Give a hoot and don’t touch baby birds

SORCO raptor rehab reminds residents to stop before they touch baby bird

Resist the urge to touch baby birds is the message the SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre wants people to hear this spring.

Dale Belvedere, manager of the Oliver raptor rehab centre, said raptors, including owls, hawks, osprey and falcons have either recently had their young or are about to, and often people see the babies on the ground and reactively think they’re in distress and need help.

“Even though they find them on the ground, they might not be injured. The babies are born three days apart. So, the firstborn is nine to 12 days older than the youngest. The older ones are ready to fly ahead of the younger ones and what happens is the baby sees the others learning to fly and tries it out and can’t,” she said.

“They fall and people often find them under the tree, in a park, on a sidewalk but they can get back up in the tree using their talons. Once people pick them up and put them in a box, we can’t put them back because the mother and father won’t take care of them.”

Two years ago the rehab centre had to take in 44 great horned owl babies, for what Belvedere calls “basically no reason.”

Related: UDPATE: Owls being treated for suspected Warfarin poisoning

“Usually we might take eight babies a year. We were swamped down here. We want to keep things as natural as we can for the raptors and, although people are good-intentioned, they are actually hurting them by picking them up,” she said.

Belvedere urged people that come across baby raptors (owls, hawks, osprey and falcons) to call SORCO first before they touch the bird to find out what they should do.

She also noted that often SORCO gets calls for other birds and that they really can’t help.

Related: Taste of freedom for owls released in Oliver

“People think we’ll take anything or they are referred to us from different organizations. Unfortunately, they’ve usually been through three or four phone calls and they’re frustrated because all they want to do is help the bird. Raptors are the property of the B.C. ministry. Robins and chickadees and other kinds of birds are not endangered and there really isn’t anything we can do,” she said.

SORCO Raptor Rehab was registered as a non-profit society in 1998 and is licensed through the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. SORCO rehabilitates injured and orphaned birds of prey for release back to the wild and offers robust educational programming to educate the public about raptors roles. The rehab centre serves the Okanagan Valley and north to Armstrong and south as far as Castlegar.

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