January 3rd, 2015

foxy

one to hold the bird, one to operate the dremel

Today I got to watch someone cope (that is, trim) the beak and talons of a barn owl. This bird has a persistent wing droop that has kept it at the raptor center for a while. It doesn't cooperate with being restrained, but it doesn't fight much either. (There's a tiny screech owl that's been there for a couple weeks, and both times I've seen it handled, I've seen it injure its handler. There's a reason up-to-date tetanus shots are the first requirement of a volunteer.)

The bird's beak and talons grow like fingernails, and if the bird doesn't wear them down, or wears them down unevenly, they need to be trimmed. To restrain a bird, you cover it with a drape, like a cut-open pillowcase. If they can't see, they can't fly, and also they are less likely (though not unlikely) to try to attack you. So one person holds the bird, with the bird's back to his chest and his hands around the bird's legs, and the other uses a Dremel to grind the beak and the talons closer to their ideal shape. This is not to blunt them, mind you; we don't want to take away the bird's weapons, we want to make them less likely to crack.

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