Monday, April 7, 2014

4/6/14 Birds of Prey

     Supposedly the age of dinosaurs ended long ago, and we are now in the age of mammals.  But birds are the descendants of dinosaurs, and since bird species outnumber mammal species by a margin of 2 - 1 (10,000 - 5,000), is the age of dinosaurs really over?

Jim Elliott

      In Awendaw SC there is a place where many people spend their lives working with birds that have gotten themselves in one sort of trouble or another.  This is the Center for Birds of Prey, founded in 1991 by Jim Elliott.  This organization has 80 volunteers and 10 full time staff members - a real testament to not only volunteerism but to the commitment those in this area have toward preserving wildlife.  My guide for the day was Stephen Schabel, director of education at the center.

     First, I just have to share a few photos of these gorgeous creatures.  Here are just a few of the 160 plus birds at the center.

Lanner Falcon


     People from all over South Carolina, and even Georgia and North Carolina call the center when they have found a bird that has been injured.  Being hit by automobiles and being shot are common, but injuries come in many other forms.  Some are hit by windmills, and some have been poisoned in one way or another.  Not too long back many of the birds that would eat off of carcasses at the landfills were dying, and it was determined that they were getting to pets that had been put to sleep and were getting often lethal doses of the drugs used to euthanize pets.  The center has been instrumental in getting changes made to how these animals are handled.

     When injured birds are brought to the center, the determination has to be made if the animal will be able to care for itself in the wild again.  If it will be able to, it is kept in a segregated area away from people so that it retains its instincts from the wild.  These birds are released after they heal.

     Those that will not be able to feed themselves but can serve the purpose of being demonstration birds are rehabilitated and then kept in display cages for the public to enjoy.  Sadly, the nature of injuries to many birds is such that they will not be able to do either, and the kindest thing for these birds is to be euthanized.

     Visitors to the center are treated to live demonstrations several times a day.  Here a bird chases a lure with wings that mimics catching another bird in the wild.

     Here, a Ural Owl follows instructions and flies from one location to another.

     The facility has been a charitable foundation since it was started in 1991.  Contributions have allowed for modern examining rooms, an x-ray room and a surgical suite.   

     Here, you can clearly see a pellet from an air rifle lodged in the flesh of a birds wing.


     Another element of the center is migration counts.  With the assistance of radar and spotters, bird counts during migration season are kept at the center.  This data is critical to getting a feel for what is happening with bird populations.  And what is so important about caring what happens to bird populations?

     When something is going awry in the environment, birds are early indicators that there is an issue.  By monitoring them, we can often spot problems long before they develop to a point where they have a major impact on humans.

     The center has also received money to set itself up as an oil spill treatment center where birds affected by an oil spill anywhere in the Southeast can be brought to be cleaned and rehabilitated.

     There is lots of other work besides the treatment of injured birds.  Every day food and medicine have to be prepared for the birds residing here.  Pens need to be built and maintained.

     The constant stream of visitors needs tended to - and the list goes on.  Here Adam Johnson prepares perches by stretching outdoor carpet over lumber.

Adam Johnson

     These are intelligent creatures that are highly specialized for the environments they come from.  And the people who work here care about the birds, the land and the environment they live in.  If you make it to Awendaw, the center is a great opportunity to see these birds in an environment that cares for their needs in a way that gives them some dignity.  You will also meet some real neat humans too.

     And the final shot of the day - my good friend Dr. Mike Yost bagged himself a double-bearded tom turkey on the first day of turkey season.  

    On a technical note, I have been having troubles with Google Blogger.  Hopefully the problems are well enough resolved so that these will show up in your email again.  To view the ones you missed, just go to   This is a temporary fix until I can get a website of my own - hopefully  by July.

    Also, I have returned to Charleston to assist with Les and the opening of the clinic - Network Neurology.  I will post stories from here for the next four days and then strike back out on the road.  Thank you for your patience while I build this - and stay tuned.  We have a few awesome years ahead of us.

To contribute to this effort, please Click Here.  To contact me directly, just click Here.  And whatever you do, 

Have a great Monday !!

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