New wildlife clinic facility provides a boost to recovering large birds

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Employees at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic north of Calgary say their new enclosure will help wild birds better recover from injuries.

The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) in northern Rocky View County recently completed construction of a new 2,650-square-foot bird enclosure. Nicknamed ‘the Runway’, the space can house a larger number of birds than its previous two enclosures, according to staff.

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The enclosure is customizable, with features like adjustable perches, shelters, and gates between pens. AIWC communications coordinator Scottie Potter said the design of the space will allow the animal hospital’s veterinarians to more accurately evaluate the birds as they resume flight after recovering from their injuries.

While the wildlife clinic has two similar enclosures, Potter said neither of them contain curved corners, which helps staff better evaluate the turning and hunting skills of a rehabilitating bird.

“We have a perfect right angle one, but that’s not exactly what we needed, so this project was implemented to replace the old enclosures and develop something new that would meet more of our rehabilitation needs,” he said.

“It’s about making sure our ability to assess birds is as accurate as possible.”

The Alberta Wildlife Conservation Institute's new bird enclosure
The Alberta Wildlife Conservation Institute’s new 2,650-square-foot facility will better help wildlife clinic veterinarians assess flight recovery of injured birds, such as owls, crows and hawks. Presented by the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation

The track has already been tested by two great horned owls who are being treated for wing and eye injuries.

Other bird species that will benefit from the enclosure include falcons, eagles and juvenile crows.

“One of the first birds that will try this site is a bald eagle that we just left in our care a couple of weeks ago,” Potter said. “It’s not ready for a full flight test yet, but it will probably be there (soon) for our team to evaluate its flight.”

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Most bird injuries are due to interactions with humans

Based near the village of Madden, about 40 kilometers northwest of Calgary, AIWC has been rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orphaned and injured wildlife throughout southern Alberta for 31 years. According to its website, the clinic has admitted more than 36,000 animals into its care since opening in 1993.

Birds make up a big part of those numbers, Potter said. The nonprofit clinic treats more than 1,000 injured birds annually, and more than 1,400 arrived at the facility last year.

The clinic’s busiest time of year is in May or June, after the annual peak of the baby boom each spring, when many wildlife species give birth or hatch their young.

Most bird injuries are due to interactions with humans, with the most common cause being vehicle collisions.

To help reduce the number of injured or orphaned birds, AIWC He recently released a video – the second episode of her Alberta Wildlife Insider series – with information on how to decrease the chance of inadvertently harming wild birds, specifically great horned owls.

“When it comes to specific things, one of the most important would be safe driving; that’s one of the biggest threats to great horned owls,” Potter said.

Another man-made danger to wild birds is getting trapped in barbed wire fences, he added.

Those who encounter injured or orphaned wildlife are encouraged to call the AIWC Wildlife Hotline at 403-946-2361.

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