PAWS Magazine


Issue 54, Spring 2003


A Birds Eye View

by Kip Parker

Think small: about 10 inches in height (a little more if you count the tail) with short, pointed wings (each about 8 inches long). Think light-weight: the female is only about 7.5 ounces, the male is 5.5 ounces; they have hollow bones for speed and lightness.

Think beautiful, subtle coloration: shades of brown above for the female, almost slate gray above for the male, variably barred or streaked below with buff and dark brown for both. A dark crown is set off by a narrow, buffy streak above dark brown eyes and yellow legs and feet. Think small, very fast falcon: the merlin (Falco columbarius), a compact, powerful, and aggressive aerial predator of small birds and insects.

Think speed: traveling at about 9 meters per second (or 20 miles per hour). Think downtown Kirkland buildings with their reflective-glass windows. Think confusion and high-speed collision: small bird meets solid object, blacks out, hits the ground.

Think rescue by Kirkland police and transportation to PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood. Think full physical examination performed, eye medication and fluids given, x-rays taken, blood sample drawn. Think abrasions on right leg, eye trauma, fractured scapula (shoulder blade) and coracoid (a bone that helps stabilize the shoulder joint). These are compounded by feather rot in the tail. Think a broken bird that cannot fly.

Think daily veterinary and rehabilitation care, food, and rest while bones heal, keen eyesight returns, and a bird learns to fly again. Think a special procedure to replace broken tail feathers (see box on imping). Think individualized care for more than two months (74 days), then final assessment, clean bill of health, and transport back to Kirkland. Think release, freedom, exultation, flying free again.

Think PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and a dedicated team of staff and volunteers working to return wildlife to the wild. Think 4,500 unique stories each year. This is just one story.

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