Feeding a Kestrel

Well, now here is an interesting chunk of fur. It's a chunk of gray squirrel tail--that in and of itself is not all that exciting. However, where it was found is most intriguing: inside the mew of Maxime, an education bald eagle at The Raptor Center (the same one some of you saw at CONvergence this year). Here's the really interesting part: we don't feed the ed birds squirrel...ever. As if that's not enough, this eagle was on a tether (or leash) while perched in her mew, so this squirrel had to come up to her. Strange, I'm gonna guess this was a little bit of the Darwin Effect going on. Although, several years ago, the education golden eagle lived in that same mew and was on a tether and periodically you would find squirrel tails. Must be stupid squirrel corner.

Our new assistant curator, the fabulous Gail Buhl was moving ed birds around and I took advantage of her holding some of them in daylight to get a photo. This is our dark morph red-tailed hawk (this is not a Harlan's red-tailed hawk--it has a red tail and Harlan's do not have red tails). This bird is primarily used as a display bird, it doesn't seem to have the temperament for programs just yet. I normally don't get to see it in good light and Gail was kind enough to pause for a photo. This bird is actually from Nebraska. We don't see too many dark morph red-tails in Minnesota, there's one that has been hanging around hwy 100 near 494 in the south metro the last few winters, but I usually see these guys further west in the US. I always see between 3-5 when I go to Nebraska to watch sandhill cranes in March. I love 'em, they look like they were carved out of dark chocolate.

We have another new education bird--a boreal owl. From what I understand, the bird is still in training and so most of the time is tucked away in a dark mew. For those non birders reading the blog, this is as big as these owls get, it's fully grown. Not much is known, they are found in the boreal forest of Minnesota. I don't know that much about them so I was reading up a little on BNA tonight. I was reading about their usual prey items and it started out as a long list of various types of voles when I came to this part:

"birds, especially thrushes (Catharus spp.), warblers, Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Mountain Chickadee (Parus gambeli), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammeus), kinglets, and woodpeckers; and insects, especially crickets, are usual prey"

Thrushes? Robins? Crossbills? Some of those species are about as long as the boreal owl. Impressive.

Boreal owls look like a shrinky dink version of a northern hawk owl. This is a vex bird for me, I've done everything legally I can with one of these birds apart from seeing it in the wild, just doing it thang. I've had one perched on my fist, I've held a banded one from a net, I've even had one ride in my car, but I have never, ever seen a boreal owl in the wild. Ah well, another bird for another day.

Later on this morning I got to feed one of our male education kestrels. When I give programs, I just don't always pay attention to how colorful these guys are. This is Jack, getting his lunch on with a mouse head.

He came in to TRC about six years ago. A nest of kestrels fell during a storm and someone took care of them for a few days--just enough time for all the chicks to imprint on humans and become unreleasable. There were three males and because kestrels have a habit of bobbing their heads, we called them the three Bobs--which just became really confusing and we had to color code their jesses (the leather straps on their feet) in order to tell them apart. Eventually, their names settled to Baron, Jack, and Bob. Bob ended up at a nature center but we still have Jack and Baron.

And of course I had to take a video of Jack finishing off his mouse. I opted for him eating the last bit of mouse leg. I did get a video of him eating the head, but there are some serious crunching sounds. This video might be a tad gross for those eating a meal or those who have a weak stomach so be warned before you watch.

I didn't realize how much I was cheering him on while he was eating.

Cute! Jack has a mouse mustache!

I used to take the 35W bridge to and from The Raptor Center, so I had to find an alternate route today. It was weird driving by the exit and seeing the highway I have used so regularly become this strange and mysterious road that suddenly drops out of site. Sunday, they allowed the public a closer view and on Monday a friend and I went to see how close we could get--pretty darned close. This was down by one of the media tents that has been set up to keep reporters and cameras out of the sun or rain as they deliver non stop coverage. I have seen this particular pile of cars numerous times in the media coverage, but it was still jarring to see it in person. My heart goes out to the families of the dead, injured and missing, but at the same time, after seeing how large this collapse was in person, I am so grateful it wasn't worse--if all eight lanes had been open and cars going the usual 60mph, instead of only two lanes open with traffic creeping along, so many more would have been lost. Also, the bridge collapsed on a freight train, what if the cars had been filled with some toxic substance that could have gone in the river, affecting our drinking water or released an ammonia cloud? It really could have been so much worse.