2013: A Year in Review at ORC

In 2013 we had close to 1,000 birds come through our doors for rehabilitation.  Sadly, most of the cases we see are due to some kind of human impact, which is why our education programs are so important.  California Edison granted us the funds to provide 30 donated programs to low-income schools in the coming year.  We are very excited to present the birds to children who have never had the opportunity to see them before.  You never know what child you might inspire, and as we say in the rehabilitation community: "more education = less rehabilitation" 

Pictured above is our Red-tailed Hawk ambassador, Rosie, who is unreleasable due to a broken wing that didn’t heal correctly.  Birds’ bones are hollow and because of this they heal as quickly as 10 days.  We fix broken wings at the Ojai Raptor Center often with success, but if the bone has been broken for more than a week, the chances of that bird being releasable are very slim.  This is what happened to Rosie.

Red-tailed Hawks only get their ‘red’ tails when they reach maturity, at around 2 years of age, yet with such a high mortality rate, most of them never acquire this plumage.  In 2013 we received 81 Red-tailed Hawks in for rehabilitation; 41 of them were adults, and 40 juveniles, or babies.  Here are some photos of just a few of the orphaned baby Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks we received in the Spring of 2013.  This little one’s nest was trimmed out of a tree (one of the more common reasons orphaned baby birds are admitted to the Center). 

Baby Red-Tailed Hawk. My eyes are blue now, but when I mature they will turn brown 

Baby Red-Tailed Hawk. My eyes are blue now, but when I mature they will turn brown 

This year, we received 30 American Kestrels.  Twenty one of those were babies, which is more American Kestrel juveniles than we have seen in the past 5 "baby seasons" (ie: Springs), which is a good thing, as their numbers are on the decline again due to pesticide use.  Even though they are the smallest Falcons in North America, they have big and fierce personalities, displayed perfectly in this photo that was shot upon this baby’s initial exam while his weight was being recorded:

Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls always top the list as far as how many we receive annually.  In 2013 we received 55 Great Horned Owls, and 88 Barn Owls, of which, more than half were juveniles.  Here are some of the orphaned baby Great Horned Owls of Spring 2013:

and here are just a few of the Barn Owls who came through our doors in 2013...

In 2013 we received 4 passage Merlin Falcons in for rehabilitation..

We also received 41 Western Screech Owls in for rehabilitation in 2013.  These owls don't grow much bigger as adults than they are as juveniles, and most people would agree that they are no less cute as adults than they are as babies, either.  Here are two of the screech owlets we took in last year. 

This year we only received 2 adult Peregrine Falcons in for rehabilitation.  These birds can be difficult to successfully rehabilitate when injured because of the way they hunt, and cannot be released with any kind of asymmetry or imperfections.  They hunt other birds on the wing in complex aerial dives and turns.  They are the fastest flying (and moving) creatures on the planet, achieving speeds of over 240 mph during one of their stoopsor dives, when they attack their prey.  The falcon below was placed in an educational program as he was unfortunately not releasable to the wild.

In 2013 we took in a few species that we don’t often see admitted to ORC like this baby Black-crowned Night Heron....

Check out the gape on that baby!

Check out the gape on that baby!

and we received 5 Burrowing Owls, which are listed under the endangered species act, all of which were released!  The one below fell into an oil seep and needed to be washed before he could be released back to the wild...

Post oil-removal bath, all clean and ready to go!

Post oil-removal bath, all clean and ready to go!

We received another special species of concern, also listed as endangered, that we very rarely see come into our Center.  In 2013 we were brought one Short Eared Owl with a broken wing.  Director, Kim Stroud, has been working with raptors for 20 years, and during that time, she has only received 2 Short Eared Owls in for rehabilitation even though they are native to our area.  These owls are diurnal (day active) and do not make nests, or even nest in trees.  They rest, nest, and feed on the ground in open fields and grasslands, and are extremely vulnerable to many natural and unnatural (domestic) predators because of their natural history.  Because they choose to inhabit flat, open land, they are experiencing a major loss to their natural habitat in our area, making their species decline at a concerning rate.  We are proud to report that we successfully rehabilitated and released this Short Eared Owl back to the wild where he came from, in Santa Barbara County

rehabilitating

rehabilitating

ready for release!

ready for release!

Surprise! We don’t exclusively rehabilitate birds of prey at the Ojai Raptor Center, or just birds for that matter.  In fact, we just so happen to love Opossums at ORC and rehabilitate a lot of these often misunderstood creatures every year, and in 2013 we rehabilitated 73 of them

We received a few mammals last year which were very unusual for us, such as this beautiful Grey Fox who was admitted with a broken leg and was successfully rehabilitated and released in the Fall...

and we successfully rehabilitated two skunks last year including this baby..

The most unusual intake of 2013 was by far this little hedgehog that we grew quite fond of, but finally placed at Moonridge Zoo in Big Bear.  Someone must of brought him into our state illegally, and then either released him, or he escaped.  (Hedgehogs are not native to California and are illegal to keep as pets)

As we brace ourselves at the Center for the 2014 baby season that has just officially begun, we wonder what strange critters we will encounter in the coming year...

May you soar wild and free in 2014 from all of us at ORC :)

Director Kim Stroud releasing a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk

Director Kim Stroud releasing a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk