Life in the wild doesn’t have to be so hard for birds of prey.
They have everything they need to exist.
But humanity complicates it.
And when birds of prey become injured, we’re fortunate to have people like Christine’s Critter’s that rescues, rehabilitates and protects birds of prey.
Christine’s Critters Inc. is owned and operated by Christine Peyreigne.
This Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education non-profit in Weston, Connecticut rescues, rehabilitates and releases as many injured birds of prey as they can handle.
And they can handle a lot of birds.
In 2018, Christine’s Critters cared for more than 200 birds admitted into rehab.
Besides caring for injured birds of prey, they are home to 21 permanent residents who were once patients and now are bird education ambassadors.
Every bird has a place, purpose, and story to tell.
Meet Christine’s Critters
Chester – Female Red-tailed Hawk
Chester is a Red-tailed Hawk and the victim of a cat strike suffering a severe eye injury.
As a result, she has no depth perception past 15 feet and can no longer hunt for prey, and can never go free.
“She can’t hunt at all,” Christine says. “We did hunting practice with her, and it didn’t quite work out.”
Amelia – Female Red-tailed Hawk
Amelia is a Red-tailed Hawk that’s been with Christine’s Critters three years.
She’s a beautiful hawk, but she’s blind in one eye and deaf.
When Amelia came to Christine, she had been on the ground as a nestling for three days and covered with maggots.
The bird’s injuries left her brain damaged, and now she flies in a circle.
“When I’m holding Amelia on the glove, and I make a pfft pfft noise, it makes her clinch very tight. Amelia’s hearing is off because no other birds do that.”
Amelia arrived at Christine’ Critters as a baby and Chester raised her.
Not the Mothering Type
Christine hoped Amelia would help raise baby Red-tailed Hawks when they get them in, but Amelia doesn’t take to the babies.
“Amelia likes to be the baby. Chester would care for the babies and Amelia would just stare at them and gave them a look like, what’s that. She just didn’t know what to do with the babies.”
Now the juveniles are housed in the flight cages with the other adult Red-tailed Hawks, so it’s less intimidating for the young birds.
Christine says Amelia is a funny bird.
“I love her. She probably my favorite Red-tailed Hawk here besides my falconry bird, Theron.”
Willow – Female Barred Owl
Willow is a Barred owl and is the most requested bird at Christine’s Critters’ programs.
She’s the victim of a car strike suffering broken wing that didn’t heal correctly.
As a result, she broke her tail because it interferes with her ability to fly.
Manilla – Female Northern Goshawk
Manilla is a beautiful female Northern Goshawk that came to Christine’s Critters as a juvenile from Middlebury, Connecticut.
When animal control called Christine and said they had a Red-tailed Hawk in need of care, she couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the bird in question.
The bird wasn’t a Red-tailed Hawk. It was a Northern Goshawk!
Goshawks are on Connecticut’s list of endangered, threatened and special concern species.
They’re northern birds, and in North America, they range from western central Alaska and the Yukon territories in the north to the mountains of northwestern and western Mexico.
Goshawks are fierce about protecting their nest and will attack a human if they get too close.
Goshawks are Rare Education Birds
Manilla has a permanent wing injury with neurological damage and will never be released.
“She’s a rare bird to get in and a great education bird,” Christine says.
This bird loves cold places, and Christine says when it’s 80 degrees outside she doesn’t want to come out.
As a juvenile, Manilla has brown feathers but will turn a deep gray and have beautiful red eyes.
Christine says having Manilla will be helpful if someone gets another juvenile Goshawk in captivity so she can help raise them.
Poseidon – Male Osprey
Poseidon is a male Osprey who was a permanent resident at Christine’s Critters.
He came to Christine as a nestling after falling out of his nest onto a power fence and fracturing his wrist.
His wrist was amputated, and he could never fly, so Christine used Poseidon for education programs.
Poseidon became gravely ill, and Christine learned that he had West Nile Virus.
He was taken to the vet for care, and unfortunately, passed away on Veteran’s Day 2017.
Getting an Osprey to Eat in Captivity
Christine says she loves working with Osprey and specializes in getting them to eat.
“In captivity, they starve themselves because they’re used to catching live fish and refuse to eat a dead fish.”
Poseidon was no exception.
Christine and Betsy hung up a sheet and would lay on the ground outside the pen and put fish in snake tongs to hold the fish until he grabbed it.
