Giving back to non-profits that advocate and save injured birds of prey is even more urgent now during COVID-19. That’s why we’ve kicked off a fundraiser with our new Owl Queen sticker in our online store to help raise funds for our favorite wildlife rehabilitator.
Our Owl Queen sticker pays tribute to our favorite, adorable Northern saw-whet owl named Higgins.
This bird is North America’s smallest owl and only fitting it’s wearing a bedazzled crown.
Wildlife Rehabilitators Save Injured Birds
Fun stuff aside, wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and release are vital to preserving our bird species.
Christine’s Critters, a Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education non-profit in Weston, Connecticut, helps save injured birds.
We first met Christine Peyreigne and her Mom, Betsy, in 2018, and since it’s our priority to support her work.
They’re fabulous people and work tirelessly behind the scenes saving injured birds of prey.
We enjoy including them in our stories to educate others about the threats to our raptors.
Being a Wildlife Rehabilitator
Christine’s Critters is the culmination of Christine’s passion for birds of prey and a desire to use education and outreach to prevent the common injuries raptors suffer caused by humanity.
Being a wildlife rehabilitator is not a glamorous job.
It’s part science, part education, part problem-solving, and part care-giving.
And lots of love.
It requires the appropriate training, endless patience, and a comfort level handling injured birds.
And involves cleaning up lots of bird poop.
We know how hard it is to clean bird poop off a car, imagine cleaning multiple aviaries each day!
Or power washing bird cages, and cleaning up after messy eaters like birds of prey.
This includes pellets, and other animal parts left uneaten from their meal.
The gross stuff gets all over everything and isn’t a pretty sight.
Wildlife rehabilitation requires long hours that are non-stop working with birds to rehabilitate them.
What it Takes to Save Injured Birds
Think about what a physical therapist does for humans.
Now imagine doing that for rehabbing birds.
Hand-feeding injured birds of prey with a pair of tongs when they’re unable to eat.
Giving birds with sharp talons and powerful grips medicine and injections.
Picking maggots out of festering wounds and ears.
Administering fluids and electrolytes to stabilize the bird before transporting it to the vet for further evaluation and care.
Monitoring the bird’s weight and physical progress.
Helping a bird learn how to stand after an injury and working with them in flight cages, so they have the strength for flight again after release.
Wildlife rehabilitators don’t have corner offices at jobs from 9-5. And they don’t get weekends off.
And like paramedics, police, and firemen, this job requires you to be on call 24 hours a day.
It involves phone calls at all hours of the night, regardless of the weather conditions, to help an injured bird.
It Takes a Village
Luckily when Christine and Betsy need a helping hand, they rely on Dave Cadra, a volunteer who responds to rescue calls while they are busy preparing to receive a new patient.
Christine’s sister, Nicole, helps out with social media and marketing, and her boyfriend, Chris, feeds Niblet the turkey and the chickens.
Her Dad, Bob, support’s his daughter’s dream by watching their home transform into a bird of prey production studio for Christine’s live Facebook broadcasts.
It’s Christine’s dream, but it takes a village to handle the rescues, and patient volume Christine sees every month.
In one month, Christine’s Critters cares for 20-25 bird patients requiring rehab.
Add that amount to the long-term patients they are caring for every day.
And 22 permanent bird ambassadors.
Two Bald Eagles, a Northern saw-whet owl, 3 Eastern Screech owls, 2 Barred Owls, 2 Peregrine Falcons.
Two American Kestrels, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a Northern Goshawk, 3 Broad-winged Hawks, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks, and 2 Cooper’s Hawks.
That adds up to a lot of hungry mouths to feed!
Wildlife Rehabilitation is Not Glamorous
It might seem glamorous when Christine has a magnificent Bald Eagle standing on her glove before an audience, but that’s a privilege Christine deserves because her job is never-ending.
She became a wildlife rehabilitator because it’s her life’s passion, not because birds of prey are fashion statements.
You don’t hold a bird of prey to be cool.
Of course, you do look cool, but for the right reasons because you’re helping birds return to where they belong: in nature.
We stay in constant contact with Christine’s Critters hearing stories about birds that are going to make it, and others that won’t.
It’s a profession filled with sorrow and frustration, knowing many of the injuries Christine’s treats are preventable.
But releasing an injured bird of prey back to nature makes it all worthwhile.
All are preventable injuries caused by humans.
Some birds are born with deformities or suffer accidents in the nest like Magma, a red-phase Eastern Screech Owl that suffered a fractured wing as a nestling.
The wing healed fused upside down and backward, making this beautiful bird unflighted.
Magma is an example of an injured bird of prey that cannot survive in the wild and has a home at Christine’s Critters as a bird education ambassador.
Other patients are chicks that fall out of their nest, requiring stabilization and then re-nesting, so they are raised by their parents.
After spending hours caring for the owlet that fell out of its nest and making sure it’s healthy to go back with its parents, someone has to get that owlet back into the tree 50 feet up to reunite the owlet with its parents.
That’s where Larry Fischer, a bird bander and tree climber, comes in.
Larry is like the stork delivering chicks back to their nests, and then gets a bird’s eye view of them being reunited with their parents.
Save Injured Birds at Your Expense
Contrary to what many people think, wildlife rehabilitators don’t receive funding from the government to pay for costly expenses.
In fact, rehabilitators pay hefty fees to acquire licenses for their birds of prey because these birds belong to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Rehabilitators apply to keep an injured bird of prey as a bird ambassador, after spending their time and money to care for and feed the bird.
Christine doesn’t own her bird ambassadors. Nature does.
The government grants permission for organizations like Christine’s Critter’s to care for our birds at the rehabilitator’s expense.
These crucial organizations rely on private donations, and public programs to keep going.
COVID’s Impact on Wildlife Rehabilitators
Once COVID-19 hit, wildlife rehabilitators, like Christine’s Critters, were left scrambling to find a way to bridge the gap for lost revenue from canceled programs.
Although Christine’s Critters offer virtual programs, the losses mount each month.
The level of care that Christine provides birds ranges from direct care and rehab to arranging for suitable release sites.
And all comes at such a great expense.
We’re grateful for the vital work that Christine and other wildlife rehabilitators do to help injured birds of prey recover for release back into the wild, and now all of them need our help sustaining through COVID-19.
Proceeds of our sales go to support Christine’s Critters.
And please support your local wildlife rehabilitator through these trying times.
COVID-19 doesn’t impact birds, but the car strikes, window collisions, lead, and rodenticide poisoning and other perils don’t stop, and neither do our wildlife rehabilitators.