Thursday, June 24, 2010

Birds of Prey...and a Tortoise

On Monday we had a wonderful presentation at our monthly Master Gardener meeting by Rebecca McKeever of Lone Star Wildlife Rescue. Rebecca is a great speaker -- knowledgeable about a variety of animals, experienced (20 years) as a wildlife rehabilatator, and possessing a great sense of humor -- but the birds still stole the show, as I'm sure was intended! I wish I had written this post immediately while details were fresh in my mind but other events intervened. If you notice something that needs to be corrected or amended, please add a comment!

The first bird of prey we saw was a Great Horned Owl, out on his (or her?) first large group speaking engagement. The goal of rehabilitators is to care for injured animals who can then be released back into the wild. This isn't always possible, if the injury causes lasting effects making it impossible for the animal to function in the wild. When this happens the animal is placed in a facility, or may become an educational ambassador, making trips to speak to school groups, or adult groups like ours. This owl is blind in one eye, and therefore a poor hunter who would not be able to survive in the wild.

We thought this screech owl was a real little cutie, but ssshhhhhh! Rebecca said he thinks he's very scary! Guess what his favorite food is -- cockroaches! That's right! It's a nasty job but someone's gotta do it, and thank goodness!

This is an incredibly beautiful bird -- a White-tailed Hawk named Laredo. The only place in Texas these birds are found is by the Mexican border. Rebecca explained that most wild animals who are brought to a shelter have been injured by contact with humans, rather than natural causes.

Laredo was hit by a car, which is a common cause of injury to animals. The crash broke the "elbow" part of his wing, making it impossible to fly. You can see that he can't extend his left wing like he can the right. Luckily, thanks to LSWR, he found a job on the talk show circuit, and is quite the crowd-pleaser!

This majestic lady is Isabelle, a Red-tailed Hawk. Like Laredo, Isabelle can't fly. Rebecca explained that molting and nesting season has begun, and as Isabelle is a veteran ambassador, she knows full well that she is scheduled to be on vacation, and not out visiting Master Gardeners. This makes her a little hormonal. Did you know that hawks kill with their feet? You don't want to rile Isabelle!

Finally, we had the treat of meeting a Texas Tortoise. This one was found in someone's pocket at the airport, which is illegal as they are a threatened species. Rebecca explained that not only are they susceptible to respiratory infections, they can also carry a disease back to other turtles and tortoises if they are released back into the wild. This article from the Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society is quite informative about the Texas Tortoise and their plight.
Everyone in attendance seemd to enjoy the presentation very much! The Lone Star Wildlife Rescue is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization existing on tax-deductible donations -- please visit their website for more information about the good work they do!


paula said...

anything that eats cockroaches has got to be tough....thats gross!

Cynthia said...

Isn't it? But you know the saying -- different strokes for different folks!

Samara said...

In someone's pocket at the airport? So ten-year-old boy!