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Bringing “Baby” Home

December 2nd, 2009

Bringing “Baby” Home

By Karen Young

As I thought about what kind of article to write for the newsletter, other contributions began arriving, many about trapping, especially now that we are finally able to take birds in our home state.  At the same time, I received calls from several new falconers with medical or behavioral questions about their birds.  What I was reminded of were first time parents (although never one myself, some of my best friends are parents) bringing home a new baby, with all the anxiety that goes with any new experience.  So this article is dedicated to those of us still new at the sport, with a real, live bird we actually have to take care of…

For so many, the day begins with one’s sponsor impatiently tapping a toe, waiting for the apprentice to load the car with eight times the gear needed to trap a bird, forgetting the permits and having to go back to get them.  As the sponsor overheats in his thermal underwear, the apprentice gives the significant other a peck on the check and receives the innocent “Good luck, honey” as the pair finally head for the packed vehicle in the driveway.

“Got the traps?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Got the pigeon, mice?”

“Yeah, but one got loose in the car.”

“Got the permits?”

“Yeah, right here.”

“Got the Fritos?”

“Two bags.”

“Lets go.”

You get lucky – or your sponsor’s a good trapper – and now you have a bird.  We will assume you have the required basic gear of scales, bath pan, anklets, jesses, swivel, and leash since you had to have these inspected before being issued a permit.  And we will assume further that your mews is ready, perches, secure doors and windows, no sharp edges and points, again having had it inspected.  Hopefully you had your sponsor, and a couple of other falconer friends come by and tell everything they notice that you could change or improve.

There is nothing like the sometimes sad experience of others to help guide you.  If there is anything at all in your housing that is suspect I can just about guarantee you that the bird will find it long before you do.  First piece of advice, go over the mews and weathering yard with an eye to the worst-case scenario.  Get others with experience to do this for you as well.  It only takes a very small, subtle mistake to injure or kill a bird.  If you stick around falconers, sooner or later you will hear the sad tales of lost or injured birds that begin with, “If I had just…” or “I knew about it but I didn’t…” Don’t be one of them.

Have all your perches and other equipment checked the same way, particularly anything you have designed or made yourself.  (Be particularly careful about what you plan to use to transport the bird in and have it ready in advance.)  While it is humbling to have some lovingly handcrafted item be thrown out due to defect, it is part of the experience of falconry.  A badly manufactured leash, no matter how carefully made, is just a learning experience.  My sponsor pointed out to me that I had made leashes with the wrong kind of swivel, several of them, by mistake.  I cut them all up, threw them away, and learned from the error.

Next, be sure to have back up equipment on hand, maybe not a second scale (they can be expensive) but certainly jesses, anklets, swivels, and leashes.  Never should a bird be lost for lack of easy to make, relatively inexpensive, equipment.  For some reason, apprentices never seem to appreciate how easily these items become lost, misplaced, or damaged.  Never “make do” with inferior or substituted equipment.  And, when your sponsor loses, misplaces, or damages his only one of something, you will need to be there with a replacement.

Know whom you can borrow equipment from should you have a sudden need.  If you don’t own telemetry, know who does and will help you find a lost bird if necessary.  Have these people lined up before the bird is in the mews.  The falconry community, in spite of a bit of individualism, is a tightly bonded community that will readily assist each other when needed.  But respect that other falconers may (just maybe) have commitments other than to their sport and fellow falconers.

Have food ready.  This means food for the bird (mice, quail, rabbit – whatever you and your sponsor have decided will be a good, nutritious diet for the bird) actually in the freezer and future supplies lined up.  Do not assume that your bird – albeit the best hunting hawk in North America – will catch enough game to keep itself fed.  You will need to feed the bird during the initial training program.  If you are not quite as successful in the field as you had hoped, you will need to feed the bird.  If the bird should become disabled for hunting due to injury or disease, you will need to feed the bird.  Should you become disabled and not able to hunt for a while, you will need to feed the bird.  Your bird requires a balanced diet of nutritious food, don’t shortchange it for lack of planning.  And remember your sponsor is not the “Hawke Food Shoppe”.  Occasional borrowing among fellow falconers may be convenient or even necessary, but have your own food source pinned down.

