In 2020, 153 birds were admitted to our National Bird of Prey Hospital™. As in previous years, the most numerous species brought to us were Tawny Owls, Kestrels and Buzzards. Two of the last birds to be admitted late in 2020, spent Christmas at the Trust and were both released very recently!
At the beginning of December 2020, a Tawny Owl was admitted to our care after being found on the side of the road. From our knowledge of this species and the behaviour of this bird, we think it was hit by a car; sadly, collisions with cars are a common cause of injuries in birds of prey. Fortunately, after an examination by our vet John Chitty, it was found that the owl didn’t appear to have any serious injuries and had a very good chance of recovery. Prior to its accident, this Tawny Owl was clearly doing very well in the wild, shown by its healthy feather and body condition. We kept the owl in one of our inside treatment bays for a few days to allow us to monitor its progress closely; it was then moved into an outside aviary to build up fitness. We are delighted to report that after some time to regain its strength, we released it back to the wild on Sunday 17 January!
Another bird admitted in November was a female Kestrel. This bird had already spent some time at another rescue centre, however she needed more space to recover so was brought to our specialist facilities. On arrival, it was evident that there was a problem with her right wing, which had a number of primary feathers – the long flight feathers on a bird’s wing – missing. However, we understood just what she required, she simply needed time for her feathers to regrow, and the space to stretch her wings and regain confidence and strength to get back out there! We were extremely pleased with her weight gain of 50 grams, excellent for a bird of this size. We are very happy that she was released back into the wild in January.
Hannah Shaw, our Conservation and Research Liaison, went along with Cedric Robert, our Hospital Manager, to release the Kestrel, not too far from the Trust. They took a short walk into the countryside, away from main roads, to find some suitable habitat, and settled on an area with plenty of hedgerows, large trees and rough grassland, which is ideal for Kestrels. On release, it flew wonderfully well, and briefly landed in a large tree as pointed out by Cedric. We purposely released it towards the trees to allow it to rest if needed, however we needn’t have worried as the eagle-eyed among you will still be able to see it circle back and fly the whole length of the huge field beside them!
Both of these birds were fitted with a BTO ring by our conservation biologist Dr Matt Stevens, which is a metal leg ring with a unique identification number that provides a reliable and harmless method of identifying birds as individuals. It is always very satisfying to be able to help injured wild birds but especially because both Kestrels and Tawny Owls are Amber-listed species of conservation concern in the UK. A happy ending for the beginning of 2021 when we all need to hear some good news!