Arxiu d'etiquetes: falconry

Flying again: exercise for convalescing raptors

When an animal is admitted to a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, it starts a long process to survey and be released in nature. In this article we are going to discover one of the most exciting and difficult stage in raptor rehabilitation: the recovery of flight capacity. Finally, I will tell you some tips for attending injured birds.

WHAT IS A WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTER?

For all species the survival is a challenge. To the natural tests we have to add the threats of our life: poison, shots, electrocution, collisions are the daily admissions’ reasons in a wildlife rehabilitation center.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers have the purpose to rehabilitate incapacitated wild species to release in the nature in the best conditions and secure its adaptation and survival.

Every time, when a wild animal is rescued and moved to the Rehabilitation Center a cooperation team word for days, months and years starts with an single purpose: the animal’s freedom.

The first step for an animal’s admission is the exploration to determinate its health and to obtain a diagnosis. Also, the species’ information is necessary (species’ name, age, sex, biometric data). According to its health’s gravity, the veterinary will choose to keep it in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for a strict control and treatment, move to a environment place or flight (for birds), or even directly the freedom.

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Owl (Bubo bubo) with injures in right wing – http://www.verkami.com

Specific food, adequate hydration and handling according to the physiological and ethological features are important for the process, since the animal is rescued until its release.

RECOVERY OF INJURIES AND DECREASE OF THE FLIGHT CAPACITY

An optimum flight capacity is essential for birds, but in raptors is more important because of hunting require different types of flights according their vital strategy (the best way to hunt  is an increase in quantities and quality of food with the lowest possible energy cost). Some birds have to fly in reduced spaces and speed is cruel to hunt, such us forest species (goshawk and sparrowhawk), and other raptors can use the termal air currents until they reach the sufficient altitude to move effortlessly (vultures). These characteristics must be borne in mind when planning rehabilitation training.

Regarding raptors, their recovery of injuries involve periods of inactivity that could decrease the physical condition creating muscle atrophy and circulatory disorders. However, this inactivity period is necessary in most circumstances and veterinarians provision an adequate food and vitamin supplements maintaining a body condition to facilitate the recovery. So, when injuries are recovered, raptors will need exercises before they are released.

AFTER THE REHABILITATION… TO THE GYM!

Different techniques, with the purpose to increase slowly the animals’ muscular mass and recovery its flight’s skills, are used for the raptors’ rehabilitation.

  • Common facilities to rehabilitation: it is common to use them because it is only necessary to have suitable and big facilities with perches in different distances and height which help the bird’s flight. Another benefit is that many animals can stay in the same facility reducing the stress of the human contact and improving their social behavior. The problem is that the flights are not under control, the rehabilitation is slow, and the bird makes only minimum flights to reach the food place.

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Vultures (Gyps fulvus) in common facilities to fly – Photo: Patricia, http://www.diariodeburgos.

  • Rehabilitation using guarantor: this method can be used for large birds, which would need big facilities, and is based to exercise in open field with guarantors (large ropes with ballast at one end to avoid escape of birds, the other end is used to hold their tarsus with a leather This exercise is more efficient, testing about flight capacity and a monitoring process can be obtained. Disadvantage is greater stress because of transport to training place and handling during the exercise. It is therefore essential to carry out a risk analysis to assess the cost (direct handling, stress,…) and benefit (extent of their flying range) taken into account the individual behavior.

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Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) in rehabilitation flying with guarantor – http://www.grefa.org

  • Facilities to rehabilitation in oval design: First circular facilities to rehabilitation were used in the United Arab Emirates due to the long tradition of falconry (it is a hunting in which man makes use of previously trained birds of prey). The facility is formed by a corridor to fly in the entire perimeter, and resting boxes where birds are housed.  This corridor is divided with moved curtains to lead them inside the boxes. In this way birds can fly continuously. Also, it is possible an indirect handling during the process: entrance and exit through manual doors and curtains to block the flight, and stress will be lower than in direct handling.  In this case, the process could be monitoring, the exercises will be twice a week firstly, and later they will be increased until all days with a time and repetition increment.

Exercises and method will be selected according to the species and their injuries. It is very interested to alternate them with other steps such us the use of pieces of meat adhering that it obliges them to work specific muscles on neck and pelvic.

WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IF WE FIND A WOUNDED BIRD?

If we find a wounded bird, we have to touch them with care, otherwise it is dangerous for us and for the bird because we could increase its wounds.

There are some recommendations:

  • Be sure that animal needs your help because sometimes bird chicks are helped thinking they are abandoned but it is wrong.
  • Use a blanket and take it fast to avoid more wounds. If we close its eyes the birds are more relax although be careful with the claws and the beak.
  • Move it inside a carton box with air holes and leave it in a quiet place.
  • Phone to the closest rehabilitation center, in order to collect the bird as soon as possible and give you the best advices.
  • Do not force it to drink or eat because it could be bad to get worse.
  • Don’t try to treat it because a specialize veterinary has to examine it.

REFERENCES

  • Mauro Hernandez Segovia, ” Birds of Prey Rehabilitation and Conservation : Veterinary Aspects ” . Ardeola 39 ( 2) , 1992 , 49-64.
  • Gustavo Aprile and Claudio Bertonatti , “Manual on Wildlife Rehabilitation ” . Argentina Wildlife Foundation .
  • Patricia Contreras Coppelia Ovalle , Maria José Ubilla Carvajal, “Evaluation of the Animal Welfare raptors in rehabilitation” . Faculty of Ecology and Natural Resources, University Andres Bello.
  • Patrick Reding. “Exercise for convalescing Raptors ” . The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota.
  • Main photo: Releasing barn owl (Tyto alba) – http://www.martioda.org

Sara de la Rosa Ruiz

Bearded vulture: conservation of a unique bird

Last month a bearded vulture was born for the first time in Spain of parents bred in captivity and reintroduced into the wild. The bearded vulture is the only bird in the world that feeds almost exclusively on bones. Like the Iberian lynx, it is one of the emblematic animals of the Iberian Peninsula and it is endangered, so it is subject to various conservation and reintroduction programs. In this article, we encourage you to find out more about the bearded vulture and the spanish conservation projects.

DESCRIPTION

The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is a diurnal bird of prey popularly included in what is called vultures, scavenger and ghoul birds (they feed on dead animals). However, the bearded vulture is quite different from other vultures:

Quebrantahuesos (Gypaetus barbatus) adulto. )Foto de Jose Luis Ojeda)
Adult bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). (Photo by Jose Luis Ojeda)

 

  • It is so highly specialized that 85% of their diet are bones (osteophague) of dead mammals such as wild ungulates (chamois) and domestic cattle (goats, sheep). It can swallow bones up to 25 cm, and if they are too large catches them, rises them to 20-40 m and crashes bones against the rocks into smaller pieces that can swallowIt also uses the same technique to break tortoise shells.
  • It is very large, with a wingspan up to 2.8 meters and a weitgh up to 7 kg.
  • In general it isn’t noisy: it just whistles if it is excited or during the mating season.
  • It hasn’t the typical plucked vulture head. Vultures have a few or no feathers on their heads to maintain an optimum hygiene after putting their head in dead animals. Due to its peculiar diet, the bearded vulture has more feathers on head and neck, with its characteristic beard” below the peak.
  • The plumage is the same for both sexes but changes with age. The typical reddish and yellowish adults plumage is due to their habit of bathing in mud rich in iron oxides, otherwise they will had a white breast.

Fases del plomatge del trencalòs, segons Adam i Llopis (2003). (Imatge de © X. Parellada.)
Plumage phases of the bearded vulture, Adam and Llopis (2003). (Image by © X. Parellada.)

In this video (5 minutes, catalan) you can see bearded vultures in flight, breaking bones, engulfing them, raising a chick in the nest and bathing in mud.

