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Help Birds in Flight help our native raptors

Published: Thu, November 2, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Sara Scudier

Ohio certified volunteer naturalist

Raptors are birds of prey known for their predatory habits of feeding on other animals. This group of birds possesses several unique anatomical characteristics that allow them to be superior hunters. These include excellent sensory abilities such as binocular vision and keen hearing in order to detect prey, large powerful grasping feet with razor-sharp talons for catching prey, and generally large, hooked bills that can tear prey.

There are 30 species of hawks, falcons and eagles, as well as 18 species of owls breeding in North America. In this large group of birds, there are diurnal species, such as hawks, falcons and eagles, and nocturnal species, such as owls. In Ohio, many of these raptors live here throughout the year.

Many raptor species face poisoning from pesticides and persistent organic chemicals and metals, such as mercury and lead. There are also secondary poisoning threats, when they eat contaminated prey. As humans continue to alter the landscape, we need to understand how raptor species will be impacted, and about their importance in our ecosystem.

Raptors are highly visible species, seen by the public as subjects covered by the media, in zoos and other animal facilities, and in the wild. Not only are raptors really interesting birds, but they also play a crucial role in many ecosystems and, because they are at the top of many food chains, they face threats of greater magnitude than do other species below them on food chains.

The first bird Heather Merritt helped was a great horned owl that was down in a neighbor’s yard. The bird was very thin and very ill. It was March 1991. With her heart and lots of research, Heather gave this lucky bird a second chance at life and flying free. That marked the beginning of what has become her life’s work through the Birds in Flight Sanctuary. This 501c3 nonprofit organization is devoted to rescue and rehab all wild animals, from the tiniest hummingbird fallen from its nest, to a bald eagle poisoned by a poacher’s lead shot. Her qualifications require that she maintain state and federal licenses with fees due annually. She receives some help for food while the birds are in her care, and thanks to the help from a local veterinarian little is needed for veterinarian services. All other costs are paid for by donations and Heather herself.

On Nov. 15, Heather will present a program with the Mahoning County Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists at Canfield Library at 6:30 p.m. She will speak on license requirements, environmental concerns and participants will meet some of the birds that she has rescued that cannot be released back into the wild. The program will be an adventure itself.

For details on the program, go to: http://go.osu.edu/raptors

For more on Ohio’s raptors, go to: http://go.osu.edu/ohioraptors

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