Before you set foot in the field to trap a bird, have a good avian veterinarian who is committed to have you as a client.  You may need a good vet as soon as you get the bird home.  You may even discover something you want checked as you remove the bird from the trap.  You must, by law, have the bird examined by a veterinarian within five days of capture.  Select a vet who you trust, someone with skills and experience with avian wildlife, and someone who is reasonably available.  If you don’t know the veterinarian, meet in advance and find out if they are interested in treating avian wildlife, what facilities and experience they have, are they available for emergencies (if not, who takes their emergencies) and what are their fees.  When your bird becomes suddenly sick or injured is not the time to begin shopping for a vet.  Don’t “make do” with the nice vet who treats your cat if they aren’t going to be able to deal with an avian emergency.  If you have a vet for other animals in the family who isn’t experienced in avian medicine, they will not be offended if you seek out a specialist.

A word about vet visits.  Have in mind a clear picture of what you want to happen on your visit.  Do you want a check-up?  Do you want some specific things looked at?  Are you prepared to leave the bird overnight if asked to do so?  Have you noticed something(s) that are causing you concern?  Do you have monetary constraints?  Make it clear in advance what is the purpose of the visit.  Have a written list of questions or things you wish addressed.  Be up front about costs.  (A good vet is very willing to discuss fees and other costs.)  Know what you, as the keeper of the bird, are willing and unwilling to do or pay for.  On your initial visit, be prepared for the expense of a complete physical (including a fecal exam for parasites). If your bird is treated for an injury or disease, before you leave, know what you are supposed to do in the way of home care.  Know what medications you are given, why they have been prescribed, how they work, and what are any side-affects.  Know when and what results you should look for and know if or when you are expected for a return visit.  Write down the answers to these and any other questions raised during your visit.  Often, particularly if you are dealing with a sick or injured bird, you will find you were stressed during the visit and details may be lost to memory.  Or maybe you are like me, a littler older and a little more feeble-minded.

Speaking of emergencies, which we don’t like to think about but they do happen, have a first-aid kit on hand (a suggested first aid kit is included at the end of this article).  Your veterinarian can assist you in assembling the supplies you will need.  As a rehabber as well as a falconer, I have seen many instances where a simple, temporary step may have made a big difference in the outcome.  For example, if a bird suffers a fracture, it may be made worse if the affected area is not immobilized.

Learn what to look for in a new bird that will give you indications of its condition (a brief summary of some of these indicators is included at the end of this article).  For example, mid-winter anemia is an acute and severe condition for which you should know the symptoms and treatment in advance.  Dr. Patrick Redig, Director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, has an excellent article in his book, Medical Management of Birds of Prey (available from the University of Minnesota and Northwoods), on this condition and should be a “must read” for apprentices.  Also, learn some of the things to avoid if you suspect your bird is sick or injured (a short list is included at the end of this article).

Lastly, be sure to study the available literature regarding falconry and the species you plan to trap.  Learn about the sport, about the birds, their natural history, biology, and care.  Read and talk to other falconers.  If you squeaked by on your test without reading Beebe and Webster, stop and take the time.  Read Medical Management of Birds of Prey by Pat Redig, DVM, PhD.*  Better yet, have copies of both in your library.  If you can’t afford to purchase, borrow from the library (if your library doesn’t have a copy ask them for an inter-library loan).  Don’t expect your sponsor to hand-feed you all you will need to know.  Take the initiative, gather knowledge, and check it with you sponsor to see if it fits with the plan to the two of you have developed for your first falconry adventure.

While many of the suggestions in this article may seem obvious, they all come from specific instances where the obvious was not such for one or more persons (myself included).  I had the luck to have a good sponsor, friends in the falconry community willing to share knowledge and advice, and a few years of rehab behind me before I began my falconry career.  And I still made mistakes (still do, truth be told), but I tried to foresee problems and learn from error.   (I still have my first bird, a hen kestrel that has so far survived those mistakes, bless her heart.)

Bringing the first bird home is probably the one of the most thrilling experiences a falconer will have in his or her career.  Almost every falconer I know still recalls their own experience in great detail.  The experience should be a wondrous and joyful one, not flawed by poor planning.  The unexpected can, and does, happen but it need not end in tragedy.  Often forethought and preparedness can make a difference.  You have the welfare of another living creature entrusted to you and you must put forth your very best effort on its behalf.

