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Saving Our Avian Resources, SOAR is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1999 dedicated to saving our avian resources through raptor rehabilitation, education, and research. SOAR maintains all necessary US Fish & Wildlife Service and Iowa DNR permits to provide the rehabilitation and education.

We are...

Saving Our Avian Resources (SOAR) is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1999 dedicated to saving our avian resources through raptor rehabilitation, education, and research. SOAR maintains all necessary US Fish & Wildlife Service and Iowa DNR permits to provide the rehabilitation and education.

Our Goals


Neumann receives Ada Hayden award

Kay receives awardKay Neumann, Executive Director, was presented with the 2014 Ada Hayden Conservation Education Award from the Iowa Association of Naturalists / Iowa Conservation Education Coalition for outstanding efforts to education about preservation, land management, or natural resource conservation on January 21, 2015.

Below is an excerpt of her nomination that gives you an incredibly tiny glimpse into Kay's passion:

Kay Neumann has been rehabilitating sick and injured raptors longer than I have known her and longer than the non-profit she started in 1999, SOAR – Saving Our Avian Resources, has been in existence. For Kay, educating others about the natural world around them has often included a non-releasable raptor. Kay’s belief that the incorporation of live animals into educational programming makes lasting impressions on the audience and can help people make personal connections with the topic, with the land, with their surroundings. Add to this the fact that at the heart of Kay’s post-secondary education has been science, research, and wildlife biology.

From those passions grew SOAR – Saving Our Avian Resources and the mission:

  • Establish a regional raptor rehabilitation facility to serve western Iowa.
  • Use personal connections with individual, wild animals to bring attention to important natural resource conservation projects and issues.
  • Conserve habitat, conduct needed research, and provide educational opportunities.

While research and education are part of SOAR’s mission, Kay has tirelessly worked to collect data on admitted lead-affected eagles, educate others about the impacts of lead on bald eagles and other raptors, and simple ways to eliminate this lead exposure. 

Kay (SOAR) and other wildlife rehabilitators in Iowa that work with sick and injured bald eagles all began noticing starting Fall 2004 / Winter 2005 an increase in the number of bald eagles admitted for treatment and the timing of these admits to the deer hunting seasons in Iowa. Wildlife rehabilitators have long been seen as a source of information and monitoring for wildlife health mortality factors, e.g., West Nile Virus, avian flu, illegal activities, and secondary poisonings. Raptor rehabilitators’ work provides a sample of what is happening to birds that would cause death without human intervention. 

In 2004, Kay (SOAR) began collecting specific data on all eagle admits including an x-ray to identify ingested lead fragments and a lead level. Kay encouraged others in the state that admit eagles – MacBride Raptor Project, Orphaned and Injured Wildlife, Inc., Wildlife Care Clinic, Inc., and Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project – to collect the same data. Kay has been the data-keeper for this group. What has this group learned? The data gathered by Iowa wildlife rehabilitators show an alarming rate of lead poisoning and exposure in bald eagles during their wintering cycle in Iowa.

Other research was already published that confirmed that lead from spent ammunition and fishing tackle was the cause for the lead-affected eagles and other raptors being admitted. Kay felt then and still feels the solution is utterly simple. Continue to hunt and fish but do so with non-toxic ammunition and fishing tackle. 

Kay began an education effort focusing on “getting the lead out of hunting” and has tirelessly presented to numerous groups in Iowa and surrounding states. The topic has been met with favor and understanding but also with negative comments of ‘bad science,’ ‘the lead in ammunition isn’t the same as lead in paint or gasoline,’ and ‘…next they’ll want to take our guns.’ The negative comments have been incredibly intimidating, but has not dissuaded Kay from her effort. 

In 2008, she submitted a research paper to The Peregrine Fund, “Bald eagle lead poisoning in winter,” and was accepted for publication as part of the 2008 conference, Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. From here… Kay has talked to wildlife and conservation professionals in Iowa and other states, conservation organizations, college student clubs, and talked with legislators and the Iowa DNR Natural Resources Commission! 

Another way that SOAR is working to educate about the easy solution to lead ammunition impacting raptors – is to provide non-toxic alternatives to shooters and hunters!

  • Provided copper slugs for voluntary use in 2012 and 2013 to the USFWS Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Lost Mound Unit special deer hunts for youth and disabled hunters.  In 2014, this managed deer hunt required the use of non-lead ammunition and had a record number of hunters.
  • Provided steel target load 20 gauge ammunition for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Iowa Outdoor Expo held at Water Works Park in Des Moines
  • Provided copper slugs for voluntary use at mentored youth deer hunt at Springbrook State Park in 2014 and plan to do so again in 2015.

Conservation professionals and hunter groups have been the focus for many years, but also Kay and SOAR are working to provide information to the vast majority of folks that do not hunt, but support responsible and ethical hunting. Here, the focus is on the easy fix to use non-toxic ammunition and fishing tackle, along with info on the impacts of lead on humans and wildlife. Again, Thora, a lead-impacted education bald eagle, is there to show what can go wrong.

Where is Kay and this education effort going next? A veterinary intern at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine is putting finishing touches on the 10+ years of eagles and lead research collected from Iowa wildlife rehabilitators and will submit to a research journal.

This education through programs, presentation, working with scientific organizations, and agencies will continue as long as lead ammunition is still used in hunting and lead tackle is used in fishing. The education may well change as the knowledge level about lead poisoning increases.


Raptor viewing etiquette

We should all observe good raptor viewing etiquette, not only during the nesting season, but also during migration and the winter months when many raptors will gather together in good hunting areas.

