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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.

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Eagle Summer 2014

A perspective from SOAR Executive Director, Kay Neumann

Usually summers are relatively quiet here at SOAR; young kestrels and screech owls that need a little food and flight time; the occasional Coopers hawk and window collision, red-tailed hawks and car collisions, baby vultures and hollow tree removal. Well quiet might not be the right word. But usually we do not admit any eagles. Lead poisoning is a fall and winter problem. Summer should be safe. It seems about every other year we will get in a young eagle that needs our help. So when Cynthia called that she was delivering a young eagle from Decorah, I thought, here’s our one. Thought too soon! Our summer eagle admits at SOAR are up to seven, six hatch-years and a one-year-old!

In normal years, eagles do well – a secure nest, lots of parental care. They usually don’t need us for a thing. This summer was different and I’m hoping not to be repeated.

Decorah juvenileOur first admit was the Decorah juvenile. On my first look over, I was not encouraged. I could feel the humerus fracture just below the shoulder joint, but it was not a compound fracture (bones sticking out of the skin) and he wasn’t extremely thin. So maybe he had a chance. Then I discovered the maggot infestation in the wound on his back just above the tail. It is a normal summer occurrence when birds have an open wound and are too weak to preen, the flies lay eggs, and the maggots invade. Several hours of manual maggot removal over the next couple days, with betadine and Neosporin for the wound and we had won the maggot battle! But they had invaded the tail feather shafts to get at the last bit of blood and destroyed the feathers. We could only hope that the feather follicles were intact and he would regrow those tail feathers. He needed a couple more days of food and fluids to build strength for a visit to our veterinarian, Dr. Dirks. An x-ray showed an oblique humerus fracture near the shoulder joint, but with a long enough piece of bone at the shoulder to warrant trying to pin the pieces together. Surgery and having a bird under anesthesia are always nerve wracking for me, but he made it through with flying colors and now just needed to stay quiet, eat, and heal.

Then a starving hatch year female came in from Webster County, near Boone Forks (where the Boone River forks…) Park. The Conservation Officer answered the call and picked her up from the side of the road. She was so weak and starving, I wasn’t sure if she was going to be alive when we got back to SOAR. Amazingly with a little fluids and a lot of food, and some wormer for good measure, she steadily gained weight. She and Decorah bonded and I think they both felt more comfortable not being alone in SOAR’s 20 X20 foot intensive care area.

Indee-area eagleNot the end of it yet. Linette picked up and delivered another hatch year male from near Independence. The landowner had been watching the nest and kept an eye on the young eaglets on the ground when they first fledged a little early. Of course hoping the adults would care for them on the ground. When he found two dead, he knew it was time to get the other one some care. This baby was very thin and started having seizures. A consult with Dr. Dirks lead to a diagnosis of West Nile Virus. If we can get nutrition in our West Nile Virus patients and they have some reserves left, they can fight it off. It is a lot like the flu and normal immune systems seem to be able to handle it. It was not to be, this little male had no reserves. What next, I thought. Remind me not to think that anymore, because, of course, there’s always a next.

The Project AWARE, volunteer river clean-up crew, were the next to call. While canoeing the Little Sioux they came across a hatch year eagle standing wobbily next to his dead sibling. They gave him a canoe ride to the next boat ramp, where Tyler was able to meet them and bring our fourth eagle of the summer to SOAR. Project AWARE was thin, not seeing well out of one eye, and had a fractured ulna just above the wrist joint, oh my! Food, fluids, eye ointment, a vet visit (with the fracture not being pinnable), and some TLC got him through. He is just beginning to try to use his wing.

Okay, really, four is enough…. Glenda calls with another eagle, this time a one year old from Dickinson County. This female is not thin and is eating like a trooper. An x-ray shows an inoperable ulna fracture just below the elbow joint. Dr. Dirks gives a poor prognosis for the elbow joint functioning properly after healing.

The Conservation Officer from Clay County calls, just as we were packed and loaded for a day of programs, with another eagle he retrieved from the roadside without a fight. Luckily, Terrie had just finished up releasing some kestrels and was off to meet the Officer. The Clay County hatch year female just wanted to sleep. I could poke her with my finger and she would only open one eye – with the “leave me alone” look. This is a classic West Nile Virus symptom. Then, just as she was on the road to recovery her breathing became labored and horribly raspy. Aspergillosis. A consult with Dr. Dirks confirmed that suspicion, as he had seen this before; a bird’s immune system is compromised fighting off one virus, leaving an opening for a fungus! Clay is getting daily treatments of the newest anti-fungal drug, this requires tube feeding her to make sure the medicine is dissolved and gets in the bird. I am not her favorite person right now, but she seems to be responding with less labored breathing and quite a bit of fight left over!

