A few years ago, the Birds of Prey Foundation in Louisville, CO received several calls about an injured raptor on a local highway. Two volunteers made their way to the reported site and discovered a golden eagle that had endured a regrettable run-in with a moving dump truck. They loaded the eagle into a kennel and brought it to their intensive care unit for immediate medical attention. Upon arrival, Heidi Bucknam, who now serves as Executive Director of the foundation, insisted that she had seen the animal before. Golden eagles are certainly unique among their eagle brethren, but to specifically remember a particular bird was almost unthinkable to the other volunteers.
Sure enough, the number on her identification band revealed that she had been treated by Heidi and the Birds of Prey Foundation once before. Sammy’s first visit came three years prior when she was battling West Nile Virus. According to the data, Sammy had since returned to her former stomping grounds to build a nest and raise her young. In the meantime, Heidi had overseen the treatment of hundreds of birds since Sammy’s first visit. That didn’t stop Heidi from recognizing an old friend.
As she did before, Sammy made a full recovery and was released to the Colorado wilderness. Stories like these exemplify the dedication and personal commitment of the staff and volunteers at the Birds of Prey Foundation. For over 35 years, this organization has admitted injured, malnourished, or under-developed raptors like hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls. On Saturday, September 23, the organization ushered in the end of summer with their annual Fall Migration Dinner at the Copper Leaf Gardens and Event Center in Broomfield. Proceeds from the event, live auction, and on-site donations will go toward facilities and equipment, medicine, flight cage maintenance, and many other expenses inherent to the proper treatment of these incredible animals. The dinner also celebrated a principal initiative of the Birds of Prey Foundation: The upcoming release of fully rehabilitated birds back into the wild in time for fall migration.
Unfortunately, not all raptors will enjoy this fate; some must remain in captivity for the remainder of their lives. Permanent injuries or extensive human impression (learned behaviors from domestication) can sometimes compromise the skills necessary to survive as a predator. In these cases, the Birds of Prey Foundation works diligently to provide the highest possible quality of life for their avian residents. However, despite their captivity, some raptors utilize their instincts and contribute to their mini-ecosystems in unique ways.
Event attendees met Frosty, a great horned owl who lost his right wing after his own misfortune with a moving vehicle. He received preliminary treatment at a center in California before arriving at the Birds of Prey Foundation 13 years ago. Instead of contently accepting meals and dwelling in a cage for the rest of his life, Frosty has taken it upon himself to provide parent-like comfort to other young owls. If he hears the cries of hungry baby birds in adjacent cages, he’ll tend to the little ones by pushing morsels of food through the bars. The foundation staff goes to great lengths to support these raptors, but direct interaction with their own kind will always prove essential to their development. By looking out for his fellow feathered friends, Frosty embodies the nurturing spirit that characterizes the entire organization.
Dinner guests had the opportunity to view other remarkable species as well, including a large and in-charge red-tailed hawk, a turkey vulture, a Swainson’s hawk (which flies as far south as Argentina in pursuit of grasshoppers), and a barred owl named Cookie. Other less-commonly known varieties like the American kestrel and aplomado falcon also made appearances.
In addition to support from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Birds of Prey Foundation relies on concerned passersby to identify animals in need and contact the organization for assistance. To report a wounded or otherwise distressed raptor, please call 303-460-0674. New Direction IRA is a proud sponsor of the Birds of Prey Foundation and the Fall Migration Dinner.