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Rockcliffe Raptors

I Hope you enjoy reading a brief history of our small collection. They are a mismatch of birds some I have bought as captive bred, some captive bred I have re-homed and some wild birds that I have committed to take care of as they are unable to be released back into the wild. 

They are all differant charectors, some affectionate, some not so and one or two who can be quite nasty. 

Please note that the wild birds in our collection are fully licensed and are approved by DEFRA for public display.

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RAJ

Bengal / Indian Eagle Owl  Bubo bengalenisis

  Raj was our first owl, we received her as a 3 week old captive bred chick in June 2002. She has always  been that bit special with being the first, but she became even more special after nearly loosing her to a very serious illness in 2005. She underwent surgery for a condition known as egg peritonitis, this is when the embryo enters the abdomen instead of the oviduct. Raj had a massive weight gain in a very short period and x-rays showed that her abdomen was full of embryos. Fortunately my vets at that time, Birch Heath in Tarporley, were brilliant with her treatment, even when a few weeks later she developed further problems with a stricture in her throat. This was treated successfully with the application of steroids through a nebuliser. Part of Raj's extensive treatment even included the equivalent to HRT! Raj is quite a character she is still very maternal with an uncanny sense of knowing when we have a new young chick. She still "sits" at least once a year although obviously she doesn't lay any eggs and unfortunately she gets a "chesty" condition occasionally and has to have a nebuliser for 5 days or so. Oh, and if you are wondering how you nebulise an owl, she is put in her traveling box and the nozzle of the nebuliser is put through one of the ventilation holes. Raj has now developed spondylitis in her spine, it does not affect her on a daily basis but we have had to retire her from offsite events as traveling seems to aggravate the condition. It may sound as if she is a very poorly owl, but I can assure you she is quite healthy and happy we just have to be aware of her ailments.

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MAPLE

Canadian Great Horned Owl  Bubo virginianus wapacuthu

Maple was our second owl and she came to us in 2003 as a 4 week old captive bred chick. Even though Raj was only just 1 year old it was with Maple that she started to show her "maternal" instincts. Maple grew very quickly and we weren't able to keep her in the house for as long as we would normally like to with a young owl. Because of this Maple isn't quite as imprinted as some of our other birds. In fact Maple became quite a nervous owl and would get upset over the sight of the slightest thing, normally when she caught site of a passing cat! However since moving from Wallasey she has become a much more relaxed bird and spends most of her day sitting on her favourite perch watching the world go by. The only down side with Maple is  that she is so content in her aviary she doesn't take kindly to being caught up to be taken out. Don't get me wrong it's not that she gets stressed, she will sit at a show or on a school visit quite happily and is very good on the glove, but you have to be very careful with your un-gloved hand as she constantly watches it, waiting to give you a rather nasty bite. In spite of this she is very special to us, as are all our birds, and out of all the owls I think her colouring is the most beautiful. By the way we always thought Maple was a male until a friend of mine who breeds owls pointed out she was far too big for a male. For those of you that don't know there are few owls species that can be identified by difference in plumage, unless you have your bird DNA sexed the only guide you have is that in most birds of prey the female is always bigger than the male.

In March 2016 Maple left us in no doubt as to what gender she was as she laid her eggs!

At 13 years old this was her first time! Obviously as she hasn't got a partner they weren't fertile and I suspect she wouldn't make a good 'Mum' as she only sat on the eggs for 15 days, normally incubation 

would be around 34 days. During this time she was of course very broody and unusually for her she was very affectionate.

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KO'KO  "Watcher of The Dark"

Barn Owl  Tyto alba

Ko'Ko hatched on 3rd of May 2004. Three weeks later, the night before we collected Ko'Ko from his breeder, I was reading a book about how different cultures around the world react to owls. Some hold them in high esteem and sign of good luck and knowledge while others view them as a bad omen even to the extent of persecution. We still hadn't thought of a name for our barn owl chick. I was reading a chapter on the North American Hopi Indians who believed that owls brought them good fortune and the name they gave to owls was Ko'Ko, which translated means "Watcher of The Dark". We now had a name for our new chick. Ko'Ko has turned out to be the "Star" of our team, apart from Barn Owls being most peoples favourite owl his temperament is perfect for close up handling when explaining the special features of owls on school visits etc. He never seems to get phased by being close to strangers and even puts up with me putting a finger into the feathers behind his head to show how deep the plumage is! At most events he seeks attention and is constantly waiting to be picked up and held on the glove were he sits quite happily and given half the chance will then go to sleep! At home he is definitely our most affectionate bird. I have a daily routine of weighing all the birds in their flights. When I go into Ko'Ko he is usually half asleep on a shelf, but if I hold out my gloved hand he walks up my arm onto my shoulder. He then goes into a ritual of spreading his wings around the back of my head, gently nibbles my ear and is chirping away as if he is telling me what sort of day he has had. I then place the scales on the tree stump in his flight and he jumps down onto the scales and stands patiently while I right down his weight in my note book! He does have his moments and at certain times of the year can be very vocal and a little bit head strong but this only lasts a few weeks and soon back to normal.

