Leanne, a prairie falcon, is a rare sight around the Okanagan.
She was found in November, hanging around a daycare in Trail, B.C., completely at home around humans.
The South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls (SORCO) was called and is now housing the unique bird of prey.
“It’s suspected she was a falconer’s bird, because she’s very tame,” said SORCO manager, Dale Belvedere. “They’re very rare in the Okanagan Valley. As far as our records go back, we have never received a prairie falcon.”
Belvedere and her team are working hard to prepare the falcon for life in the wild.
“We’re limiting contact with her so that she won’t be as used to humans, and hopefully we’ll release her back to the Trail area in early spring.”
The raptor rehab centre is a not-for-profit organization and a true labour of love.
“SORCO is a rescue rehab centre for birds of prey raptors, so owls, hawks, eagles and osprey,” Belvedere explained. “We rescue them from their injuries and we rehabilitate them and release them back to the wild.”
The organization relies heavily on public donations, which go directly towards bird care.
On site at the moment are more than a dozen birds, including three saw-whet owls, two great horned owls, a merlin, a western screech owl, a juvenile bald eagle and the prairie falcon.
The length of rehabilitation depends on the injury as well as how soon the bird ends up in SORCO’s care.
“The faster we get the bird, the faster it’s treatable.” Belvedere said. “Sometimes a bird can be here for 48 hours. Sometimes we keep them for nine months to a year.”
Belvedere instructs that it’s very important to call SORCO immediately when coming across an injured bird of prey.
“We’ll instruct you on what to do,” said Belvedere. “It’s very dangerous to handle a bird of prey and, also, it may not be injured.”
There are several quick fixes everyone can adopt to ensure they are doing their part in protecting these majestic birds.
“Windows are very dangerous for them. They see through glass, so they don’t know it’s there,” said Belvedere. “Put a decal on your window if you don’t have curtains or blinds. That way they’ll see it and not hit it.”
Another important tip – avoid using rat poison, because it ends up being ingested by the birds.
“Go back to the old-fashioned way of using rat traps,” said Belvedere. “And netting in vineyards and orchards, those are very dangerous for the raptors.”
SORCO has a free educational program available for schools, organizations and clubs interested in raptor conservation.
As for the public, there is only one day a year that the centre throws its doors open for an open house. The next event takes place May 5, 2019.
The centre is always looking for dedicated volunteers over the age of 19 to help protect and save injured and orphaned raptors.
To learn about volunteer opportunities, please visit SORCO’s website.