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Orphaned birds of prey get a helping hand from young volunteer at Coaldale centre

Click to play video: 'Young volunteer helping with orphaned birds at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale'
Young volunteer helping with orphaned birds at the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale
WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale is seeing a growing number of orphaned birds this summer. For one 10-year-old avian enthusiast, it’s a chance to interact with them up close – Aug 18, 2017

The Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale is seeing a growing number of orphaned birds this summer. For one 10-year-old volunteer, it’s a chance to learn how to care for the youngsters firsthand.

Just last week, the centre received two juvenile Northern Harrier Hawks that were found in a field, something that’s become quite common this year.

“I believe we’ve had around 70 orphaned or rescued juvenile birds of prey [this summer] — that’s hawks, owls, eagles, falcons,” said Morgan Kelley, the centre’s wildlife interpreter.

“Usually we don’t have as many brought in so young.”

Lia Race, 10, just started volunteering at the centre and is learning what it takes to care for the rescued birds.

“It’s a good experience, and it’s actually pretty fun just to see them, and [to] have the chance to interact with them means a lot,” Race said.
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Many of the birds are being brought in by farmers and ranchers, including five short-eared owls found during the harvest season about three months ago.

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“The youngest one must have been about three days old. He was still blind and recently hatched out of the egg,” Kelley said.

Others are brought in after being found out of the nest and in harm’s way from vehicles or foot traffic.

“People will bring them into us, we raise them and we try to prevent them from getting too attached to people… and we release them in the fall,” Kelley said.

Kelley adds some birds just learning to fly can also be mistaken for being hurt.

“A good indicator you should leave a bird alone is if the parents still visit the area,” she said. “Those fledglings will be walking and jumping around the ground practicing to hunt, but the parents will still be flying in to feed them.”

Race knows helping educate people is a big part of the job — just a few months ago, she donated her birthday money to help sponsor two owls.

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“When I started reading Harry Potter, Harry had a pet owl named Hedwig, and I really like watching the movies and seeing all the owls in the movies and it inspired me,” she said.

Now the young avian enthusiast is hoping to turn that inspiration into something more.

“I wanted to be a vet originally,” Race explained, “but now that I’m here, I might want to see if I can work here.”

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