Their faces light up when they explain how excited they were the day he grabbed the fish and ate it.
If Poseidon hadn’t eaten the fish, the other choice was to force feed him. Otherwise, he would have become dehydrated and weak.
Christine says she sees more birds with West Nile Virus.
“With more mosquitos and wetlands than there used to be, mosquitos affect the birds, and during the summer you worry about it.”
As a result, Christine’s Critters vaccinate all their educational birds against West Nile Virus, but it’s not 100 percent effective.
Signs of West Nile Virus
“The signs of West Nile Virus are neurological. If you see birds having miniature seizures, or they stop eating, then get them to the vet immediately for supportive care.”
Poseidon came to Christine’s Critters with the West Nile Virus, and she says they never lost a bird that way before.
“West Nile Virus can lie dormant in the bird’s systems. Birds can have it, but if you stress them out, then they can show signs.”
Higgins – Male Northern Saw-whet Owl
Mr. Higgins as he prefers to be called, is a delightfully charming tiny owl that came to Christine’s Critters with a damaged wing.
He’s the victim of a cat attack.
The cat brought him into the house, deposited him under the kid’s bed, and Mr. Higgins was playing dead.
Not a Stuffed Animal
The kids found him when they were cleaning their room and thought he was a stuffed animal.
“We immediately got him on antibiotics to stop the infection,” Betsy says. “Cat saliva is deadly to a bird. If a cat bites a bird, you have 24-48 hours to get them onto antibiotics before they die from the infection.”
A vet did their best to set Mr. Higgins’ wing, but it doesn’t open properly, so he’s not capable of flying.
“He’s adorable and charming, but can be so mean,” Betsy says laughing. “He’s feisty, and he has to be as a tiny small owl to survive in a world where everything is trying to eat you.”
Ash – Male Grey-faced Eastern Screech Owl
Ash is the victim of a car strike that ruptured his iris.
He can’t see out of the injured eye and can’t hear.
“He’s a beautiful grey color and blends in perfectly with his surroundings,” Christine says.
She points out that Ash is near feather perfect.
Mr. Higgins and Ash do programs together, and they’re a hit at kid’s parties.
“These owls are very calm and not excitable. Everyone is excited to see the owls because of their forward-facing eyes and circular face. People just identify with them.”
Archer – Male Cooper’s Hawk
Archer is a gorgeous male Cooper’s Hawk that came to Christine’s Critter’s as an adult after a window strike injuring his wing nerve.
He can’t open his wing because of damage to his radial nerve from hitting the window. Instead, Christine has to open his wing for him.
Cooper’s Hawks fly in fast and low to the ground, then up and over an obstruction to surprise prey on the other side. (Usually a songbird).
But this beautiful bird will never be able to fly again.
Archer is feather perfect, very blue in coloring and has the most striking red eyes.
First Education Bird
He’s the first bird Christine applied for as an education bird, and Archer is her oldest education bird.
“People don’t keep Cooper’s Hawks for education because of their temperament, but Archer is one of the exceptions,” Christine says.
She says Archer is a good bird and that she uses him in quieter, low key events, but not kid’s parties.
Since Archer was injured flying into a glass window, Christine is careful about not releasing Cooper’s Hawks in areas where there are tall glass buildings.
Skye – Male Broad-winged Hawk
Skye is a Broad-winged Hawk that came to Christine’s Critters as a nestling in July 2015 from Litchfield County.
A homeowner hired a tree service to cut down some trees, and one of the trees was Skye’s nest tree.
The hawk plunged 60-90 feet directly onto the pavement suffering a fractured hip.
There was hope Skye’s hip would heal so he could go free, but he suffers from permanent muscle and soft tissue damage to his leg, and he’s unable to fully close his right talon.
Without the use of his talon, it’s impossible for him to catch food and Skye can’t survive in the wild.
Baby – Male Red-shouldered Hawk
Baby is a Red-shouldered Hawk and the victim of a car strike suffering permanent neurological damage.
The hawk cannot control one leg and cannot survive in the wild.
George – Male Broad-winged Hawk
George is a Broad-winged Hawk that came to Christine’s Critters with Nest Nile Virus.
He survived the virus, but the hawk had issues with his feather growth and was deemed non-releasable.
Ariel – Female Broad-winged Hawk
Ariel is a Broad-winged Hawk that came to Christine’s Critters after striking a window shortly after fledging and sustaining nerve damage to her wing.
