January 26, 2009 in City

Center trying to encourage bird romance

Experts hope to create prime conditions for rare hawks, owls
Associated Press
 

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – It’s a birds and bees kind of question that confronts a Southern Oregon wildlife organization: How to encourage some rare birds displaced by natural disasters to mate.

Workers at Wildlife Images in Josephine County have decided that more privacy is called for.

The nonprofit center is now home to the only known pair of great black hawks in captivity in the United States, as well as a pair of tawny owls native to Europe and a couple of South American king vultures that so far haven’t been showing much romantic spark, said Nora Silber, avian conservation center coordinator.

“We’re trying to figure out what we need to do to kind of make the love glow,” she said.

Part of that includes reducing human interaction to give the birds some breeding privacy, so the bird breeding area isn’t part of daily tours available to the public.

The Oregon sanctuary normally rehabilitates Pacific Northwest wildlife, but it took in rare birds after Hurricane Katrina swamped coastal sanctuaries and flooding threatened the World Bird Center in St. Louis.

A donor came up with a large metal building to provide warm housing for the tropical birds, and the organization also got help designing a treehouse observatory so that people could eventually view birds without disturbing them.

The “condorminium,” as it’s dubbed by staff, is also home to a Eurasian eagle owl, Disaster, whose mate died of old age, and an Andean condor who doesn’t yet have a mate.

It displayed persistent curiosity about those recently in the treehouse, and a goal is to replace the glass with a one-way variety so the birds don’t know someone is watching them, said Chip Weinert, fundraising coordinator. Crews are still working on the treehouse and surrounding area.

Great black hawks Ebony and Hagar aren’t yet in their mating cycle, although Wildlife Images workers have hopes that they’ll hit it off in an enclosure decorated with Christmas trees.

The organization accepts discarded cut trees from the public for a variety of enclosures because the animals find them interesting, and donated live trees are also used.

Playing Cupid to birds involves a mix of knowledge and luck. The tawny owls like a choice of places to nest, so the Wildlife Images crew built them several spots, and it looks as if they’re settling in with a family – although the female isn’t being disturbed on her nest to check for sure.

“You just have to know the species,” Silber said.

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