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San Diego Humane Society

Raptors: Coexisting with Wildlife

What to do if you find:

Any raptor that remains on the ground is obviously debilitated in some way, but never forget that even a grounded raptor is a dangerous animal.

Rescue items needed:

  • Leather gloves.
  • Cardboard box with air holes punched in it.
  • A thick towel or blanket.

How to safely capture and contain the bird:

  • Remember, safety is the first priority.
  • Have your cardboard box ready, open, lined with a towel or newspaper, and be sure the box has air holes in it. Have ready a way to secure the box closed.
  • Put on the thickest pair of gloves you have, even gardening gloves. Gloves will offer you some protection if a bird tries to bite or talon you.
  • Holding the towel or blanket, approach the bird slowly.
  • If the bird is not standing, it is in very bad shape and should not pose much of a threat. If that is the case, try to prop the bird up in the box on a towel so that the bird is on its side, not on its back. A bird on its back will have difficulty breathing.
  • If the bird is standing, approach slowly, and then quickly cover the bird with the towel or blanket. You will have a few seconds to pick up the bird while it cannot see to strike out or escape. Many raptors may lie on their back with talons in the air when approached. If you’re wearing thick leather gloves, this is a good opportunity to either grab the legs up high by the body or, let them grab a gloved hand (only do if your gloves are thick and you are comfortable with it.) Once they have a hold of you, you can take the other hand and grab it appropriately and get a towel over its head. Only attempt to grab a raptor’s legs if you have puncture-resistant leather gloves that reach to your mid-forearm or elbow.
  • Do not grab a bird by one leg, near the feet or by a wing. If you do, let go and try again. If possible, grip the bird on both upper legs as close to the body as possible, with one hand, while tucking the wings in with the other hand. Be sure the feet are facing away from your body and face. Immobilizing the legs and feet gives you control.
  • Put the bird into the box and quickly close it. Give the bird a short time to get situated and stand upright in the box.
  • If you fear the bird or are unsuccessful in your efforts to contain it, toss a laundry basket over the bird so that it cannot fly out of reach or run away. Then watch the bird and keep domestic pets away until someone can pick it up.

Food & Water

Do not offer any food or water to any raptor. Raptors have a specialized diet that you cannot provide. Feeding the bird the wrong food will do more harm than good. Even babies should not be fed except by a licensed rehabber.

About Hawks:

  • Found in all kinds of habitats on land as long as there is enough food.
  • Diet mainly of meats such as birds, snakes, turtles, lizards and small mammals.
  • The young are most vulnerable to other climbing or flying animals while they are still
    in the nest.
  • Have been observed to live over 30 years in the wild, although most die at a younger age.
  • For larger species, 1-2 eggs per clutch is average while in smaller species, 5-6 eggs is normal.
  • Good indicators of pollution and habitat quality.
  • Eyesight is 4-8 times better than that of humans.

About Owls

  • Soft plumage, feathered legs, downward pointing beaks, and easily recognizable facial disks.
  • Although found in virtually all terrestrial habitats, 95% live in forests.
  • Prey includes small mammals, birds, rodents, and insects.
  • Smaller species may be preyed upon by larger owls and hawks. Eggs and young owls are vulnerable to raccoons, squirrels and other birds.
  • Live 5-25 years depending on species.
  • Useful for controlling the pest population.
  • Wings are designed to allow silent flight and soaring slowly without stalling.
  • Eyes have more rods than cones, making owls more sensitive to light than other birds.

Coexisting with Raptors:

  • If you have a rodent problem, do not use poison! Young raptors will often eat dead mice and other rodents and will become ill from the poison.
  • Cover reflective windows with non-reflective cellophane, screen or a similar material to prevent raptors and other birds from crashing into them.
  • Accompany small pets outdoors, especially during the winter raptor migration months of September through April.
  • Appreciate raptors for their natural ability to control rodents.




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