For many the day ends as two muddy figures emerge from the car, grins from both as empty Frito bags and Coke bottles slip from the opened door.

“Hi honey, I’m home.  Look what I have…I caught a bird!”

“I didn’t think it would be that big.  Will it bite me?”

“Well, ah…”

“You aren’t planning on having that thing in the house?”

“Well, ah…”

“You know it’s gonna get the cat.”

“Well, ah…”

“What were you thinking?”

“Well, ah…”

Some things to look for in a new bird:

  • Check feather condition.  Ectoparasites (mites, lice, and pigeon flies) are common, do not necessarily indicate a sick bird, and can be easily treated.
  • Check the feet for wounds, old bite marks, and other scars.  Check the underside of the foot for “bumblefoot” or any sores.  Swelling in the feet and joints could indicate a serious infection or disease.  Dirty feet are not uncommon and do not indicate a medical problem.
  • Check the wings for old injuries.  Check to make sure they extend fully without strain.
  • Check the head of the bird.  Look for cracks or damage to the beak.  The eyes should be clear and sharp.  Have any imperfection in the eyes checked by a veterinarian.
  • Check inside the mouth.  It should be pink, moist and free of lesions, sores, or other abnormalities.  Have the bird checked by a vet if there are sores or lesions in the mouth.
  • Watch the bird’s mutes.  They should have dark fecal matter (relatively solid) surrounded by white urates (watery).  If the mutes are not normal (or show signs of blood) arrange for a fecal to be done by your vet.  If the bird’s mutes appear greenish, it may mean its calorie intake is less than it’s output.  This may be normal if you are dropping the bird’s weight, but if it persists when the bird is fed up, have the bird checked for disease.
  • Watch the bird’s weight.  A sudden and unexplained drop in weight could indicate a serious medical problem or a need to re-evaluate your weight loss program.
  • Learn the bird’s behavior pattern.  Sudden and dramatic changes in behavior could indicate a medical problem.
  • Watch for listlessness, lethargy, “star-gazing”, irritability, vomiting (not casting, which is normal), favoring of legs or feet, apathy, or weakness.  They can all be signs of illness or injury.

Some things not to do:

  • Do not hunt a bird that you suspect is sick or injured.  Seek immediate veterinary assistance for any bird whose symptoms are acute and/or severe.
  • Reduce stress for any sick or injured bird.  Keep the bird in the dark if it is at risk of further injuring itself.
  • Do not allow an acutely sick or injured bird to remain in extremely cold conditions.  Warm a chilled bird to room temperature slowly – do not place on or in front of heaters or blowers.
  • Do not give a starving bird food.  Begin fluid therapy. *
  • Do not use plain tap or bottled water for rehydration or fluid therapy.  Use an electrolyte-balanced solution. *
  • Do not give fluids by mouth to a bird that cannot hold it’s head upright.
  • Do not place water near a bird that is unsteady on its feet and leave it unattended.
  • Do not go through the family medicine cabinet for remedies for an ailing bird.

*(See Dr.Redig’s article on Fluid Therapy in Medical Management of Birds of Prey.)

First Aid Kit:

  • Dexamethasone (prescription) (for shock and/or head trauma)
  • Pedialyte or Lactated Ringers Solution (LRS) (for rehydration)
  • Saline solution (to flush eyes)
  • Kwick Stop (to staunch bleeding)
  • Antibacterial cream (not petroleum based)
  • KY Jelly, Surgilube or other water soluble lubricant (for exposed bones,
  • to keep them moist)
  • Vet wrap (for temporary immobilization)
  • Paper tape (for temporary immobilization)
  • Non-stick gauze (for covering wounds)
  • Soft gauze
  • Cotton balls (sterile)
  • Q-tips
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Feeding tube
  • Hemostats (useful for everything)
  • Syringes (1cc, 3cc, 20/30cc)
  • Needles (24g or other small gauge)
  • Blunt tweezers
  • Blunt small scissors
  • Heat pack and/or heating pad
  • Wax paper (for collecting fecals)
  • Band-Aids (your favorite brand, they’re for you)
  • Hood (even if a bird is not trained to the hood, there might be a time when it is necessary to subdue a traumatized bird)

Medical Management of Birds of Prey, A Collection of Notes and Selected Topic, by Patrick T. Redig, D.V.M., Ph.D.  University of Minnesota.  Paperback 182 pp.

