Release is releasing a bird back into the wild that has been rehabilitated and reconditioned for flight. It is why we do what we do! Our goal of every rescue is to return the bird “home” back in the wild where it belongs. The life of a bird of prey, or raptor, is a challenge every day to survive. Everything that we do is focused on making sure we give them the best possible chance at survival.
Factors we take into account when releasing a bird:
From the birds perspective we make sure:
- It is safe immediately around the release point
- It is this familar territory i.e.”home”
- If it cannot be returned to it’s resuce point we determine if the habitat is suitable for the species and that there is prey redily accessible to the particular species.
We always try to return the birds to the general area where they were picked up. This gives the bird a better chance since this is where nature intended it to be. If it is returned home the food supply should be adequate unless the landscape has changed since rescue.
Is the area free of potential hazards?
- Is there traffic?
- Is it free from any predators or mobbing birds?
- Are you far enough away from the road?
- Is it free of fences?
- Is it free of livestock such as cattle?
- Is the habitat right?
- Is it free of power lines in immediate release area?
- Is the bird going to be over water?
Is the bird physically okay?
Birds can get injured in transport. It does not happen often but it does happen. Make sure no feathers or wings were damaged in the box. Remove the bird from the container as long as you can safely, and give it a quick look over before you let it go. Check it’s legs to make sure any identifying bands or tie wraps were removed. If not, remove them prior to release. If the bird is injured return it to your coordinator or the designated person quickly for treatment.
Is the habitat right?
- Kestrels need to be in a habitat where lots of small mammals and invertebrates are. You should look at the type of terrain, grass height, access to insects and small mammals. Tree cover and the type of trees that are around.
- When releasing a Bald Eagle it must be near a large body of water such as Tampa Bay, The Gulf of Mexico or one of the main rivers that flow through the area. A readily available food supply will encourage raptors to stay in the release area for at least a few days.
- Although you want to release eagles and osprey near water you don’t want their first flight to be straight out over water. Never release right by the water. If there is any problem at release you won’t be able to retrieve them easily if they are out in the water. This is especially true with osprey.
- If a bird has been shot, it will not be returned back to the same area. Although all shootings are reported to FWC rarely if ever is there enough evidence for an arrest or conviction.
Is it the right time of day?
Diurnal birds should be released during daylight hours, preferably before noon, to give them plenty of time to get adjusted to their surroundings and find a place to roost.
Nocturnal birds, such as owls, should be released after the sundown. This helps minimize songbirds attacking them. Screech owls should never be released before sundown as they can get hurt from jays and crows who will relentlessly peck at them.
- Is it safe?
- Is there suitable prey for the specific bird being released?
- Is there sufficient prey density?
- Is prey accessible?
- Is it the right time of day?
Prey availability can only be assessed at the release site; once the bird leaves the area one can only hope it will seek out areas with the correct prey density levels.