“What keeps those birds from flying away?”

March 22, 2018

If you’re visiting with Seneca Park Zoo’s bald eagles, snow goose, snowy owl or sandhill cranes, you may wonder, “What keeps those birds from flying away?” It’s a common question. These birds live in open-air habitats with no barriers to keep them from flying away. So why do they stay?

The story behind each bird is a little different but they all came to Seneca Park Zoo as rehabilitated birds. These birds all sustained injuries that prevent them from surviving on their own in their natural ranges. Wildlife bird rehabilitators initially received these birds and nursed them back to health. The birds are all tested for their ability to take and sustain flight. If they can fly well, they are released. Those that aren’t able to fly normally will have trouble finding food and avoiding predators. Once it is determined that they are non-releasable, the search for a permanent home begins. That’s where we come in.

Maverick, one of the Zoo’s two bald eagles, came to us from a rehabilitation center in Florida. Maverick was brought to the rehab facility with a wing fracture. The origin of this injury is unknown. Veterinary staff recommended amputation of the distal part of his wing and Maverick was transferred to Seneca Park Zoo in September of 2016.

Abe, the older of the bald eagles, arrived from Washington State in April of 1999. He was found by a game agent after breaking the tip of his wing on a tree branch during flight. The veterinary hospital where he was taken was unable to repair the injury and had to amputate the end of his wing. Abe came to us shortly after and has resided here for the past 19 years.

Photo by Wayne Smith

Both eagles can move around their exhibit with ease and can often be seen on the higher perches. Staff makes sure they have lots of “steps” available to get them where they want to go.

Living alongside the eagles is a female snow goose. She was found here in upstate New York by a local rehabilitator with a broken and disfigured wing tip. The cause of her injury is unknown but veterinary staff at Seneca Park Zoo made the decision to amputate part of her wing shortly after arrival.

Winter, Snowy Owl. Photo by David Fenn.

The snowy owl, Winter, was found in South Dakota with a compound fracture of her wing in 2011. A portion of her wing was amputated and she was transferred here in 2012. Unlike the eagles, Winter is a little bit more vulnerable to injuries from wild animals so keepers secure her at night into the indoor area of her habitat. She even knows when it is time to head indoors. Keepers bring her food and she meets them inside.

The sandhill cranes arrived together from Florida in 2011. The female crane has a broken bill while the male has an amputated wing. Neither would be able to survive on their own. To help with our cold winters, the cranes have a heated indoor area that keeps them nice and warm.

– Robin English, Veterinarian Technician