organophosphate poisoining). We weren't able to get a photo of the bird because shortly after arriving, the bird passed away. 

Organophosphates are insecticides which disrupt the insect's nervous system therefore killing it- they have the same effect on birds. They are used in agriculture and on lawns to control insects. Most people are not aware of how devastating these chemicals are on other creatures. The US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that 67 million birds die annually after coming in contact with pesticides. These man-made chemicals are dangerous for birds as well as people. Just because they are sold in stores doesn't mean they're safe.

If you have a pest problem in your yard, you can usually find a natural remedy to try. You can read an interesting document by the US Fish & Wildlife Service pertaining to pesticides, birds, and natural remedies by following this link. Using pesticides can kill most of the creatures in your yard including beneficial insects like pollinators. A few bugs won't hurt you, but pesticides might.

This past weekend we had more help from some UW-Stevens Point students. We had two students from the UW-SP Pre-Vet Club volunteer on Sunday. Baby season is just around the corner and we needed some help preparing the baby songbird room of our "passerine building". This room will soon be filled with tiny, helpless baby songbirds who have become injured or have lost their parents. Thanks for your help ladies! We and the little birdies appreciate it!

Cassidy Kohlhagen (left) and Kayla Willis (right), from the UW-SP Pre-Vet Club volunteered by cleaning out the baby songbird room of our "passerine building". Thank you! 

That's all for today! Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Housekeeping" at REGI

The Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI) is best known for our avian rehabilitation and education, but there is a lot of additional work that goes on here just to keep REGI in once piece. Having recently celebrated our 20th anniversary, some of our oldest buildings are showing severe ware and tear. When we aren't caring for our hundreds of bird patients or speaking to the public about the wonderful world of raptors, we are running around trying to fix up and maintain the REGI property.

Today we were lucky to have help from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point Professional Development in Environmental Education and Interpretation practicum class lead by Dr. Brenda Lackey. She brought her students up to REGI for a few hours to see how we do our public tours and to help us complete one of our big "housekeeping" projects.

Our Sandhill Crane enclosures are covered in privacy mesh which helps the cranes feel more comfortable, but years of wind, rain, and ice have done their damage. Hanging on by threads in some areas, the mesh was no longer acceptable. The students helped us with the big task of replacing the mesh.

The huge roll of mesh was rolled out and measurements were taken. 

The careful job of pulling the mesh over to the enclosure begins. At this point, the job seems like a big challenge, but many helpful hands help us to succeed.  

Licensed rehabilitator, Alberta Halfmann, perches atop the crane enclosure along with one of the student volunteers. Carefully securing the mesh while keeping the sides taut is tricky, but they're doing well! 

A view from inside the crane enclosure- rehabilitation assistant, Brennan Rausch waits to help secure the mesh from the inside. 

Nearly finished, some of the student volunteers and Alberta apply the finishing touches to secure the mesh on the top of the enclosure. 

Dr. Brenda Lackey (far left); the student volunteers; Director of Education, Molly McKay; licensed rehabilitator, Alberta Halfmann; and (peeking out from inside the mesh) rehabilitation assistant, Brennan Rausch, stand in front of the finished enclosure. It looks so much better! 
Thank you UW-SP students! We are so thankful for your help with this project. Having so many helpful hands made this project go quickly and smoothly. With our small staff, projects like this are hard to complete on our own (especially when our clinic is full of patients), but volunteer groups save the day.

If you would like to volunteer your time by helping us here at REGI, please call our education office at (715) 623-2563. We would love your help!

That's all for today. Have a great weekend!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Burned Osprey, Poisoned Great Horned Owl, Pine Siskin, and a Saw-whet Owl Release

We have had a busy weekend here at REGI. People are becoming more active outside as spring warms up and that leads to more birds being found in need of help. If you find a wild bird in need of help, please don't hesitate to call. (715) 623-4015.

Monday we admitted an adult Osprey suffering from burns. His primary flight feathers, tail feathers, and many of his body feathers have been badly scorched leaving only the stiff feather shafts. He has some flesh burns on his left wing, but overall does not have other burns to his skin.

The pointed shafts are all that remain after his feathers were scorched.

