What to do if you find an injured or baby bird of prey?
First off, all birds of prey—also known as raptors—are considered “protected wildlife,” which means you cannot legally possess them or any parts of them (even feathers). Federal and State laws carry strict penalties including fines and even jail time for possessing a bird of prey without proper permits. Raptors are wild animals and never domesticate well.
They do NOT make good pets. Falconers and bird of prey educators might make it look easy, but they put hundreds of hours into handling, training, and conditioning their personal raptors to get them to act so tame. It requires so much repetition and dedication that if you were to put the best-trained hawk, falcon, or owl in a cage for just a couple of weeks without the right amount of attention, it will revert back to its old self with the natural fear of humans and act just as wild as the day it first saw you.
It takes a vast amount of practice and understanding to properly care for a bird of prey. They also have a specialized diet. It is not enough to feed them raw meat from the grocery store. They may be able to live for a short time, but in the long run on this type of diet they will succumb to malnourishment due to a lack of proper vitamins and minerals.
Now that you’re armed with this knowledge and brief education you should realize that raptors belong in two settings: one is in the wild, and two is in the hands of trained experts. With that in mind, you’re probably still wondering what to do now as you might be here because you have an injured or baby bird of prey. I have a few ideas listed below, but in any case, I cannot recommend that you handle it. Even young birds of prey have sharp talons and can cause harm to someone who isn’t familiar with them.
People sometimes call me to help them with an injured or baby bird of prey. However, to make a long story short, I personally do not have a raptor rehabilitation license from USFWS because the qualifications for that permit do not overlap with the qualifications required for the three other raptor-related permits that I do possess—falconry, abatement, and propagation. Even with my 35+ years of experience I still do not technically qualify for rehabilitation because I have not spent several years volunteering under a licensed rehabilitator. Therefore, even though I wish I could help you and take your injured or baby bird off your hands, I legally cannot.
You’re probably thinking your next step would be to take it to a local veterinarian, however, it’s imperative that you call first before bringing an injured or baby bird of prey to anyone. Just because they are veterinarians doesn’t mean they are exempt from requiring permits to handle birds of prey. Yes, it’s usually overlooked when the animal needs medical attention, but you have to also remember that many vets only see cats and dogs and don’t have practice handling birds or aren’t equipped to house them or feed them properly.
Now for even more bad news: There are no raptor rehabilitation centers in Las Vegas. There are many decent centers in other states, but it is a USFWS Lacey Act violation to cross state lines with a bird of prey. (They sure don’t make this easy for us, do they!) I recommend not taking the risk. You could call your local Animal Control office to come pick it up, but know they are also not equipped or trained to handle it. The last option is to try and contact Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) or United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and see what they say. They might help (or might not), because as far as I know, neither agencies will take an injured raptor unless it’s a peregrine falcon, golden eagle, or bald eagle.
Is it a fuzzy baby with big eyes, sharp or pointy beak, and scary, sharp talons? (Remember, big or small, they can still draw blood!) In that case the best option is to make sure if you have your cats and dogs locked up and try and find a rehabber to call for immediate advice.
Does it seem to have all of its feathers, but with a little white fuzz on the top of its head? Assuming there are no injuries, it’s just a young bird that is a day or two away from taking flight and chances are very high that its parents know were it is and will continue to bring it food. Leaving it alone is actually its best option for its survival. Be sure to keep house pets locked up and give the fledgling a chance to get back into a tree or up onto a roof top again on its own. Feral and free roaming pet cats are a huge problem for all small wildlife, including young birds of prey. If the juvenile has not moved on within a day or two and the parents are nowhere in sight, you might then consider finding a rehabber to call for advice.
Is it clearly fully grown with an obvious injury and cannot fly away as you approach? Fully grown birds of prey are especially dangerous, so Animal Control might be your best option if you can’t find a rehabber to come help.
Now here is the cold hard truth: Mother Nature is not very kind to birds of prey. About 80% of all juvenile raptors die before their first birthdays. Then add in the man-made threats of cars, power lines, kids with BB guns, fences, and windows, and you’ll understand why the prospects look grim for birds of prey in urban environments. Eighty percent seem pretty high? Well, let’s do some simple math: One pair of red tail hawks can fledge 3 babies per year for 10 years for total of 30 youngsters. Only two have to survive to adulthood to replace the parents and maintain a stable overall population. So, if you find an injured or baby bird of prey and want to help, that’s great, but realistically it would not survive in the wild a second time around if it didn’t make it the first time. If you feel like you can’t just sit by and let nature take its course, here are a few names, numbers, and websites that might help:
(We cannot guarantee that the information below is current! Good luck!)
Nevada, Southern region, Clark County (Las Vegas)….. 702-238-0570
Lisa Ross (Director), Wild Wing Project, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org Wildlife Species: Birds and mammals allowed to be treated by The State of Nevada Specialties/Knowledge: 20+ years in rehabilitation.
Donald Inskeep very small operation mostly golden eagle rehab but might be able to help 775-296-2590
Clark County Animal Control….. http://www.clarkcountynv.gov/administrative-services/animal-control/Pages/default.aspx (702) 455-7710
Out of State:
Arizona, Northwestern region, Mohave County (Lake Havasu)….. 928-855-5083 (humane society #)
Pam Short (rehabber), Havasu Wildlife Rebilitation Center email@example.com Wildlife Species: all species of birds and small mammals as well as birds of prey and hummingbirds Comments: If you need to contact by phone, I work through the Lake Havasu City Western Arizona Humane Society. You may drop off animals there for me to pick up. Their phone number is above.
Arizona, Southwest region, Pima County (Northwest Tucson)….. 520-825-1076
Kathie Schroeder, licensed home wildlife rehabilitator Wildlife Species: I care for all native wildlife with special focus on Bobcat, Cougars, Birds of prey, and other carnivores. Specialties/Knowledge: Bobcats, Mountain lions, Bighorn Sheep, birds of Prey
California, South Central region, Kern County (Bakersfield)….. 661-664-3167
Marlene Benton (coordinator), FACT – Facility for Animal Care & Treatment Wildlife Species: Raptors mostly (hawks, eagles, owls), will accept some carnivores especially kit fox. We do not accept perching birds, our website has a FAQ page on how to raise baby birds. Specialties/Knowledge: Raptor Rehab Comments: Donor funded program on the California State University Bakersfield campus
California, West Central region (Morgan Hill)….. 408-779-9372
Sue Howell, W.E.R.C., Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center firstname.lastname@example.org Specialty: native wildlife rehabilitation – primarily birds, wildlife education, and internships Comments: IWRC accredited facility; member of CCWR, NWRA, and IWRC