Editor's note: This article was submitted by a friend who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous. However, we agree with the sentiments expressed below.
We breed parrots. And, we live in a neighborhood. Because our neighbors know that we are bird people, when a native bird gets into trouble, we get a call. However, we are not licensed wildlife rehabbers, so this can create situations that are problematic at best.
Recently, we had an interesting experience. Neighbors stopped by and asked if we were missing a red-tailed bird. We immediately thought one of our African greys had escaped. You would be amazed at how many people exist who don't know a parrot from a hawk. Anyway, I went down to see the bird. It was not a grey; it was a gorgeous red-tailed hawk, complete with anklets and bells, which are the typical garb of a trained hunting bird.
Because of the bird's size, I suspected that it was a female, which turned out to be true. She was extremely tame. The neighbors threw some meat in the back of the pickup in their driveway, she immediately flew down to eat, and I grabbed her and put her in my car. I probably should have been a little more cautious about just grabbing a raptor, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and fortunately for me, she didn't protest at all. If she had, I could easily have ended up in the emergency room. We got home, I grabbed her again, and I placed her in a flight in our backyard in serious violation of state and federal law. I called my wife and told her to bring home raw meat, gave the hawk a crock of water, and called a friend who is one of the top raptor rehabbers in the country.
With my friend's help, Taylor was reunited with her owner 2 days later. We checked for anyone who had reported a lost raptor in the area, then verified that the person who had was a licensed falconer. We wanted to ensure that this bird was legally held.
Now, we have one very happy falconer here in our city. He had lost Taylor about a month ago while hunting with her on a creek that eventually winds through our neighborhood. After spending 3 days from daylight 'til dusk trying to find her and finally giving up because heavy rains set in for several days, he had lost hope. Taylor had followed the creek a few miles and had spent the last 2 weeks mooching meals from some of our neighbors. She went home fat and happy. She was truly a magnificent bird, although her owner says she is now in serious need of going on a diet to get back into flying weight.
However, note that we were violating both state and federal laws while we were holding this bird trying to find her owner. If a neighbor had reported us, we would have been subject to prosecution, and Taylor would have been confiscated and might never have been reunited with her legal owner. It's not like we were holding a wild bird that otherwise would have been doing what raptors do best, hunting and making a living off the land. This bird was so tame that when it lost its owner, it sought out others who would feed it. Although I understand that we need laws to protect wildlife, the fact that I was both a state and federal criminal for 48 hours while we kept Taylor and reunited her with her owner is completely beyond me. I think that something is wrong here. I understand that people should not simply be able to keep native birds as captive pets. But, should those of us who want only the best for native birds be criminals while we try to protect them and do what is best for them? I don't think so, although I'm not sure what a reasonable solution to the problem would be.
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