A Falcon Flies Again

A number of years ago, a young fellow approached me in Huron, South Dakota. He had an injured falcon a kestrel and knowing that I had a keen interest in birds, thought I might be able to help him out. He had found it beneath overhead wires,believing the bird had struck a wire, damaging but not breaking a wing. I took the falcon from a real conservationist and told him I'd do what I could to bring the bird back to good health.

A period of rest was in order to give strained wing muscles time to heal. We took a spare bedroom and converted it into a raptor rehab center. A large cage made up of chicken wire with a fish net roof was constructed. We would keep our guest all winter then hopefully release him in the spring. Each time we entered the rehab center he'd scream at us. I took that as an expression of gratitude from a bird to a bird admirer.

Feed was to be all natural. As it was early fall, grasshoppers were still in season. He was a most discriminating patron. Offered a hopper, he would remove the head and spit it out. The legs were disposed of in the same manner. He then would dine on the thorax and abdomen—evidently the choicest parts. 

As winter set in, grasshoppers were out of season, so we switched to house mice, snap trapped in horse stalls at the State Fair Grounds. As I recall, our patient would eat the entire mouse starting at the nose and proceeding down to the tail. His winter diet consisted of one mouse every other day. 

Come spring, all seemed set for a release back into the wild. His wing had healed and he generally appeared to be in good health. Taken outside, he was given a grand send off. However, his flight was labored, never taking him above ground more than a couple of feet. After a flight of about fifty yards, he sat down, obviously winded. We then picked him up and returned him to his caged home.

What to do? We needed a large cage where he could re-gain strength by flying about. Fortunately, I had a friend in North Dakota who had a friend at the Bismarck zoo. They had a large vacant cage our falcon could fly about in to complete his rehab. So I placed him on his back in a well padded sturdy shoe box, punched air holes in the box and air mailed him to Bismarck via Frontier Airlines. No worries, falcon, leave the flying to fellow flyers. Good news, within six weeks, the kestrel made entry into his place in the wild.

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