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TALLY 

Tawny Owl  Strix aluco

Tally is a wild rescue bird (now fully licensed) and came to us as a first year bird in January 2007.       Like most of our birds Tally has a little story to tell. Tawny Owl chicks do not stay in their nests very long and even before they fledge they sit with their siblings on a branch watching their parents hunt for food and learning the skills they will need to survive, this is known as "Branching". Unfortunately it is not uncommon for a chick to fall out of the tree, normally the chicks are quite resilient and are unharmed. This is what happened to Tally, he was perfectly ok with no physical damage, when  a well meaning passer -by found him, picked him up and took him home. Fortunately they knew that owls are carnivorous and didn't try feeding it on bread and milk or bird seed, but bought some frozen chicks and mice and started hand feeding it. This is the worst thing you can do. This very quickly led to what we call imprinting, were by the owl thinks that it's food is provided by humans and it doesn't develop it's hunting skills. In a young bird this is almost impossible to rectify and the owl would not have the skills to survive on it's own in the wild. If Tally had been left alone or at least put out of harms way on a branch of the tree, he would have been able to either climb back up to the nest or at least his parents would have found him and continued to feed him and teach him the necessary skills. This goes for most wild creatures, if you find young of any species and they are not injured or in any harm, leave well alone and move away causing as little distress or disturbance as possible. Although Tally is an imprint he is not to the same degree as our captive bred birds. He soon took to my weighing regime though and within a matter of a week was jumping on to the scales to be weighed when I went into his flight. Tally is good at schools but not brilliant at shows, you can almost guarantee that about an hour before we are due to pack up at a show he will become restless and want to go into his travelling box. I have Tally to thank for one very important event in my life. Until we moved from Wallasey in August 2007, I had never seen an owl in the wild! We had only been here for less than a week when Tally was calling out in the evenings and attracting the wild Tawny Owls into the garden. We have also had a couple of sightings of a wild Barn Owl. Tally has a key role in our educational programme enabling us to stress how important it is not to pick up young birds or animals.

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OTIS

Long Eared Owl  Asio otus

Otis was my birthday present shortly after we moved to Rockcliffe in August 2007. He is one of the few birds we have that we know 100% what sex he is. At the time my friend and neighbour, Dave Bellis, was only about the 5th person to have successfully bred Long Eared Owls in captivity. To ensure strong blood lines were maintained with future breading Dave had all the chicks DNA tested so that is how we know Otis is definitely a male. Otis was 7 weeks old when we got him and had fledged, so even though a young bird he didn't spend any time in the house with us as he had already been introduced to aviary life and it wouldn't have been right to restrict him to being with us in the house. He was used to being handled and hand reared but from day one we realised he was a bit different from other young owls we had reared. In fact I would go as far as to say he took an instant dislike to me!! We have heard that Long Eared are unlike other owls in that they are quite highly strung and don’t have the usual laid back attitude you get with most other species. He is quite happy in his own little world but he is a challenge when it comes to the daily ritual of weighing! Most of my birds are quite happy to be picked up and placed on the scales some even jump onto them without any coaxing, but not Otis! After a few minutes of trying to catch him, I then have to keep hold of his jesses while holding him on the scales! However he is good when we are out and his constant "startled" expression makes him a favourite especially with photographers.  Otis does have an unusual claim to fame, on a visit to Liverpool University Museum in 2012 he slipped his leash and spent 48 hours high up in the main exhibition before being caught up again!

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ZIGGY

European/Common Buzzard  Buteo buteo

Ziggy is another originally wild bird we have given a home. He has quite a strange tale to tell. He was found in the late summer of 2007 by a member of the public, attacking people and "Screaming for food" at a supermarket car park in the Midlands. He was easily caught up by offering food and a local falconer was called upon to assess the bird. The bird had obviously had human contact as the normal behaviour of a wild bird would not see it approaching humans. Ziggy didn't have a closed breeders ring or micro-chip fitted which he should have had if he was captive bred and he did have some poorly fitted anklets on. We can only surmise that Ziggy was illegally taken as a chick and then been partially trained using falconry methods as he will sit on the glove, eat on the fist and fly to the glove for food although not very keen to do so. How he came to be flying around a supermarket car park is unknown, he either escaped or the person who originally stole him from the wild gave up with the "training" and released him. This was a very cruel thing to do as Ziggy was a bird in his first year and hadn't learnt the hunting skills of a wild bird and the only way he knew how to get food was from a human being! Ziggy was assessed by a vet and the conclusion was that he was so imprinted he wouldn't be able to survive in the wild. After spending a few months with another keeper Ziggy came to stay with us in February 2008. After getting off to a bad start when Ziggy decided to rake the side of my face with his talons, he has turned out to be quite a character. He is easily weighed will fly to the glove for food in his aviary even if he is not very hungry, he is normally well behaved when out at shows or at schools, but is at his funniest when at home. He is constantly flitting about his aviary clucking and squawking, will fly over to his front perch to greet you as you approach, he then turns his head upside down to look at you. Ziggy has a companion, when he came to us he had a small cuddly toy, a blue rabbit!! This rabbit has suffered the indignity of being dragged or tossed around the flight and it is quite common in the summer for Ziggy to sit in his big bath with the rabbit in the water alongside him!!! 

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ROCKY

Eurasian Eagle Owl  Bubo bubo

Rocky is a male European Eagle Owl and he came to us as a 2 week old captive bred chick in April 2008. Hard to believe that a little chick the size of a cigarette packet would soon grow into a member of the largest owl species in the world. He stayed in the house with us until he was 8 weeks old and far too big for his play pen. He soon  became a very popular addition to the "team" and although generally good he always seems to be up to some mischief. An example of this was when I was booked to give a talk at the 1st Thurstaston Scout's group camp, I was doing 2 sessions on my own as Marg was away for the weekend. We normally cover the floor area with a plastic dust sheet when we attend talks and had done on this occasion, but Rocky decided that he wanted to destroy the sheet and as soon as I started talking he promptly jumped down off his block and proceeded to rip the plastic to shreds. Normally Marg would have been able to stop him but as I was on my own he decided to take advantage. The audience were soon in heaps of laughter at his antics and I became more and more distracted and struggled to keep on track with the presentation. In-between the two sessions I was dreading to think what he would get up to next, however help was on hand, the Group Leader appeared with a blue "Piglet" cuddly toy, acquired from the Nursery Groups toy cupboard! This did the trick as Rocky soon paid more attention to his new companion and stopped destroying the dust sheet. Piglet is now kept in our equipment box and has been brought out on a number of occasions since, when Rocky has decided he wants to misbehave! So if you ever come to see us at an event you will know why a rather large owl has got a blue "Piglet" in his grasp. By having Rocky from such a young age he is very imprinted and he is quite a softy by nature, but you have to be constantly aware that such a big and powerful bird can inflict some nasty injuries. Rocky has even tried to mate with me! I don't mean this to sound weird but I take this as a compliment and a privilege as this shows the level of trust he has with me, but believe me it is quite scary when you have got nearly 5lbs. of Eagle Owl stamping on your head even if he is being gentle. Oh and before any purists start to criticise I do not in any way encourage him, but as you are probably aware owls have silent flight and he normally waits until your back is turned before landing on your head!

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CAE

Red Tailed Hawk  Buteo jamaicensis

Cae is a female Red Tailed Hawk, a captive bred, rescued bird that came to us in November 2009. Like most of our fostered birds Cae has a tale to tell. She appeared in a garden in Cheshire and was obviously hungry and looking for food, a falconry friend of mine happened to know the owners of the property and he was called in to try and re-capture the bird, she didn't take much coaxing and flew immediately to the glove for food. Normally when finding a none native species like this you would expect to find leather anklets fitted and assume the bird had either been lost whilst out hunting or had escaped from it's aviary, Cae didn't have any anklets fitted! Closer examination showed she was in her first year and there was no breeders ring fitted, (not a legal requirement with this species but still very unusual) also after being scanned no micro-chip could be located. Only one conclusion can be reached from this, someone had bought Cae for falconry, started training her and found her to be too much to cope with and then decided to release her into the wild. This I find both disgusting and highly irresponsible apart from the legal implications. How would the person who did this know that there would be any chance of her being found and taken into care before she more than likely starved to death! Unfortunately Cae and I haven’t  achieved much of a bond as yet, she is in fact a very nervous bird and I suspect she might have been mistreated as she doesn't show any level of trust in me no matter how much time I spend with her. She is very well behaved when out at events, though she isn't brilliant on the glove, hopefully we will eventually gain a level of trust between us and she won't be quite as nervous of me.