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Bringing “Baby” Home`

By Karen Young

As I thought about what kind of article to write for the newsletter, other contributions began arriving, many about trapping, especially now that we are finally able to take birds in our home state. At the same time, I received calls from several new falconers with medical or behavioral questions about their birds. What I was reminded of were first time parents (although never one myself, some of my best friends are parents) bringing home a new baby, with all the anxiety that goes with any new experience. So this article is dedicated to those of us still new at the sport, with a real, live bird we actually have to take care of…

For so many, the day begins with one’s sponsor impatiently tapping a toe, waiting for the apprentice to load the car with eight times the gear needed to trap a bird, forgetting the permits and having to go back to get them. As the sponsor overheats in his thermal underwear, the apprentice gives the significant other a peck on the check and receives the innocent “Good luck, honey” as the pair finally head for the packed vehicle in the driveway.

“Got the traps?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Got the pigeon, mice?”

“Yeah, but one got loose in the car.”

“Got the permits?”

“Yeah, right here.”

“Got the Fritos?”

“Two bags.”

“Lets go.”

You get lucky – or your sponsor’s a good trapper – and now you have a bird. We will assume you have the required basic gear of scales, bath pan, anklets, jesses, swivel, and leash since you had to have these inspected before being issued a permit. And we will assume further that your mews is ready, perches, secure doors and windows, no sharp edges and points, again having had it inspected. Hopefully you had your sponsor, and a couple of other falconer friends come by and tell everything they notice that you could change or improve.

There is nothing like the sometimes sad experience of others to help guide you. If there is anything at all in your housing that is suspect I can just about guarantee you that the bird will find it long before you do. First piece of advice, go over the mews and weathering yard with an eye to the worst-case scenario. Get others with experience to do this for you as well. It only takes a very small, subtle mistake to injure or kill a bird. If you stick around falconers, sooner or later you will hear the sad tales of lost or injured birds that begin with, “If I had just…” or “I knew about it but I didn’t…” Don’t be one of them.

Bringing “Baby” Home, page 2

Have all your perches and other equipment checked the same way, particularly anything you have designed or made yourself. (Be particularly careful about what you plan to use to transport the bird in and have it ready in advance.) While it is humbling to have some lovingly handcrafted item be thrown out due to defect, it is part of the experience of falconry. A badly manufactured leash, no matter how carefully made, is just a learning experience. My sponsor pointed out to me that I had made leashes with the wrong kind of swivel, several of them, by mistake. I cut them all up, threw them away, and learned from the error.

Next, be sure to have back up equipment on hand, maybe not a second scale (they can be expensive) but certainly jesses, anklets, swivels, and leashes. Never should a bird be lost for lack of easy to make, relatively inexpensive, equipment. For some reason, apprentices never seem to appreciate how easily these items become lost, misplaced, or damaged. Never “make do” with inferior or substituted equipment. And, when your sponsor loses, misplaces, or damages his only one of something, you will need to be there with a replacement.

Know whom you can borrow equipment from should you have a sudden need. If you don’t own telemetry, know who does and will help you find a lost bird if necessary. Have these people lined up before the bird is in the mews. The falconry community, in spite of a bit of individualism, is a tightly bonded community that will readily assist each other when needed. But respect that other falconers may (just maybe) have commitments other than to their sport and fellow falconers.

Have food ready. This means food for the bird (mice, quail, rabbit – whatever you and your sponsor have decided will be a good, nutritious diet for the bird) actually in the freezer and future supplies lined up. Do not assume that your bird – albeit the best hunting hawk in North America – will catch enough game to keep itself fed. You will need to feed the bird during the initial training program. If you are not quite as successful in the field as you had hoped, you will need to feed the bird. If the bird should become disabled for hunting due to injury or disease, you will need to feed the bird. Should you become disabled and not able to hunt for a while, you will need to feed the bird. Your bird requires a balanced diet of nutritious food, don’t shortchange it for lack of planning. And remember your sponsor is not the “Hawke Food Shoppe”. Occasional borrowing among fellow falconers may be convenient or even necessary, but have your own food source pinned down.

Before you set foot in the field to trap a bird, have a good avian veterinarian who is committed to have you as a client. You may need a good vet as soon as you get the bird home. You may even discover something you want checked as you remove the bird from the trap. You must, by law, have the bird examined by a veterinarian within five days of capture. Select a vet who you trust, someone with skills and experience with avian wildlife, and someone who is reasonably available. If you don’t know the veterinarian, meet in advance and find out if they are interested in treating avian wildlife, what facilities and experience they have, are they available for emergencies (if not, who takes their emergencies) and what are their fees. When your bird becomes suddenly sick or injured is not the time to begin shopping for a vet. Don’t “make do” with the nice vet who treats your cat if they aren’t going to be able to deal with an avian emergency. If you have a vet for other animals in the family who isn’t experienced in avian medicine, they will not be offended if you seek out a specialist.

A word about vet visits. Have in mind a clear picture of what you want to happen on your visit. Do you want a check-up? Do you want some specific things looked at? Are you prepared to leave the bird overnight if asked to do so? Have you noticed something(s) that are causing you concern? Do you have monetary constraints? Make it clear in advance what is

Bringing “Baby” Home, page 3

the purpose of the visit. Have a written list of questions or things you wish addressed. Be up front about costs. (A good vet is very willing to discuss fees and other costs.) Know what you, as the keeper of the bird, are willing and unwilling to do or pay for. On your initial visit, be prepared for the expense of a complete physical (including a fecal exam for parasites). If your bird is treated for an injury or disease, before you leave, know what you are supposed to do in the way of home care. Know what medications you are given, why they have been prescribed, how they work, and what are any side-affects. Know when and what results you should look for and know if or when you are expected for a return visit. Write down the answers to these and any other questions raised during your visit. Often, particularly if you are dealing with a sick or injured bird, you will find you were stressed during the visit and details may be lost to memory. Or maybe you are like me, a littler older and a little more feeble-minded.

Speaking of emergencies, which we don’t like to think about but they do happen, have a first-aid kit on hand (a suggested first aid kit is included at the end of this article). Your veterinarian can assist you in assembling the supplies you will need. As a rehabber as well as a falconer, I have seen many instances where a simple, temporary step may have made a big difference in the outcome. For example, if a bird suffers a fracture, it may be made worse if the affected area is not immobilized.

Learn what to look for in a new bird that will give you indications of its condition (a brief summary of some of these indicators is included at the end of this article). For example, mid-winter anemia is an acute and severe condition for which you should know the symptoms and treatment in advance. Dr. Patrick Redig, Director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, has an excellent article in his book, Medical Management of Birds of Prey (available from the University of Minnesota and Northwoods), on this condition and should be a “must read” for apprentices. Also, learn some of the things to avoid if you suspect your bird is sick or injured (a short list is included at the end of this article).

Lastly, be sure to study the available literature regarding falconry and the species you plan to trap. Learn about the sport, about the birds, their natural history, biology, and care. Read and talk to other falconers. If you squeaked by on your test without reading Beebe and Webster, stop and take the time. Read Medical Management of Birds of Prey by Pat Redig, DVM, PhD.* Better yet, have copies of both in your library. If you can’t afford to purchase, borrow from the library (if your library doesn’t have a copy ask them for an inter-library loan). Don’t expect your sponsor to hand-feed you all you will need to know. Take the initiative, gather knowledge, and check it with you sponsor to see if it fits with the plan to the two of you have developed for your first falconry adventure.

While many of the suggestions in this article may seem obvious, they all come from specific instances where the obvious was not such for one or more persons (myself included). I had the luck to have a good sponsor, friends in the falconry community willing to share knowledge and advice, and a few years of rehab behind me before I began my falconry career. And I still made mistakes (still do, truth be told), but I tried to foresee problems and learn from error. (I still have my first bird, a hen kestrel that has so far survived those mistakes, bless her heart.)

Bringing the first bird home is probably the one of the most thrilling experiences a falconer will have in his or her career. Almost every falconer I know still recalls their own experience in great detail. The experience should be a wondrous and joyful one, not flawed by poor planning. The unexpected can, and does, happen but it need not end in tragedy. Often forethought and preparedness can make a difference. You have the welfare of another living creature entrusted to you and you must put forth your very best effort on its behalf.

