Horizon Wings strives to rehabilitate and increase awareness about birds of prey

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Ashford - posted Fri., May. 6, 2011
Mary-Beth Kaeser gathers up barred owl Emrys to conduct an educational program on April 30. Photos by Lauri Voter.
Mary-Beth Kaeser gathers up barred owl Emrys to conduct an educational program on April 30. Photos by Lauri Voter.

Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation & Education, of Ashford, held one of its many bird of prey educational programs on Saturday, April 30, in conjunction with Earth Day.

In 2001, the non-profit Horizon Wings organization was founded by Mary-Beth Kaeser and her husband, Alan Nordell, who has participated in Connecticut's Bald Eagle Study Group.

Initially, Kaeser and Nordell started the non-profit Horizon Wings organization so that it could take donations to help fund its services.

“I've been a 'rehabor' for many years, and 'rehabors' are not paid, so I started a non-profit to help with the funding for the rehabilitation,” explained Kaeser.

Currently, Horizon Wings does not rely on grant funding to support its operation. However, Kaeser and Nordell are headed in that direction, and will most likely apply for more private grants than state-funded grants.

“We're going to start writing grants. We're just starting to seek out grants, and learn to do grant-writing,” said Kaeser.

Horizon Wings helps injured birds of prey to recuperate, with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. Some birds with irreparable injuries, that could no longer survive in the wild, found a new home in the Horizon Wings aviaries, becoming program birds.

Each program bird, which has been given its own name, is used in presentations to educate and inform people about the birds.

Horizon Wings currently has several program birds, including an American kestrel named Kisra; a barn owl named Silo; a barred owl named Emrys; a screech owl named Cedar; a red-tailed hawk named Dakota; a broad-winged hawk named Chico; a great-horned owl named Oscar; a peregrine falcon named Athena; and a common raven named Julian. Atka the bald eagle is the newest member of the team. Originally found injured in Washington state, he traveled a long way to join Horizon Wings.

“I think he will be good a program bird,” said Kaeser.

On its website, www.horizonwings.org, Horizon Wings describes its educational functions, saying, “We bring some or all of our program birds to your event and talk about their lives, habits and ways to protect them. We also discuss what's involved in being a wildlife rehabilitator.”

Kaeser says that many, but not all of the birds that must remain in captivity, are able to adapt to that condition, and many are able to become program birds.

“It depends on the bird. You can't make every bird into a program bird. Some birds are too nervous and high-strung. The birds that we have chosen to keep are the ones that have been able to adapt well. Each bird is different. Some go to places where they might just do well in a cage at a zoo or a park, but many are humanely euthanized. Last year, we rehabilitated about 65 birds. We released a little over half. None of them became program birds for us, but we have placed birds elsewhere,” said Kaeser.

Kaeser says that many birds in captivity become accustomed to people.

“I think there is a potential that they do attach themselves more to some people than to others,” said Kaeser.

On the other hand, Kaeser freely admits “there is definitely an emotional attachment for us to these birds.”

Kaeser explained that living in captivity can double a bird's expected lifespan in the wild. It depends on the bird, but according to Kaeser, removing predation and getting hit by cars from the equation, while factoring in that the birds have a reliable source of daily food and can receive veterinary treatment, can greatly enhance these creatures' lifetimes.

Kaeser and Nordell hope to expand their organization's program function.

“Our focus right now is to increase the number of educational programs we do,” said Kaeser.

To this end, Horizon Wings has several upcoming, private functions at schools.

Kaeser invites the public to learn more about Horizon Wings, or to contact them about injured birds of prey, by calling 860-429-2181 or visiting www.horizonwings.org.

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