The cause of these burns are from an open methane flare used to burn off methane build-up at a landfill in Wausau, WI. The Holtz-Krause landfill was capped and the "active gas extraction system" (including the methane flare) was constructed in the early 1990s. These open flares are used across the country to control the gasses released by landfill waste. While this is the first case of this nature that REGI has seen, this is an issue that many other rehabilitators across the country deal with quite frequently. The problem with these methane flares or methane burners is that methane produces a clear flame- raptors don't see it. Capped landfills provide prime habitat for rodents; a staple in the diet of many raptors. Ospreys eat almost exclusively fish, but they have been known to feed on small mammals. The flames coming from the burners may be constant or intermittent and raptors, such as this unknowing Osprey, use the burner as a perch while resting or waiting for food to come by. Without warning, the methane ignites and instantly incinerates the raptor perching above.

It's not only raptors that are injured or killed by open methane burners, songbirds can also be killed by flying through the flame or perching on the burner. It isn't known if other birds have been killed or injured at this site, but this is the first REGI has seen.

Ospreys winter in South America, and this male just returned to Wisconsin with his life-long mate. It doesn't seem fair that after all of his hard work during migration, this is how he ends up. This Osprey was relatively lucky in that he did not burn to death or even have more severe burns on his body. He will miss out on breeding season this year and his mate may be forced to find another. He will receive supportive care at REGI until he molts and grows new feathers, which may take many months.

If you would like to help this Osprey, we would be very grateful for donations of panfish or monetary support.

Burns on his skin can be seen along the Osprey's left wing.
His wing, tail, and body feathers have been so severely burned that only the shafts remain. The white fuzzy feathers, which can be seen along his left wing in the photo above, are downy insulation feathers, now visible because the outer feathers have been burned off. 

This Great Horned Owl  was found in someone's backyard in Wausau, WI, unable to fly. He is very thin and low in weight. His feathers are in poor condition and he has at least two kinds of external parasites; hippoboscid flies and feather lice. It is likely that he is also suffering from secondary poisoning from rodenticide. A rodent ingested mouse poison and was then preyed upon by this owl. Consequentially, the poison passed from the mouse to the owl. Sadly, cases like this are common. They are also 100% preventable. Don't trust companies that claim their poison is "safe". Rodenticide (rodent poison) is extremely dangerous for wild and domestic creatures and should never ever be used. If you or someone you know still uses rodent poison, please encourage them to stop.

This male Great Horned Owl was admitted in low weight with poor feathers, external parasites, and likely rodenticide poisoning. 

This little Pine Siskin was found near Hatley, WI with a broken left wing. Pine Siskins are currently on their migration back to Canada for the summer, but this little one will have to wait for his wing to heal. 

This Pine Siskin was admitted with a broken wing. His wings are taped in the proper position to allow the bone to heal correctly. If you look closely you may see a splash of yellow on his tail. The streaks of yellow on the tail and wings of Pine Siskins and their heavily streaked breast and back are identifying characteristics which may help you pick them out of a mixed-species flock.

We do have some good news to tell you about. A little Northern Saw-whet Owl who came to us in late winter after being poisoned has been released! This poor little male was found, puffed up, and unresponsive. He was suffering from internal bleeding that comes along with rodenticide poisoning.

The little male Northern Saw-whet Owl, looking much healthier and alert than when he was admitted, is just moments from release. 

Executive Director of REGI, Marge Gibson gently passes the little Saw-whet to the woman who found him. Without her help and watchful eyes this little male would have died from rodenticide poisoning. Now healed, she sent him back to the wild where he belongs.

I was able to take a small video for you of our Snowy Owl patient eating her lunch. This video may bother some viewers so watch with caution. All of our raptor patients are fed dead animals. In this video the Snowy Owl impressively gulps down her lunch. Find more of our videos at our YouTube Channel!

Video above: This Snowy Owl was admitted to Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI) in February 2012 suffering from starvation and Trichomonas gallinae. She is now strong enough to digest solid food and is shown here eating a dead mouse. She had already gulped down two others by the time I could get my camera ready.

That's all for today! Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator