Injured Birds

Injured Raptors, Waterfowl, and Other Birds 

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

It is illegal to possess any raptor. US Dept of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management states:

“All raptors are protected by state and federal regulations. It is illegal to capture or kill a raptor; possess a raptor (living or dead), or any pieces or parts of raptors, including feathers, without proper permits from state and federal government agencies”.  See Legal requirements for Raptor Possession .

In eastern Montana, there are several licensed resources available to assist with injured birds depending on the specific species.  Do not attempt to move any raptor unless you are directed to do so by a licensed professional, unless it is unavoidable for safety reasons.  See the instructions below.

For injured or twine entangled Ospreys, call Dr. Marco Restani at 406-425-2608 asap.  If possible, stay by the raptor until help arrives.  If you cannot reach Dr. Restani, call Deb Regele at 406-962-3115.  For injured Ospreys, you can also call the Montana Raptor Conservation Center at 406-585-1211.

For all other injured raptors, call Montana Raptor Conservation Center (MRCC) at 406-585-1211- quickly.  If possible, stay by the raptor until help arrives.  MRCC has local contacts for assistance.  After hours contact numbers are:   Becky Kean at 406-570-6215 or 406-586-0002.

For waterfowl, call WJH Bird Resources at 406-652-7175.  If possible, stay by the bird until help arrives.

For all other birds including game birds, call the MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks – Monday through Friday at 406-247-2940.  If they are willing to accept them, injured birds can be taken to Moore Lane Veterinary Clinic temporarily until transportation can be arranged.

You can also call YVAS’ injured bird transport contact, Jeanette Tasey, at 406-669-3169 for assistance.

If you are unable to contact the above resources, it is widely advised that “If you care, leave it there”.

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Injured Raptors

The following procedures apply to the assist and transport of injured raptors under the sanction of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center.  Be sure to contact the Montana Raptor Conservation Center 406-585-1211 before handling, capturing, or transporting an injured Raptor.

If you are unable to remain on scene, mark the area so the rescuer can locate the raptor more readily.  Mark the area with rocks, sticks, or other convenient objects.  Use a landmark or GPS if you have that capability.  Use highway markers with exact distances.  If there are telephone poles in the area, get the identifying number off the telephone pole.   If you choose to use flagging tape, please arrange to remove it after the crisis is over!

If you find an injured raptor and must move or contain it due to unavoidable circumstances, keep in mind that the bird is very frightened and does not know you are trying to help.

If possible, wear gloves, safety or sun glasses, and have a ventilated box ready with a towel in the bottom to prevent the bird from sliding. A dog kennel works best.

Avoid bird or wire cages, as these can cause feather and soft tissue damage. The carrier should have plenty of ventilation holes and should only be slightly larger than the bird. The less room an injured bird has to move around, the less likely it is to cause additional injury to itself. However, if a container is too small, a bird can sustain extensive wing and feather damage.

Also, have a lightweight blanket, towel, or jacket ready that is large enough to cover the entire bird cage to reduce visual stimulation and help keep the bird calm. 

Tips for containing an injured raptor:

  1. The bird may flip onto its back as you get closer, so try to approach from the rear and quickly, but gently, cover the bird with the blanket or towel.
  1. Fold the wings into the bird’s body and gently, but firmly, lift the bird into the box. The beak and talons are sharp, so hold the bird away from your body to prevent accidental contact when placing it in the box or carrier.
  1. If the bird has grasped the towel, or blanket, leave it in the box, but try to make sure it won’t cover the bird’s head or body as that could suffocate or quickly overheat the injured bird. Close the lid.
  1. If you’re putting the bird in your vehicle, keep voices low and the radio off. Birds do not perceive our voices as soothing.
  1. Until the bird can be transferred to the Raptor Center, keep him in a warm, dark, and calm environment. Use extra care to keep the bird away from children, pets, and loud noise. Do not keep opening the box to look in. Any handling results in stress and greatly reduces the bird’s chance for recovery. This is extremely important!

Never feed or give water to an injured raptor as this may complicate internal injuries and worsen their condition. If the bird has not eaten in a while, its digestive system shuts down and cannot handle food. At the Raptor Center, the birds are given a special fluid therapy for a few days until their systems re-start.

Do not attempt to treat the bird yourself or keep it any longer than necessary. Time is crucial to any chance of recovery. The Raptor Center or a similarly licensed and qualified facility is equipped to handle all injuries, so the quicker the bird is transferred, the better the chances for recovery and release back into the wild.

Again, these procedures apply to the assist and transport of injured raptors under the sanction of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center.  Be sure to contact the Raptor Center before handling, capturing, or transporting an injured Raptor.

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