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.
- 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.
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.
Raptor Resource Project announced on Sunday, March 8, that the eaglet from the 2014 nest with a location transmitter had been found dead, see photo at right of Bob Anderson. The transmitter is programmed to send a 'mortality ping' if there is no movement in a certain time period, usually 24 hours. "Four" was found below a utility pole and exam confirmed electrocution was her cause of death.
This death also highlights the extreme difficulty that first year raptors face. This Decorah nest technically had no wild survivors. Two of the juveniles have been electrocuted and the third was rescued near the nest with a broken humerus and brought to SOAR. More info on him below. When a wild animal is brought to a rehabilitation center, that is considered a wild mortality because without human intervention, that animal would have died.
- Listen to this Iowa Public Radio Talk of Iowa Wildlife Day program from March 10, 2015 featuring Bob Anderson of RRP and Jim Pease, wildlife biologist and ISU professor emeritus.
What can you do to help prevent further electrocution mortalities? (The points below are from the RRP announcement on Facebook.)
- Find out whether your utility has an avian protection plan. If they don't, they should consider adopting one. An APP helps keep animals, equipment, and people safe. Learn more about the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee and avian protection plans here.
- Report electrocuted birds and other animals to your power company. Electrocutions are deadly to animals, harmful to equipment, and potentially dangerous to human beings.
- Report collisions to your power company. While our eagles have been electrocuted perching on poles, collisions are also deadly. Swan diverters and other deterrents can be installed.
- If you are a member of an electric cooperative, make your concerns known to the board. I know of at least one electric cooperative in the process of retrofitting all of their poles. Electrocutions destroy equipment, require unscheduled repair time, and are expensive.
Many human-wildlife 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... the order link on this website goes to a bad page, but there is an email address in the text!
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.
- Respect landowners and do not trespass.
- If you see raptors on the ground, do not approach or feed.
- USFWS mandates safe viewing of bald eagle nests of at least 330 ft away.
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!
Decorah 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 - Decorah sits on the big shelf so he can look out the window. That is obviously more fun than sitting on the bow perch that doesn't have quite that view. The plan WAS to put bracelets / jesses on Decorah, however, he has about five tail feathers growing in and do not want to disturb or damage these new feathers. We want a nice tail! These new feathers are only three to four inches long right now, so a couple more weeks to go at least.
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.
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.
**3/8 Update - Tail feathers... January through March is not the time of year that birds should be molting feathers. In February, Decorah had five new tail feathers growing. The feathers grew about half-way in and then the blood supply to the feather dried up and the feather dropped out of the follicle. A blood supply to the feather is necessary for feather growth. This has happened more than once. A consult with Dr. Dirks tells us to be patient. Dr. Dirks is hopeful that once the photo-period is correct and that stimulates hormone production that signals molting, that Decorah's tail feathers will grow in as we all hope. Doctor also said there could be follicle damage. At some point, Decorah will go visit Dr. Dirks for another consult regarding those tail feather follicles. Getting jesses on Decorah is back on the "to do list" for us. Once he has jesses, then training activities can begin.
Looking for a non-toxic ammo gift for your favorite hunter?
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!