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


  1. Thank you for sharing your stories and for being there to help

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about the osprey, but very thankful he's found his way into your care. I've spent many hours walking along the river in Wausau photographing these magnificent raptors.

    I hope you don't mind, but I've linked an upcoming blog post to a few of your images in hopes of both raising awareness as well as garnering support for your cause. It's scheduled to publish on Thursday (4/26) and I'll try to post a link back here.

    Keep up the great work. We all appreciate it.

    Ken Schram