Meanwhile back in the 20X20 ICU, Decorah juvenile has had the pin removed from his humerus and has had his wing in wraps for another week. It’s time to stretch things out and see what we’ve got. He is not wanting to move the wing on his own, so a little physical therapy is done. Joints seem to be working and we give him more time. A move to the large 100 foot flight pen is in order. He and Boone Forks adjusted well to the large area, eating and taking baths. Decorah still does not want to lift his wing at the shoulder joint, but is growing in some tail feathers.

eagle was stuck in water racewayThen, hopefully, the last odd circumstance of the summer; a hatch year eagle trapped in a water treatment holding tank. She got in and couldn’t quite spread her wings out enough to get herself out. Iowa DNR staff came to the rescue and got her out. Deb was able to corral her and bring her into SOAR, for a bath and a few free meals. This Des Moines female has no broken bones, only a little slime. She will spend a few days in the big flight pen to be sure she is ready to go, then back to her nest mate and parents.

With Boone Forks making full length flights in the flight pen and Decorah still not wanting to stretch out his wing fully, it was time for Decorah to have another visit with Dr. Dirks. An exam and another x-ray told us that the bone had finished healing with a nice calcified lump. Without the calcification we would not have a stable bone, but it is impeding his shoulder joint. Decorah did not have a lucky break, in the middle of the bone a calcified lump is no big deal, too close to a joint it means you will not fly. Every joint needs to work perfectly for wings to get you into the air. People can get by with a stiff shoulder, they can always learn to hold the fork with their other hand. Birds need fully functioning joints to survive in the wild. So now what?

SOAR has permits with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Iowa DNR, these permits allow SOAR to do wildlife rehabilitation and to hold some non-releaseable birds to use for educational programs. We hope to add Decorah to our education staff. His wing does not droop, so he is able to move around easily in a big pen. He is eating well, bathing, and getting up to perches. These are all things that we look for when deciding on candidates for education. Since he really has not had much of a chance to be wild, he is quite moldable and should condition nicely to being around people. We will put the request into our agencies to add him to our permits.

This is not the outcome that we hope for when we admit a bird. We want them all to be able to go free, back to the wild. Many have injuries that are too severe, they die or need to be euthanized. Many we can return to the wild for a second chance, Boone Forks and Des Moines are well on their way down this path. Then we have the almost category. We did everything we could for Decorah, the fracture was just too close to his shoulder.

SOAR gets to inspire so many people each year with a close-up view of a live raptor. I know we are planting many sparks of conservation as we go. One person might be convinced to switch (or convinces a friend to switch) to non-lead ammunition and tackle or someone might start a project to make power poles safe or someone makes  a contribution to protecting quality wildlife habitat or someone pursues a career in conservation. Everything has a beginning, a spark. I’m hoping this will be another beginning for Decorah and he will be the spark for many other good things for eagles and wildlife.

If you managed to read all the way through, you will have seen a lot of names! Thank you to all of SOAR’s dedicated volunteers and supporters and natural resources staff. It has been a summer of many people helping many eagles. These are all connections that I’m betting we will rely on in the future.

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SOAR celebrated 15th Anniversary

Thank you to all who attended or wanted to attend (and were there in spririt)! Photos will be up soon.


USFWS Region 3 shared research

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge hosted four informational sessions to share the results of research demonstrating the relationship between lead ammunition and lead exposure in bald eagles in early June. The presentation highlighted results from the two-year study which collected 168 deceased eagles from the Upper Midwest and examined them for lead exposure.

The informational sessions are past, but you can still chime in!

Written suggestions and recommendations on ways to reduce lead on the Refuge can be mailed to:

Wildlife Refuge Manager
51 East 4th St, Room 101
Winona, MN 55987

OR emailed to:


USFWS Region 3 bald eagle lead exposure research

The March 2014 issue of "Inside Region 3" is the first of three articles on the bald eagle lead exposure study conducted in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The second and third articles will be printed in April (focuses on public outreach effort) and May (focuses on quantity of lead shot during our managed hunts). (280 KB PDF)

The research done by Ed Britton and staff at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge will soon be published in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. Here is the link to the abstract. SOAR helped with this research.

