The Process

Medical Process Cover

Senior Medical Coordinator Mathias Engelmann exercises a Red-tailed Hawk in a large flight training facility at Carolina Raptor Center. Photo by Jeff Mittlestadt.

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I believe I can fly / I believe I can touch the sky / I think about it every night and day / Spread my wings and fly away... – R. Kelly

What it takes to rehabilitate injured raptors... A Day in the Life of a Raptor Hospital

The work day starts at 7 am and often extends past the 7 pm closing time. Activities are varied and each day brings a new challenge for the volunteers and staff that work here.

Here is a taste of a day in the life of a raptor hospital:

7 am - Diurnal Feeders Arrive
Every day a group of volunteers arrives in the morning to prepare and feed the hawks, eagles, osprey. And in the hospital, there are usually between 40 and 200 birds being treated at any given time.

9:04 am - Call from Finder Requesting Transport
CRC fields daily calls from folks around the region who have found an injured or orphaned bird. Trained transport volunteers live regionally and can usually be called upon to assist finders catch the bird and bring it to the hospital for treatment.

9:45 am - Physical Therapy Session under Anesthesia
Birds recovering from orthopedic surgery require periodic physical therapy. Our staff veterinarian and rehabilitation coordinators can determine here how the bird is progressing toward release.

10:30 am - Injured Bird Arrives – Intake Exam
A full assessment is performed on a bird that enters treatment. This assessment may include a physical exam, ocular exam, x-rays, the administration of fluids and other medications or even surgery.

11:45 am - Second Orphan Feeding
Baby birds must be fed up to six times a day. Feeders will dress in camouflage and feed baby birds with puppets of their same species. This is to ensure that the young birds are not imprinted on humans.

1:15 pm - Orthopedic Repair of Fracture in Surgical Suite
The staff veterinarian is an accomplished avian surgeon who repairs many types of bone fractures. He uses innovative techniques and new materials to ensure that the birds have the best chance of recovery.

2:30 pm - Mouse School in Large Flight Cage
The last stop in the journey back to the wild is a “classroom” session on catching prey. Live prey is introduced into our large flight cages, and observers ensure that each bird is capable of catching their share.

3 pm - Veterinary Student Necropsy Lesson
Over 20 students a year attend our RaptorVet program. They shadow our staff and volunteers and gain invaluable hands on experience, including performing dissections to determine cause of death.

4 pm - Nocturnal Feeders Arrive
Birds active in the evening hours prefer their dinner later in the day. The second shift prepares food and medication for the owl population.

5:30 pm - X-ray performed on New Patient
State of the art digital X-ray equipment donated by Novant Health provides CRC’s avian specialists with a “bird’s eye view” of broken bones and surgical repairs.

8 pm - Great Horned Owl Release
The culmination of all of the good work at CRC’s raptor hospital is a good release. You can release one of these birds in an appropriate habitat for a suggested donation of $150. More info.

These and other activities in our Raptor Hospital are chronicled in “A Day in the Life of A Raptor Hospital,” a visitor exhibit on the Raptor Trail.