Raptor Renesting with Austin Wildlife Rescue

Austin Wildlife Rescue (AWR) is committed to the rehabilitation and release of injured, orphaned, or sick Texas wildlife. Their focus is always on releasing animals back into the wild. With raptors, a special challenge is presented in that we must avoid imprinting/habituation to people with these animals, as well as nurturing them to a point of strong flight and predation skills. At the end of the day, nothing is a replacement in learning these skills as being raised by the parent or a wild surrogate parent.

When AWR receives baby birds of prey, they make every possible effort to renest the baby with the parents if appropriate, but many times they are unable to do so. Circumstances such as a felled tree, unknown location of nest, or lack of contact information when these babies are brought in prevent AWR from reuniting these raptors with their parents. A wonderful alternative would be to find other nests of the same species that these babies could be placed with.

Surrogate renesting can often times be very successful and offers the young raptors the best possible chance of success in the wild where they can learn their life skills from a wild parent, even if it was not their original parent. Austin Wildlife Rescue is willing to renest young raptors to surrogate nests, but they need help in actually finding these nests. This is where our local birding community could help immensely. 

There are several points that must be addressed in order to set up a successful renesting:

  1. Finding the appropriate species nest site. AWR can send a list of species currently in need of renesting.
  2. Finding a nest site that is the appropriate age. Babies must be around a similar age in order for the wild surrogate parent to appropriately care for their own babies as well as the foster baby. AWR can send pictures of the young raptors as a reference point to identify similar aged babies.
  3. Finding a nest where no more than 2 babies currently already exist (since 3 is really the limit that parental raptors can take care of without getting overwhelmed).
  4. Accessible location. We would be using an extension ladder and must have a way to approach the site. Often times we wait until babies are of branchling age (just out of the nest and moving about the branches). This way, a baby can be placed on a lower, more accessible branch, and the baby can start to climb up the tree to where the rest of the family is.
  5. Permission from landowner to go on the property in order to do the renesting.
  6. Someone to check on the baby for at least 3 days in a row. Not all renestings are successful. If the baby does not move from the lower branch to reach the family unit, or the baby falls from the tree due to weakness or being rejected by the parents, the baby would need to be brought back in to AWR. Usually within 3 days it’s clear if the baby has been accepted or not.

Working together, a passion for birding and a passion for rehabilitation of these animals has a unique opportunity to positively collide with surrogate renesting. If our birding community could assist with the 6 points listed above, then Austin Wildlife Rescue could attempt to unite babies with foster parents, giving them an even stronger chance of survival in the wild.

Watch for specific information about birds in rehab in future weekly eBlasts and start noting where you find raptor nests! If you’d like to assist with this project, please contact Shelia Hargis at shelia.hargis@gmail.com.