REPRODUCTION

Bearded vultures nests on ledges and natural rock caves in the mountainous and rugged areas where they live. They have stable partner for life from age 7 and the reproductive cycle has different stages:

  • Pre-laying (September to November): nest building (covering it with branches, wool, feathers, bones ), defense of territory and sexual activity.
  • Incubation (December-February): they lay one or two eggs with a time difference of 6 days. Both sexes participate in the incubation for 53 days.
  • Nurturing (March-August): the largest chick kills his brother (fraticidal violence) to ensure survival. Parents provide food and when the chick leaves the nest (June-July), learn from them to find and prepare food until their emancipation.
  • Emancipation (January): displacement (thousands of kilometers) and dating back to the land where it was born to breed (philopatric instinct).

Seguimiento de nidos naturales mediante cámaras. (Foto: FCQ)
Tracking of natural nests with cameras. (Photo: Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture)

DISTRIBUTION

Subspecies Gypaetus barbatus meridonalis is distributed by the South and East Africa, while Gypaetus barbatus barbatus by North Africa and parts of Eurasia (see map).

In the Iberian Peninsula is found naturally only in the Pyrenees (Catalonia, Aragon and Navarra). Spain is the European country with more breeding couples registered (about 130, 2014 data).

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Bearded vulture distribution. In red, areas in which has been reintroduced . (Image by Mario, Wikimedia).

THREATS

Bearded vulture populations are declining. It is ranked globally asnear threatened” in the IUCN Red List and “endangered” in the Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species. Current threats they face are:

  • Death by poisoning (illegal baits, poisoned animal consumption, consumption of remains of lead hunting ammunition plumbism).
  • Death by electrocution or collisions with power lines and wind turbines of wind farms.
  • Poaching
  • Habitat loss and decreasing of reproductive efficiency because of the humanization of the medium (urbanisation, adventure sports )
  • Reduction of food (cattle in stables, obligation to bury the corpses )

Quebrantahuesos muerto por envenenamiento. (Foto: DARPAMN)
Bearded vulture dead by poisoning. (Photo: DARPAMN)

CONSERVATION IN SPAIN

Due to the limited distribution of populations, their low number and difficulty to colonize new territories, in 2014 thirteen autonomous communities signed a protocol for the recovery of vultures in Spain. The most prominent action of this protocol is to strengthen the National Strategy for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture in Spain (started in 2000) and the Programme Captive Breeding (2001), with actions such as the revaluation of rural areas, supplementary feeding and support for traditional farming practices. This strategy also involves the reintroduction in historic areas where the bearded vulture has been extinguished:

WHAT IS HACKING?

Hacking or rural upbringing is a technique that involves the release of captive-bred animals in an area that the bird assimilates as its birthplace. If successful, the bearded vulture returns to settle and breed. This technique did not has a conservationist origin, since it was developed by falconers in the Medieval Age. Falconry (hunting with birds of prey) are also currently used for wildlife control at airports or cities.

In falconry hacking consists in lefting in an elevated cage chicks that can feed by themselves. Falconer feeds them without being seen. After a few days they open the cage, using it as a basis for learning to fly. They are still feeding them until they learn to hunt by themselves and leave the cage. The young ones connect the cage as its birthplace so it will always return.

Alimentación de un pollo con un señuelo para evitar el contacto humano. Foto: Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos
Feeding a chick with a decoy to avoid human contact and make its life possible in the wild. (Photo: Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture)

The center managed by the Gypaetus Foundation is based on the natural breeding, with minimal human intervention. Parents raise and feed their young from the second week of hatching. To monitor the nests a video surveillance system is used.

Since 2006, 31 bearded vultures have been released from captive breeding and each one is tracked by GPS transmitters. Currently 15 individuals are still sending signals (9 were killed and 7 stopped working). As said in the introduction, the good news is that last month was born the first chick result of released individuals (Tono and Blimunda) by hacking technique.

For more information, check out this documentary (in spanish) about the bearded vulture and its conservation (El bosque protector. Fauna amenazada, El Quebrantahuesos, 29 minutes).

REFERENCES

MIREIA QUEROL ALL YOU NEED IS BIOLOGY