Bringing “Baby” Home, page 4

For many the day ends as two muddy figures emerge from the car, grins from both as empty Frito bags and Coke bottles slip from the opened door.

“Hi honey, I’m home. Look what I have…I caught a bird!”

“I didn’t think it would be that big. Will it bite me?”

“Well, ah…”

“You aren’t planning on having that thing in the house?”

“Well, ah…”

“You know it’s gonna get the cat.”

“Well, ah…”

“What were you thinking?”

“Well, ah…”

Some things to look for in a new bird:

Ø Check feather condition. Ectoparasites (mites, lice, and pigeon flies) are common, do not necessarily indicate a sick bird, and can be easily treated.

Ø Check the feet for wounds, old bite marks, and other scars. Check the underside of the foot for “bumblefoot” or any sores. Swelling in the feet and joints could indicate a serious infection or disease. Dirty feet are not uncommon and do not indicate a medical problem.

Ø Check the wings for old injuries. Check to make sure they extend fully without strain.

Ø Check the head of the bird. Look for cracks or damage to the beak. The eyes should be clear and sharp. Have any imperfection in the eyes checked by a veterinarian.

Ø Check inside the mouth. It should be pink, moist and free of lesions, sores, or other abnormalities. Have the bird checked by a vet if there are sores or lesions in the mouth.

Ø Watch the bird’s mutes. They should have dark fecal matter (relatively solid) surrounded by white urates (watery). If the mutes are not normal (or show signs of blood) arrange for a fecal to be done by your vet. If the bird’s mutes appear greenish, it may mean its calorie intake is less than it’s output. This may be normal if you are dropping the bird’s weight, but if it persists when the bird is fed up, have the bird checked for disease.

Ø Watch the bird’s weight. A sudden and unexplained drop in weight could indicate a serious medical problem or a need to re-evaluate your weight loss program.

Ø Learn the bird’s behavior pattern. Sudden and dramatic changes in behavior could indicate a medical problem.

Ø Watch for listlessness, lethargy, “star-gazing”, irritability, vomiting (not casting, which is normal), favoring of legs or feet, apathy, or weakness. They can all be signs of illness or injury.

Bringing “Baby” Home, page 5

Some things not to do:

Ø Do not hunt a bird that you suspect is sick or injured. Seek immediate veterinary assistance for any bird whose symptoms are acute and/or severe.

Ø Reduce stress for any sick or injured bird. Keep the bird in the dark if it is at risk of further injuring itself.

Ø Do not allow an acutely sick or injured bird to remain in extremely cold conditions. Warm a chilled bird to room temperature slowly – do not place on or in front of heaters or blowers.

Ø Do not give a starving bird food. Begin fluid therapy. *

Ø Do not use plain tap or bottled water for rehydration or fluid therapy. Use an electrolyte-balanced solution. *

Ø Do not give fluids by mouth to a bird that cannot hold it’s head upright.

Ø Do not place water near a bird that is unsteady on its feet and leave it unattended.

Ø Do not go through the family medicine cabinet for remedies for an ailing bird.

*(See Dr.Redig’s article on Fluid Therapy in Medical Management of Birds of Prey.)

First Aid Kit:

Dexamethasone (prescription) (for shock and/or head trauma)

Pedialyte or Lactated Ringers Solution (LRS) (for rehydration)

Saline solution (to flush eyes)

Kwick Stop (to staunch bleeding)

Antibacterial cream (not petroleum based)

KY Jelly, Surgilube or other water soluble lubricant (for exposed bones,

to keep them moist)

Vet wrap (for temporary immobilization)

Paper tape (for temporary immobilization)

Non-stick gauze (for covering wounds)

Soft gauze

Cotton balls (sterile)

Q-tips

Alcohol swabs

Feeding tube

Hemostats (useful for everything)

Syringes (1cc, 3cc, 20/30cc)

Needles (24g or other small gauge)

Blunt tweezers

Blunt small scissors

Heat pack and/or heating pad

Wax paper (for collecting fecals)

Band-Aids (your favorite brand, they’re for you)

Hood (even if a bird is not trained to the hood, there might be a time

when it is necessary to subdue a traumatized bird)

Medical Management of Birds of Prey, A Collection of Notes and Selected Topic, by Patrick T. Redig, D.V.M., Ph.D. University of Minnesota. Paperback 182 pp.

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