Remember that raptors are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and bald and golden eagles have additional protections under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.


Kay has received official word from US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that the 22 June 2014 juvenile eagle admitted from Decorah, IA / Winneshiek County is no longer being held under Kay’s federal rehabilitation permit, this juvenile eagle has been transferred to Kay’s Live Eagle Exhibition Permit!

DecorahDecorah will be his name!

Now Kay will begin his formal training needed to be an education ambassador on the fist. Kay will make leather jesses for him and attach. (Look at photos of Thora to see her leather jesses.) Once “jessed up,” then Kay will start fist-training. Before Decorah is ready to carry out his duties as an education ambassador for SOAR, he will need to be comfortable sitting on Kay’s fist, learn to step to her fist, to the perch, and back, plus he will need practice going in and out of his travel crate! Decorah needs practice sitting on a bow perch (this is what you see Thora sitting on in photos). That’s a great deal of adjustment. There is no set timeline for these activities… how quickly Decorah responds and gains comfort will be the determining factor on training progression. This isn’t a one-week course… this is an open-ended course that requires much consistent work.

Kay is not only going to be working with Decorah, but will be supervising SOAR volunteers Tyler and Terrie to gain the experience needed to someday be additional handlers for Decorah. Both Tyler and Terrie have much experience working with SOAR’s education red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, barred owl and more. USFWS recommends that persons working with a live education eagle gain 500 hours of experience working with eagles over two years. This experience is to include handling an eagle, caring and feeding eagles, captive husbandry techniques (perching, jessing, housing requirements), and medical management. In addition, they will need to present programs using a glove-trained eagle under the supervision of Kay.

As able, we'll post updates on training of eagle and humans here on the home page. His posts will no longer be on the website patient page... Decorah will not be added to the Education page that lists our ambassadors until he is ready for those duties.

**1/24/15 Update - Terrie and Tyler are adding to their needed hours of experience and helped with Bald Eagle Days event at the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center in Nebraska. Terrie had a bit of "fist time" with Thora and transferred her from travel crate to bow perch and back.

**2/11 Update - What training activities are needed for both the ambassador-in-training (AIT) and the educator?

The education bird should be well "manned" before it is used in active programming.

Linette and Scruffy
Working with naturalists at Story County Conservation and staff at the Wildlife Care Clinic, I had the opportunity to learn about educating with raptors with the help of Scruffy the screech owl. About this time, I met Kay and the rest is history, as they say! ~Linette

"Manning" is a falconry term meaning the process of conditioning raptors for handling. This might be first simply sitting with the AIT in their mews. Mews is another falconry term describing the structure or room where the raptor lives. Once the AIT is fitted for bracelets and jesses, the educator can practice with the AIT to quietly step from the perch to the fist. Much time will be spent with the educator having the AIT on the fist sitting, walking, going through doorways, hearing sounds, seeing objects moving, going in and out of the travel box, and in and out of the mews.

Educators first working with an education bird start small! Screech owls and American kestrels are the species that an apprentice can work with. The apprentice needs to learn about natural history, medical management, and programming information on raptors. In addition, the apprentice must spend time with the sponsor learning the fine points of having that bird sit on the fist, how to handle the situation when the bird bates (falconry term meaning attempting to fly when secured to a fist or perch), and how to keep the stress level down for the bird. The educator also needs to learn the individual behavior of each bird they work with, to learn their individual tolerance and/or needs. Some days will be good days, others may not, some education birds may not be bothered by wiggly, giggly preschoolers, some may not tolerate being outside on windy days, some may not do well if used in programming for several days in a row.

With approval of the sponsor and likely additional training, the educator may start working with medium and large size raptors.

To help you all visualize the behind the scenes work that is done, please view this slide show. For now, most of these photos are of Linette and Bella demonstrating much of the training activities. As I can get photos of other training activities of Decorah, Terrie, or Tyler, those will be added.

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Looking for a non-toxic ammo gift for your favorite hunter?

non-lead ammo

Not sure what to get? First, find out what the caliber or gauge of their favorite firearm and then check that against what is available! Does your hunter reload their own cartridges? Not to worry, non-lead bullets are available, too.

Download this list of non-lead hunting bullets and ammunition that not only lists what is available by manufacturer but also lists great websites to purchase on-line.

Here's a short video from our friends at Hunting With Nonlead talking about making the switch!



Human-made hazards abound

It's difficult being a wild creature in the human landscape. Dangers lurk around every corner and navigating them is a challenge. Look out your window and you're likely to see at least a couple hazards for our furred and feathered friends, in fact your window could be a hazard. SOAR admits most patients because of human-bird interaction that has gone wrong -- shotgun pellets in the bird, bird being hit by a vehicle, bird's nest tree cut down, birds colliding with large windows, and birds eating spent lead hunting ammunition just to name a few.

Many of these interactions can have a better outcome with a bit of intervention.

  • Learn about the effective of nonlead ammunition (particularly copper) and share your knowledge with hunters. Here's a short video from our friends at Hunting With Nonlead talking about making the switch! Visit this page for more info, too!
  • Bird safe power poles - Raptor Resource Project blog 11/26/12, scroll down just a bit to get to the entry on the 26th.
  • Perch plans for bird safe power poles on Flickr
  • FLAP - Fatal Light Awareness Program has info on how to reduce bird window collisions and yes, the group is from Canada, but collisions are collisions!
  • Make your own Acopian Bird Savers to prevent bird collisions with windows.

How about planting a seed with your local power company and giving them the "Raptors at Risk" video... order here!

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