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SOAR and osprey reintroduction in 2014

osprey nestSOAR volunteers went to northern Minnesota on 14-15 July to bring back young osprey for release in Iowa. No more than seven birds will be collected under a US Fish & Wildlife Service permit. Birds will be placed at hack towers at Swan Lake State Park in Carroll County and in Clear Lake. As always, special thanks to Allete / Minnesota Power lineman and their supervisors and Pat Schlarbaum with Iowa DNR for his assistance! Learn more about SOAR's involvement with the osprey reintroduction project here. Photos below from the 2014 collection event.

**7/15 Update - three younger and three older osprey arrive with Terrie late last night! Thanks to Terrie and Tyler for helping out! Three of the osprey will go to the Clear Lake tower after wormed, received a West Nile vaccination, and make sure they are eating good.

**7/18 Update - All osprey ears have been checked and no maggots! They have a few feather lice, but not bad... all have been treated with ivomectin. The three older / bigger osprey are contained in one area and the three younger have been moved today to their own small space.

**7/26 Update - With Terrie's help, the older three osprey chicks were delivered to the hack tower in Clear Lake!

**8/2 Update - Ron Andrews reports that all is well with the Clear Lake osprey. Ron is a retired Iowa DNR biologist and is the project coordinator in charge of that hack tower.

**Mason City Globe Gazette coverage from 8/2/14 - Operation Osprey

** Iowa DNR press release Osprey Nesting in Iowa

**8/2 Update - The three younger osprey are ready to be moved to the hack tower at Swan Lake State park.

Day 1 in tower**8/4 Update - Moving day for the younger osprey to Swan Lake State Park. They are all settled in! The tower has nice shade and a good breeze today. These young osprey will be fed here and here is where they will test their wings and make first flights. Where a young bird learns to fly tends to be where they nest. The osprey will be fed and watered daily. The doors on the hack tower will remain closed until they are ready for that first flight attempt. They will continue to be provided with food and water as they learn how to fly and become proficient hunters. This supplemental feeding will continue until the osprey have left the area on their first migration to Central or South America.

**8/14 Update - Vic reports that all three at Swan Lake State Park are doing great! The "runt" still needs banded as he was too small to band during collection and will be banded before the gates are opened on the tower.

10 days in the hack tower

**8/20 Update - Project band identification letters for this year are: BV, TP, and BS. Social commentary aside... these three will soon all be ready to have the hack tower gates open! We want a nest structure to be in place (as a target landing for their maiden flights) before we open the gates.

**8/29 Update - The gates at the Swan Lake State Park hack tower are open and maiden flights have begun! Pictures below from the day!

**9/1 Update - Two osprey on the tower this morning.

new nest structure**9/5 Update - Carroll County Conservation employees finished erecting the nesting structure and it appears the osprey were circling as they worked... as if impatiently waiting for a spot to land!

Fish needed! Feeding carp is a win-win as the carp can easily overwhelm a fishery; carp are an invasive species and the carp provide the food needed for our education osprey and the osprey for reintroduction at the Swan Lake State Park hack tower! (The eagles will eat carp, too!)

Only fish caught with non-toxic tackle or by bowfishing are acceptable -- carp are good, other fish acceptable as well. Please follow all fishing rules and regulations, and remove all hooks and tackle. Freeze the fish, then contact us!

Nesting success?

Since 1997, 291 ospreys have been released at twelve sites in Iowa. Since 2003, 134 wild ospreys have been produced at 80 successful nests. Wild hatched osprey may be banded as part of the reintroduction effort and receive a green project band on their left leg and a USFWS silver band on the right leg. In 2013, 18 nesting pairs had 14 successful nest attempts with 29 young produced. 

Female Y8 (she was hacked at the Lake Red Rock tower in 2006) along with a mate that fledged three young on a cell tower nest near Des Moines in 2014 will be included in this year's statistics.

Last year folks told us they saw Y8 with an Iowa-hatched male (the bird was wearing a green band). This year, we have pictures of her with another bird that could also have been hacked from the Lake Red Rock Tower, we just can't confirm his Iowa band letters (purple band). Thanks to B Manning and C Hansen for watching Y8 this summer, sharing their photos, and helping us figure out the mystery of who is with Y8! After looking at several pictures, we're fairly sure the project band is a faded purple band CN. That osprey was hacked from the tower at Don Williams Park near Boone, IA in 2006.


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Sculpture wins big for artist!

sculptureJennifer Felton used SOAR's education short-eared owl as a study model for her wood carving. Here's what she had to say after a recent competition she entered, "I ribboned which is an accomplishment at the world level for sure! I moved up to the professional level for the first time. Most of the carvers at that level have been carving for 20-30 years. It was stiff competition. I was pleased to have received an honorable mention (so I took 4th out of 12)."







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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