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PSA: Spotting Sick or Injured Birds of Prey

Ferruginous Hawk

True or False: When birds of prey are on the ground it always means that they are injured.

False! Sometimes if a bird of prey is on the ground it can be partaking in normal behaviour. They could be simply eating a meal or resting. Often predatory birds will have a rest period after eating to digest their food. So, how can one determine if a bird of prey is truly in need of medical attention?

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Here are a few signs that a bird of prey may require help. Some physical signs may be abnormal-looking wing placement (such as a drooping or dragging wing), or irregular manner of walking such as limping. If the bird of prey is acting abnormally such as falling over, walking in circles, or staying in one spot for an extended period of time this also may indicate illness or injury. If you see a bird of prey on the ground for an extended period, look around for dangers that may have caused injury to the bird. For example, is there a road with fast-moving cars nearby, are there power lines above, are you on a golf course where fast-moving projectiles may be flying by, or is there a reflective window or surface nearby? Any of these variables could indicate that the bird of prey may have sustained an injury. There are of course other circumstances that cause injury, but the aforementioned are the most commonly reported to us here at Calgary Wildlife.

American Kestral

Birds of prey must only be handled by someone who is trained in proper handling techniques. These birds have sharp beaks and talons and even despite their possible injuries, they can be ready to strike at whatever comes near them. They also have fragile wings and feathers that can be easily damaged during handling. Our team at Calgary Wildlife takes precautions by using leather gloves and towels when handling birds of prey. The thick leather gloves are to protect the handler from beaks and talons and the towel is to cover the head of the bird to lower stress levels. Even with these precautions, training on how to handle such large birds is very important to prevent injury to both the handler and the bird. Because of these dangers, only those with proper training should handle ill or injured birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, owls, and eagles.

Juvenile Great Horned Owl

If you come across a bird of prey that appears to be injured or sick, your first course of action should be to contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitation organization. The trained staff will know which questions to ask to determine the appropriate course of action and will guide you on what needs to be done. At Calgary Wildlife, our team is trained in handling birds of prey and can provide assistance when an injured or sick bird is spotted.

Think you've come across an injured or ill bird of prey? Call our hotline at 403-214-1312.

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