2013 Up Date  Having spent a more time with Cae she is behaving a lot better. The daily routine of weighing which had become distressing for both of us is a lot calmer, she now jumps onto the scales herself. Attempts were made to get her flying free, she would readily eat from the glove but it was whilst doing this I inadvertently went to scratch my head  and Cae ducked and backed off! , a sure sign that she had been mistreated. I did succeed in getting her to fly on a creance from the glove to a post for food but she would never return to the glove when food was offered. Even though I continued to drop her weight for a while she was never confident enough to return to me so I reluctantly gave up as to continue might have caused more distress. She is very well behaved at shows and travels well but unfortunately due to her previous owner mistreating her she could not be flown free as I very much doubt if she would return and it would be illegal to fly her knowing this, in effect releasing a none indigenous bird into the wild. 

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FLINT

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Flint is a captive bred male Peregrine Falcon and has been with us since December 2009 and like Magnum he was a gift to us from Dean and Jane Hemingway. Dean and Jane had previously named him Flint and as he was going to be living in Flintshire we thought it was appropriate to keep it. For the more observant you might notice he is quite a bit darker than most Peregrines you may have seen, this is because he is from the African sub-species. We are not sure how old he is,  Dean acquired him in 2003 and his paperwork from a previous keeper goes back to 1998 but we are not sure if this is a complete record. Flint like a lot of falcons is quite highly strung and a bit nervous but handles quite well and is well behaved when he is out at schools or other events. He has a massive appetite for his size (av.1lb 5ozs) eating as much as Magnum (av. 3lb 6ozs) and he is always the first to finish his daily feed.


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TRUFFLE

Asian Brown Wood Owl  Strix leptogrammica

Truffle came to us on the 28th May 2011. She is a 3 year old Asian Brown Wood Owl and we have been asked to re-home her. She is a medium to small owl, slightly bigger than our Tawny Owl, in fact they belong to the same family group, strix. Asian Brown Wood Owls are found in the tropical rain forests of the Far East, Malaysia, Indonesia and parts of India. Truffle is captive bred and belongs to a breeder in the midlands, she was hand reared and has attended events with her previous keeper. However peoples circumstances change and she wasn't getting the attention she deserved, not miss treated I must point out just not being handled very often. She is absolutely fabulous when out at events and up to now has wowed her audience with her big dark eyes! However whilst being reasonably well behaved on the glove she can be a bit nasty, she has quite a bite and a strong grip for a relatively small owl. I have been giving her time to establish her territory in her aviary so that she knows she has somewhere safe to go. My intention now is to spend more time with her on the glove (manning) and hopefully we can establish a bond and she can learn to trust me more. Watch this space!

Truffle's tempremant hasn't improved at all, in fact she is the nastiest bird we have in our collection!

She doesn't like being picked up at all but at public events she sits happily and is a firm favourite with the public who think she is beautiful and such a different owl. How wrong they are Truffle's 'claim to fame' is that she is the only bird we have that has caused me to visit the Red Cross tent, having grabbed my hand causing some very painful wounds!


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Zako

Little Owl Athena noctua

Zako is a captive bred Little Owl, Little Owl's are classed as a native British bird although they were introduced to this country in the mid to late 1800's. With no other owl of this size to compete with they are now well established on mainland U.K. Zako came to us in early June (2012) at just over 2 weeks old, he was hand reared indoors until mid July when he ventured outside into his new aviary. He continued to come in at night for a couple of hours for a few more weeks  to continue with his manning. He developed a twin personality, outside he is quite timid and hides when ever you approach his flight, this is natural behaviour for a Little Owl. However when we had him in the house he was very affectionate and loved to sit on my shoulder and chew my ear! His other favourite "game" was to try and get behind the cushions on the sofa as if it is his cave. What he couldn’t quite understand is he couldn’t pull the cushion into the "cave" with him!! With all the birds we have named we like to give them something appropriate, in Zako's case this is made from the Greek connection in his Latin name Athenea. Some years ago we had some wonderful times while on holiday on the Greek isle of Thassos, and on a number of occasions we returned to a lovely family run accommodation called "Zako's", so it is because of our fond memories of George and his family we used their name. Zako attends most events with us, and is already quite used to being in the public eye and a favourite when doing a photo session.  He continues to be quite secretive when out in his flight but is still affectionate when handled.


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Hettie

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

With the passing away of Emma leaving us with a big role to fill in our education and photographic activities we decided to get a young captive bred bird to fulfil this role.

