BIRDS OF PREY SHORT TERM CARE by Linda Dennis
I advise, if you can, that you do not attempt to handle or feed any Raptor (Bird of Prey). Raptors, such as eagles, falcons, kestrels and hawks have extremely strong & sharp beaks and talons (claws), and they can do incredible damage if given the chance.
However, if you don't have a choice, then only ever attempt to pick up a raptor if it is covered with a blanket or something similar. Smaller raptors are easy to pick up once they've got a blanket or towel over them, the best place to put your hands is on the body around the chest area pinning down its wings. If the bird is panicky, try to keeps its legs apart so that it doesn't grip onto itself and cause injuries with its talons.
An eagle is a little more difficult to pick up, due to its incredible strength. Once the blanket is over the bird run your hands down over its body and down its legs to just above the feet, grip tightly (but not too tight to hurt the bird). When you pick it up, keep the body of the bird close to your chest with its legs are pointing away from you. Try and pin its wings down with your arms so that it can't flick them out.
Picking up a raptor is at your own responsibility and risk. Wildlife carers are trained on the correct handling of raptors so that they minimise risk of personal injury. If you are unsure about the correct way to handle a raptor - then don't. Ring your nearest veterinarian, wildlife organisation or experienced carer as soon as possible.
Do not feed any wild animal for at least a few hours after rescue - they need to have their stress levels reduced and too much human contact can send them into shock.
Additionally, it is very important that you do not feed a cold animal as any food will not be digested properly and the bird may die. If the rescued bird is cold you will need to warm it very slowly (over a period of 2 hours) - if you warm the bird too quickly it may also die from heat-stress related complications. An animal that is badly injured or sick will not want to eat. If this is the case, just leave the bird until an experienced carer can collect it, or take it to a veterinarian.
With any raptor it is very important to give it the correct diet. Steak from the butchers is not a healthy option. Raptors need guts and fur/feathers in their diet and generally the best choices are rabbit, rats, chickens, etc.
Be careful when euthanasing (killing) animals, using chemical solutions will be passed on to the bird and will be fatal. Also, animals which have been shot could contain lead particles which will eventually kill the bird. If you can't get hold of any of these types of food, then lean meat is a short term option.
When feeding aim to give enough to the bird so that there is a little left over. Discard left overs daily (unless they are carrion feeders, such as eagles). Interestingly a raptor chick will eat twice as much as an adult.
Feeding a raptor is actually quite tricky as different breeds need vitamin and mineral supplements. It is best to consult a veterinarian, wildlife organisation or experienced carer for the proper diet for each raptor.
Please remember that these birds can do a great deal of damage if handled by an inexperienced person. A wild bird will be very scared when coming into contact with humans, and it could become aggressive and attack, purely to protect itself.
I can't stress enough the importance of keeping away from those sharp talons, an eagle can easily punch a considerable sized hole into your flesh.
For their own safety keep your family, friend and pets away from the bird at all times.
Please contact Linda Dennis on 0416 014 466 or visit Forth Crossing Wildlife's website here.
*** Please note that most raptors are protected under the Australian law.
Any involvement in caring for wildlife is done entirely at your own risk.
The author accepts no liability for injuries or difficulties arising from your involvement.