Life in the wild doesn’t have to be so hard for birds of prey because they have everything they need to exist, but humanity complicates things, resulting in them quickly becoming a rehabbed bird of prey.
Some birds lose their gift of flight, and they’re the lucky ones.
When birds of prey suffer injuries, we’re fortunate to have organizations like Christine’s Critter’s that rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured birds of prey back into the wild.
Christine Peyreigne owns and operates Christine’s Critters Inc. This Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education non-profit in Weston, Connecticut, cares for as many injured birds of prey as they can handle.
And they handle a lot of birds.
In 2018, Christine’s Critters had more than 200 birds in rehab.
Besides caring for injured birds of prey, they are home to 21 permanent residents.
These birds are former patients who are 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 hit by a car suffering a severe eye injury.
Birds of prey rely on sharp eyesight for hunting. 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.”
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Chester would encourage drivers to be mindful that they share the roadways with birds and cars.
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.”
So Christine houses juveniles 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.”
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Amelia would encourage people who find nestlings on the ground to call a wildlife rehabilitator to keep the bird safe.
Willow – Female Barred Owl
Willow is a Barred Owl and is the most requested of Christine’s Critters’ birds of prey for programs.
She’s the victim of a car strike suffering a broken wing that didn’t heal correctly.
As a result, she broke her tail because it interferes with her ability to fly.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Willow would encourage people to not throw garbage out their car windows.
Willow was hit by a car preying on the rodents eating the roadside garbage, and as a result, now this beautiful owl is permanently grounded.
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 seeing the bird in question.
It 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’s permanent wing injury with neurological damage keeps this magnificent bird of prey from being released to the wild.
“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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Manilla would thanks the animal control officer that found her and made it possible to get care and regain her ability to stand.
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 became an education ambassador.
Poseidon became gravely ill with West Nile Virus and unfortunately, passed away on Veteran’s Day 2017.
Getting an Osprey to Eat in Captivity
Christine says she loves working with Osprey and has a knack for getting them to eat.
“In captivity, Osprey starve themselves because they’re used to catching live fish and refuse to eat a dead fish.”
Poseidon was no exception.
Christine and her Mom, 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 explaining their excitement 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.”
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Poseidon would thank Christine and Betsy for their extraordinary efforts to help him survive captivity. If it weren’t for West Nile Virus he might have made it.
Higgins – Male Northern Saw-whet Owl
Mr. Higgins is a delightfully charming tiny owl that came to Christine’s Critters with a damaged wing.
And the victim of a cat attack.
The cat brought him into the house, placing him under the kid’s bed, and Mr. Higgins was playing dead.
Not a Stuffed Animal
The kids find him cleaning their room and thought he was a new 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.”
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Mr. Higgins would tell people to keep their cats inside.
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 one 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.”
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Ash would tell people to please stop throwing trash on the road. Owls like Ash prey on the rodents eating the garbage and are hit by cars.
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 the window stirke. 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.
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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Archer would ask people to place decals on their windows to tell it’s a window and not a runway for catching a songbird.
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 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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Skye would ask people to check trees for bird’s nest before cutting them down.
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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Baby would ask you to keep your garage in your car until you get home. Throwing garbage out your car windows attracts rodents that attract birds of prey.
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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, George would ask scientists to create a vaccination for the West Nile Virus that was 100 percent effective.
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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Ariel would ask homeowners to use decals on their windows to keep her from crashing into them.
Magma – Male Red-phased Eastern Screech Owl
Magma is a delightful Eastern Screech Owl with the heart of a Great Horned Owl.
This tiny owl and his ferocious personality warm your heart.
As a nestling, Magma fell out of his nest and injured her wing. The wing healed backward making it impossible for this tiny owl to ever fly.
He cannot survive in the wild, even though he thinks otherwise and is one of Christine’s education ambassadors.
intoBirds is quite fond of this beautiful owl and sponsor Magma’s food and medical expenses each year.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Magma would thank Christine for making him a bird ambassador because, with a backward wing, he couldn’t survive in the wild.
And he’d thank intoBirds for sponsoring his food and medical bills.
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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Ember would tell people enough with throwing garbage into the environment. This bird paid the ultimate price losing her beautiful eye.
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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Cypress would thank Christine for caring for and releasing her twice and ask others not to throw garbage out their car windows.
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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Spade would ask humans to put decals on their large windows to keep other Cooper’s Hawks from flying into them in a high-speed pursuit of a songbird.
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 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.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Equinox would ask humans to share the roadways with the fastest animal on the planet.
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. We’re doing our best to help her 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 say that in all the years they were caring for Aurora, they didn’t hear her talk and thought 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.
Christine is excited to see what Aurora will look like after she molts. Aurora gets better with age.
If this rehabbed bird of prey could talk, Aurora would thank the boaters that found her wading in the Mississippi River and poop all over the truck that hit her. She is our nation’s symbol!
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.
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.
This non-profit relies on donations and program fees to care for permanent resident birds of prey, and injured birds admitted into rehabilitation each year.
To volunteer or donate supplies from Christine’s Critters’ Amazon Wishlist go to https://www.christinescritters.org/get_involved.
Great article….some very special birds and certainly VERY special people that care for them!
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