We did consider another 'Wild Casualty' but as with Emma and Zena before her this would have restricted events where we would be able to display the bird as we strongly disagree with displaying disabled birds at public events.

So having made a number of enquires we traced a breeder with an 8 week old Kestrel available.

She was hatched on the 8th May 2016 and came to us on 30th July 2016.

We asked our Grandson, Lucas if he would like to give our new bird a name, he quickly decided we should call it Geoff! As with a lot of young birds it is difficult to determine their sex until after their first moult so we decided to send a feather sample off for DNA testing before 'officially' naming the bird.

As the results showed the bird was in fact female, Lucas had to come up with a new name, Hettie!

Hettie in Greek translates as 'Star' and as it turns out a very appropriate name for our new charge, because that is what she is. After only being with us a week or so she took part in her first educational presentation and behaved impeccably. She attended more public events through the summer and her first photographic session was in September. Throughout she was well behaved no baiting, very quiet and just taking in all the things that were new to her. However she has got a down side, when we have an educational presentation she is very well behaved until she is picked up onto the glove, she then becomes VERY vocal, almost to the point were I can't hear myself speak!

She has a lovely temperment and I let her fly to the glove for tit bits in her aviary most nights.

She enjoys this and shows her affection for me by flying onto my shoulder when she has finished eating and cleaning her beak on my collar or ear!

Hopefully she will quieten down when she attends future educational presentations.  


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MAGNUM

Snowy Owl  Bubo scandiaca

 

Magnum came to us at the end of December 2009. He is a male snowy owl and was captive bred not far from here in June 1999. He has had a couple of previous owners his most recent being Dean and Jane Hemingway, good friends of mine who ran the "Raptor Management" course I attended at Reasheath Collage, they also introduced me to Raptor Rescue. Around Christmas 2009 Dean telephoned me saying that they were down-sizing their collection of birds and would I like to give Magnum a new home. Snowy Owls have a reputation for not being easy to handle, some even refusing to sit on the gloved fist. Magnum is ok with this although not as good as most of my birds but he is handleable. He did give us quite a worrying time when he first arrived, he eat well for the first couple of days then didn't eat a thing for 16 days! This caused us great concern and I asked everyone I knew for their advice, he was drinking a lot so we were able to put supplements into his water. On day 14 we tried force feeding with some special meat concentrate but this was distressing for us and Magnum so we didn't continue. I had left him fresh food every day prior to this and none of it was touched, on the 15th day I decided not to leave any food at at all then on the next day I offered him food and he eat it and has eaten every day since!  Jane named him Magnum after her favourite t.v. detective, and she did ask us not to re-name him, as Marg's favourite treat is Magnum ice cream it was appropriate for him to keep it! Being a species from the Arctic regions Magnum doesn't like hot weather and I have had to make sure he has shaded areas in his flight, for this reason he doesn't attend many events in the summer. Snowy Owls are one of the few species of owl that you can tell their sex by their plumage (when adults) the males being almost completely white with just a few flecks of brown on the wings and tail feathers, whilst the females have a lot more colouring to them with brown barring on their chests.

 

Sadly Magnum passed away 24/06/16

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EMMA

Eurasian Kestrel  Falco tinnunculus

Emma is a wild female Kestrel that was found with a broken wing in July 2001 and her exact age is unknown. The break although healed was too close to a joint and she is unable to fly more than a few feet. After having a couple of previous foster homes she was put into a breading programme but unfortunately this wasn't successful as the male beat her up. We were asked if we could give her a home and she came to us in April 2008. I have to admit that she was the first bird I nearly gave up with, she wouldn't have anything to do with me, and although eating ok she could not be approached and could be quite aggressive for such a small bird. I then made a concerted effort to spend as much time with her as possible and try and achieve a level of trust between us that enabled me to handle her more. The progress was quite rapid and Emma soon got used to the weighing routine and was happy to eat whilst sitting on the glove. Because of her limited ability I had to build her a smaller aviary, she was breaking too many feathers by trying to get around the normal sized flight I had put her in, even after trying to put in as many accessible perches as possible for her. She now has a small aviary with soft mesh in the corners, strategically placed perches and even mesh fitted like ladders enabling her to climb from the floor to her perches. After only being with us for a short while we took her on her first school visit, this was to the Emmaus School in Croxteth, Liverpool. At the time we still hadn't given her a name, so we asked the pupils for their ideas, one young boy suggested Emma as it was so like the name of the school. Emma doesn't attend any shows or fund raising events for Raptor Rescue because it is neither ours nor the charities policy to display wild injured birds, but she does attend many educational events throughout the year. 

Sadly Emma past away 24/06/16

 

 


 

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