The damage to Ariel’s leaves her with no control of her left wing, and she cannot survive in the wild.
Magma – Female Red-phased Eastern Screech Owl
Magma is a delightful Eastern Screech Owl with the of a Great Horned Owl.
This tiny owl and her ferocious personality warm your heart.
As a nestling, Magma fell out of her nest and injured her wing. The wing healed backward making it impossible for this tiny owl to ever fly.
She cannot survive in the wild, even though she thinks otherwise and is one of Christine’s education ambassadors.
intoBirds is quite fond of this beautiful owl and sponsored Magma in 2019 to pay for her food expenses.
Ember – Female Red-phased Eastern Screech Owl
Ember is an Eastern Screech Owl that came to Christine’s Critters from the Roaring Brook Nature Center.
The owl is the victim of a car strike, losing her left eye and cannot survive in the wild.
Cypress – Female Barred Owl
Cypress is a Barred Owl who has been under the care of Christine’s Critters twice for rehab.
She was the victim of a car strike, and after a week of rehab was released to the wild.
Five weeks later, Cypress was again the victim of a car strike, this time suffering brain damage.
Cypress cannot survive in the wild, so she lives with Willow, and together they help raise orphaned owlets in the spring.
Spade – Male Cooper’s Hawk
A juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, Spade, is the victim of a car strike suffering eyesight issues.
His eyesight limitations make it impossible for Spade to survive in the wild.
Equinox – Peregrine Falcon
Equinox is a Peregrine falcon and the fastest animal on the planet capable of reaching speeds up to 200 MPH.
She was found on the ground in Fairfield, Connecticut, and brought to a vet.
Equinox suffers from a neurological issue causing her left foot not to work correctly.
This beautiful falcon cannot catch her prey, making it impossible for her to survive in the wild.
Aurora – Female Bald Eagle
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 143,00 Bald Eagles, and Christine’s Critters has one of them.
Aurora is a beautiful five-year-old female Bald Eagle who got hit by a truck in Missouri and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Illinois with a broken radius.
The wing wasn’t cared for properly, so this fierce raptor can no longer fly.
She also has problems with her joints.
“When Aurora opens her wings, she looks amputated. But the wing is there. It just fused in the wrong direction. I wish more were done for her wing, but we’re doing our best to manage it.”
Helping a Bald Eagle Cope with Injury
Christine and Betsy have great patience with Aurora because this magnificent ten-pound bird needs help standing up.
They’re careful helping Aurora get up for the bird’s safety and their own.
Aurora is handled quite gently as if she’s a toddler learning to walk.
But this toddler has enormous talons and has already broken several pairs of Betsy’s glasses.
“When ten pounds of bird says no, they mean no,” Betsy jokes.
Birds Appreciative of Christine’s Care
Christine says Aurora is the most vocal bird on the glove.
The people from the rehabilitation center in Illinois remarked that in all the years they cared for Aurora, they never heard her talk and were afraid she was mute.
But with Christine, Aurora is the most vocal bird.
And it’s not just Aurora, Christine brings out the best in her birds. Most are well-behaved, get along together and are quite vocal.
After some work, Christine gets Aurora up on glove where she stands proudly and calls out for several minutes until she baits to get back to her enclosure where she feels safe.
Aurora is a stunning Bald Eagle with white marks on her brown feathers with a wingspan of six feet.
“I’m excited to see what Aurora will look like after she molts.”
If These Birds Could Talk
All you have to do is see how the birds look at Christine, with such an intense gaze and you know the answer would be a resounding, “Thank you.”
Life in the wild doesn’t have to be so hard for birds. Birds have everything they need to exist. Humanity complicates it.
We are fortunate to have people like Christine that protect birds. And then we protect the earth.
If you’re in southern Connecticut on March 9, stop by Wild Birds Unlimited in Fairfield, CT and meet and mingle with Christine, Betsy and the critters at the Rapt-tastic celebrating the store’s second anniversary.
Christine’s Critters, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) created in 2015 whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured birds of prey.
It relies on donations and program fees to care for 21 permanent resident birds of prey, 30 reptiles, 2 amphibians, 1 tarantula and the 200 or more birds that are admitted into rehabilitation each year.
To get involved, donate, send needed supplies from Christine’s Critters’ Amazon Wishlist or just volunteer go to https://www.christinescritters.org/get_involved.