It's cold. Painfully cold. The type of cold that makes you utter a colorful four letter word with every step you take outdoors.
I went to The Raptor Center for my shift today and got an update on Peregrine 568. She's alive, feisty, and still in recovery. She has some bumblefoot issues but still, for a bird with all sorts of metal pins, she's doing as well as can be expected.
We have an education turkey vulture named Nero at The Raptor Center. Almost all of our ed birds are housed outdoors since they would be here in winter and are capable of surviving sub zero temperatures. The few exceptions would be Nero and the new broad-winged hawk we have in training. Nero's housing has been adjusted, complete with plexiglass and a heater, but the staff was making some upgrades to it and he was tethered in the prep room. He's imprinted on humans which means he would look to defend his territory from humans and worse...try to mate with one in spring.
Now, turkey vultures are the type of bird, that need a little enrichment when in captivity. In the wild, they fly around and look for carcasses to rip apart. Because of that instinct to seek out things to rip and tear, they can be a challenge in captivity. Above is a photo of Nero attempting to rip apart the astro turf around his perch. The turf is important, so birds can slough off dead skin on their toes and help prevent bumblefoot.
The staff would rather he rip apart his turf instead of his jesses. He is capable of picking and ripping apart the bracelets around his feet and could potentially get loose. He's sometimes given other objects to purposely rip and shred for enrichment-too keep him engaged with his natural behaviors--and keep him from ripping up his jesses.
As much fun as it is to watch a turkey vulture take out the yellow pages, when my shift was over, I had to head home. On my way out, the front desk got a phone call that someone had a hawk or a falcon sitting outside the Rec Center of the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota. The bird had hit a window and the weren't sure if it needed to be picked up. Since it was on my home, I offered to drive by and check it out. I found a place to park and just walking one block in the wind, and in all my long underwear, it was still painfully cold and my eyes were watering. I met up with the man who had called in the bird, and he pointed me to a dark corner. He said that the bird appeared to be recovering and was now standing up, as opposed to laying flat on the ground. I looked in the corner and said, "Holy Crap! It's a merlin!"
It was an adult female merlin and when we got within ten feet of her, she took flight and zoomed down the side walk, zigged and zagged through some small trees and darted off in an ally. Well, I guess it's safe to say that she didn't need any time at The Raptor Center. It was so sweet to watch her dark form darting through the campus, right over student's heads--such a cool bird. As I walked back to the car, I found a couple of spots of sparrow and junco leftovers. I think the merlin has been doing well. The wind was very strong and numbed by fingers and stung my face, I wondered if maybe that helped propel her into the building in the first place. I was glad I didn't have to take her in.
And now I leave you with some videos of the turkey vulture ripping his phone book and adjusting his turf: