The Resident Bird of Prey program offers a unique opportunity for wildlife volunteers to work with and train a captive collection similar to that of a zoo. Using positive reinforcement, our birds are worked with multiple times a day to provide a stimulating environment. This program allows future veterinary students a chance to learn concepts used by keepers and zoo veterinarians so that they can be successful in this field. Our resident birds are also wildlife ambassadors and would love to visit you and teach you about Illinois wildlife.
Odin, our resident Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), was found in Fairbury, IL. He was presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic as an extremely weak, emaciated, and dehydrated juvenile on August 15, 1997. Upon arrival, he was given an emergency administration of fluids via an intraosseous catheter (a bone catheter), which is both the most efficient and most reliable way to give emergency fluids in critical animals. This emergency administration saved Odin’s life. He recovered after a few months, with his health improving drastically and his musculature filling out quite nicely. However, as with every procedure, there is a chance for complications to occur. In Odin’s case, while we are not quite sure of the reason for the complication, the joint where the intraosseous catheter was placed developed a bone infection. While the infection was resolved, he was left with arthritis that prevented the full extension of his right wing. Without full extension, he cannot fly or survive in the wild. Therefore, he is now a permanent resident in the Wildlife Medical Clinic.
Fun Facts: Red-Tailed Hawks usually develop their famous red tail between 2-3 years old, and are one of the largest birds in North America. Their shrieks are also quite magnificent; so much so, that most movies and TV shows use the cries of a Red-Tail Hawk for any eagle or hawk that appears on-screen!
Thistle, our resident American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), was found in Allerton, IL. She was presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic as a juvenile with a corneal perforation injury in her left eye during the summer of 2012. Veterinarians attempted to save her eye, but the injury unfortunately rendered her blind in that eye—leaving Thistle with only one working eye. Unlike owls, which rely heavily on their hearing to hunt, falcons (the family which kestrels are a part of) rely on their eyesight to hunt; therefore, Thistle can no longer survive in the wild, so the Wildlife Medical Clinic received permission for Thistle to join our resident program.
Thistle is extremely curious and interactive; everything is a toy in Thistle’s eyes! She loves watching clinic members, participating in her daily training and enrichment plans, and having new objects put in her enclosures. Thistle is our only fully-flighted bird, and, due to this reason, we have had to work with her on a consistent basis in order to gain her trust on glove.
Fun Facts: American Kestrels are the smallest falcons of North America, but don’t let their size fool you—they are extremely fierce hunters! American Kestrels are sexually dimorphic, meaning that you can physically see the differences between males and females. We know that Thistle is a female due to her rusty-red coloring, whereas males typically have much more silvery-blue coloring throughout their feathers. Both sexes have black vertical bars on their face termed “side burns”, which help deflect the sun’s rays during flight. In addition to having extremely sharp vision, falcons can also see more colors than humans, and can even see the ultraviolet color spectrum!
Derby, our resident Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio), was transferred to the Wildlife Medical Clinic from the Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, Inc., in March, 2016. Her left wing was slightly drooping, and, upon reviewing radiographs taken, it was noted that this droop was due to multiple fractures in her wing’s forearm bones.
Unfortunately, by the time we received Derby, the fractures were too far along in the healing process for us to attempt to fix so that she could regain full flight. As a result, Derby cannot fully fly, and, therefore, cannot survive in the wild. Due to her unusually calm demeanor, she was an ideal candidate for our Education and Outreach Program. She is still adjusting to life in captivity, and our trainers are working tirelessly to ensure that she feels safe and at home.
Fun Facts: Eastern Screech Owls have two different morphs—a grey morph and a reddish-brown (rufous) morph. The grey morph is much more common, with nearly two-thirds of the screech owl population being a grey morph. Regardless of the morph, the feather pattern that screech owls share help them blend into trees almost flawlessly, allowing them to nest and hunt while nearly invisible.
River, our resident Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), was transferred to the Wildlife Medical Clinic from Wildlife Prairie Park on the morning of March 15, 2015. She presented as an approximately 4 year old, near-adult Bald Eagle. Before being brought to Wildlife Prairie Park on March 14, 2015, she was found struggling to stay afloat in the Illinois River. Upon presentation to our clinic, it was noted that she had a severe fracture of the forearm bones in her right wing, with the end aspect of the wing wrapped 3 times around itself. Upon arriving at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, River underwent multiple surgeries in order to remove necrotic tissue. Unfortunately, she lost nearly half of her right wing due to necrosis—but otherwise, she healed well! However, with only half of one wing, she can no longer fly and survive in the wild. After she was nearly healed, she was transferred outside to our flight cage enclosures so that she would have more room to move around while we searched for a forever home for her.
As we were searching, one of our veterinarians began working with her to help minimize her fear of humans. The results were incredible—she was calmer than expected when the veterinarian was in close proximity to her, what the eagle would consider her “territory”, when cleaning her enclosure. She would also, cautiously, come near, or step up onto glove, to accept food offered from forceps (tweezers). Since we had been unsuccessful at finding a forever home for her, and once we saw how well she was responding to human proximity and training, we applied for a permit in late 2015 to keep her as an official resident of the Wildlife Medical Clinic. She is not yet completely used to captivity or people, and still has a long way to go—but she has made a tremendous amount of progress already, and her small team of trainers are committed to ensuring that she feels comfortable and secure at all times.
Fun Facts: Bald Eagles are not actually bald; rather, their head feathers are a different color (white) compared to the rest of their body (dark brown). They are the national bird of the United States, and are one of the largest birds in North America. While they are fierce hunters, they are also known to rob other birds of their hard-earned prey catches! They used to be endangered, but were taken off of the endangered species list in 1995, and now just remain a protected species.
Onslo, our resident Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua), is one of our reptile and non-native residents. Onslo’s previous owner was Rose Ann Meccoli, who worked in the Wildlife Medical Clinic for over 15 years. She was also very involved in our Resident Program during that time. Rose Ann passed away in March 2015, and Onslo was then given to the clinic to become a member of our Education and Outreach Program.
While not an Illinois-native, or a previous wild animal, Onslo makes a great addition to our program because he helps spread reptile education and awareness to the public, which will transmit respect for local wild reptiles in Illinois. Additionally, he will also help diffuse the fear and misconceptions surrounding many reptile species.
Fun Facts: Blue-Tongue Skinks are reptiles from Australia that have a long, flat body, with short legs that help them live on the ground in forests. As the name suggests, their tongues really are blue in color, which they flash to predators when they are feeling threatened. The bright blue color frightens the predators, making them think that the skink is poisonous. Blue-Tongued Skinks are omnivores, eating fruits, vegetables, and insects.
Bucket, our resident Ball Python (Python regius), is the most recent addition to our Education and Outreach Program.
She is a non-native resident, and was donated to our program from one of the Wildlife Medical Clinic’s veterinarians. Due to previously being a pet, she is very curious and sociable with humans; she loves exploring and interacting with clinic volunteers! While not an Illinois-native or a previous wild animal, Bucket makes a great addition to our program because she will help spread reptile education and awareness out to the public, which will transmit respect for local wild reptiles in Illinois. Additionally, she will also help diffuse the fear and misconceptions surrounding snakes and other reptile species.
Fun Facts: Ball Pythons are native to sub-Saharan Africa, and are non-venomous constrictors. On average, they grow to be 4-5 feet long, and can live up to 30 or more years—so Bucket is well on her way to living a long life here at the Wildlife Medical Clinic!
Interested in a visit from our residents? Click Here
Does your service group need a project? We are always looking for help maintaining our flight cage facilities as well as developing enrichment projects for our residents!
~ ~ In loving memory ~ ~
Nokomis (2002-2015) was a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus). He was a wonderful addition to our education and outreach program for nearly 20 years During his time with us, Nokomis taught innumerable children and adults about the importance of wildlife and nature. He will be missed.
In April 2003, a local wildlife rehabilitator brought us a baby great horned owl (GHOW) who could not fly. Radiographs revealed a broken right humerus, the largest of the wing bones. Shortly after his arrival, Nokomis underwent surgery to repair his fractured wing.
Metal pins were inserted into the bone fragments to hold them in place and an external fixator was placed on the outside of the bone to stabilize the pins. He was given antibiotics and physical therapy and recovered enough to be sent to a rehabilitator. However, the rehabber sent him back to the WMC for two reasons: first because his right wing was still drooping, and second because he had an unusually docile demeanor for a GHOW.
Normally, great horned owls are very aggressive and will clack their beaks and hiss when they feel threatened, using their beaks as well as their talons to defend themselves. Additionally, great horned owls are territorial animals and must be aggressive to defend their hunting grounds.
Nokomis was very docile – a very unusual occurrence for a GHOW. He was very curious from the start and loved to watch everything that happened in the clinic from his perch. He became one of our residents after it was determined he could not survive on his own in the wild and since served as a beautiful ambassador for his species.
Noel (2006-2016), our resident Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus), was a wonderful member of our resident program for nearly 10 years. She was found in Alvin, IL, and brought to the Wildlife Medical Clinic on December 5, 2006, with no function, or feeling, in her left wing. No fractures were seen on X-rays, and it was later determined that an injury had caused irreversible nerve damage to the wing. Due to this injury, Noel could no longer fly, and, therefore, could no longer survive in the wild. Fortunately, the clinic was able to obtain permission for Noel to join our Resident Raptor Program. She was unique in being our only resident that came into the clinic as an adult as opposed to a juvenile, and, due to that, we are unsure as to exactly how old she is. She had a surprisingly mild disposition for an adult owl, and this disposition was ideal for behavioral training and use in educational presentations. To our great sadness, Noel passed away on September 29, 2016 from natural causes. She was extremely old for her species, and was found peacefully at rest. She will be incredibly missed.
Fun Facts: Saw-whet owls are one of the smallest owls native to North America (the smallest in Illinois), generally weighing less than five ounces. Few people ever see a Saw-Whet Owl in the wild, due to both their small size and being strictly nocturnal. As with all owl species, a Saw-Whet’s eyes are too large to move in their sockets; their anatomy makes up for this by allowing them to swivel their head ~270 degrees, so that they can still see in all directions.
Mikey, our resident Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta), was an incredible addition to our Education and Outreach Program this past year. During his time with us, Mikey traveled to many PR events to educate both children and adults about the importance of wildlife and nature. Mikey was donated to the Wildlife Medical Clinic during the summer of 2015. His previous owner was a grade school teacher that had him as a classroom pet for over 25 years! When Mikey’s owner retired, he was donated to our clinic to become a permanent resident. Due to the environment that he had lived in for 25 years, Mikey was very sociable and curious. He loved receiving treats, exploring, watching and interacting with the clinic volunteers, and going outside to soak up some natural UV light. He was a wonderful member of the clinic, and served as an incredible ambassador for his species. Unfortunately, Mikey passed away in May 2016. He will be greatly missed.
Fun Facts: Painted turtles are the most widespread species of native turtles in North America. These turtles are aquatic and feed on algae, vegetation and small water creatures, like insects and small fish.