Posts Tagged ‘health’

Moulting Update for August

August 12th, 2010

Moulting Update for August

We are armpits deep into the dog-days of summer now, pulling to the middle of August.  It’s been a warm season with lots of activity in the backyard garden for Tahoe.  Her moulting process continues to be a delight to me as her colors continue to change and enhance her appearance.  She is beautiful! Her new coat of fresh clean adult plumage is in perfect condition and she looks exceptionally darker than she did as an immature hawk.  Her red tail really stands out and certainly the most noticeable feature of her adult plumage.  Her red tail is mostly full, with a few feathers left to grow in to their full length.  You can notice on the back feathers and the secondaries in the wing, the contrasting colors that her new feathers have against the old ones. I’m super excited for the onset of the fall hunting season to see what she has retained from last year, and to watch her continue to develop her hunting skills back on the wing for her favorite quarry.

-Good Moulting!

Raptor Biology , ,

Moulting Update for July

July 23rd, 2010

Moulting Update for July

Summer can be a quiet time for falconers with a moulting bird. For me, it’s a time to learn more about my Hunting Hawk and see how she does with a regular routine.  The feathers are coming in quite nicely, I can’t wait until her tail is full summed.  Her wings are going to be very dark and the front of her chest is already getting some colored streaks to it.  She may or may not lose her belly band this year, but that remains to be seen. Some red-tails don’t lose it until the second season.
In the picture above, Tahoe has lost all of her immature tail feathers, and you can notice the difference in coloration between the newly grown feathers in the secondaries on the wing (they are darker).  The red tail feathers continue to grow in.  Keeping the mews clean has been quite a challenge, as it looks like someone went in there and had a pillow fight!

Raptor Biology , ,

Moulting Update for June

June 21st, 2010

Moulting Update for June

The Summer Solstice has arrived and its a good time to update on moulting progress for Tahoe’s adult plumage. Feathers continue to drop each day, mostly body feathers by now.  Several of the deck feathers and primaries still remain, but I’m sure it’s soon to change.  I’ve already started to see the adult red-tail feathers grow out beyond the body and contour feathers, it’s very exciting to see them already.  As she loses more body feathers, the mottling of the immy-brown feathers and the adult-body feathers becomes more apparent.  The adult feathers are two shades darker, almost black compared to the brown feathers. I’m super excited to watch her transform her colors.  I’ve received many compliments on her plumage, with many companion falconers commenting that she would be a dark bird as an adult.  At this stage in the game, it’s certainly appearing that way.  Until next time!

Raptor Biology , ,

The Raptor Talon Spa

May 28th, 2010

The Raptor Talon Spa

Talon Maintenance and Foot Care

Talons and foot care are important aspects of maintaining your raptor’s health.  You want to ensure that no small lesion or sore becomes an wound that could later cripple your raptor. While opinions of some falconers may reflect poor attentiveness to their raptor’s health, I prefer to be attentive and proactive in dealing with or treating any issues regarding my raptor’s feet. This article discusses some methods and rationale behind caring proactively for your raptors talon and foot health.


When I was researching new boots to get for a backpacking expedition, I read many reviews on boots, brands, and uses.  I remember reading about foot care with socks, mole-skin, and liners.  It made sense to me that caring for your feet was one of the single most important things you can do to ensure a successful trip. There is nothing like being 25 miles into your hike and having foot or boot issues.  Your feet are your transportation, so it’s important to care for them. Boot selection also important, and I was reviewing a medium-weight boot made by a reputable company with good ankle support.  Sure I could have chose a lesser brand, one made with lower quality standards in order to save a few dollars, but caring for my feet made sense to me. So I purchased a higher quality boot, more sturdy ankle support, (also more expensive) and was very happy with the results: no foot trouble on my trip.  Ironically, on the trail I met another hiker who had purchased the hiking boots I was originally looking at early on in my research.  She was three days into her adventure trip and the sole of her hiking boot had come away from the bottom of the boot. I helped her out with some hot glue and she was very thankful.

I look at my raptors feet in much the same way. Healthy feet makes for a happy hawk. The talons on a raptor are very important for catching and holding game. With one or two chances or flights at a rabbit that get away, and your hawk might get discouraged or lose her confidence in catching game. Dulled talons usually result in escaped quarry, commonly known as ‘pulling fur’. Taking extra precautions are important (to me) in order to prevent any small issues from growing out of control.


Take a look at the feet, talons, every week.  Pick up the feet while on the glove and look at the underside of the pads.
Things to look for: brown patches, soreness, redness, flaking skin, flaking talons.


Use hydrogen peroxide to clean blood off the feet after a kill, cleansing any wounds or scrapes that may occur during the capture.
Brush / clean the feet with diluted betadine solution after each hunt.
Veteranarian supplied ‘Novalsan’ is also a good antisceptic for scrapes and cuts.


To get clean feet, soak the raptors feet in a bath two-three times a week.
Use a dish pan / bucket with a perch submerged.
Spa Perch that goes in a dish-bucket;  Tahoe on the Spa Perch in the bucket with water.  This experiment didn’t work so well, as Tahoe figured out that there was a nice place to sit on top of the perch stand where it was nice and dry.

The second attempt at a dish-bucket soaking pan seemed to be designed better, and worked out much better.

* The water-bucket method works for soaking talons when done for a few hours each day for a few days in a row. Talons and beaks will exfoliate with additional water.


Perches need to be soft, padded, and have the proper size to support the raptor feet.  Shown in this picture is a 2×4 perch with a strip of long-leaf astroturf on the top of it for padding.  The talons are free to curve, grow, and grip into the wood for sharpness.

Maintenance and Care Products:

There are some good recommended products by other falconers when tending to nail therapy for raptors, which include:

  • Sally Hansen Vitamin E Moisturizing Nail and Cuticle Oil
  • Hard as Nails
  • Hoof Saver hoof cream – good for birds because it does not make feathers sticky and it doesn’t attract dirt.

I arrived at these two hand / nail care creams :

  • Mane and Tail : Moisturizing cream
  • Netrogena Hand Cream

Mews Floor:

Another aspect that is crucial to proper foot care of raptors is the substrate of the mews.  For as many falconers as there are, many varying opinions exist for substrate and floor materials in the mews. Some folks like something that is easily cleaned, and others prefer no maintenance at all. In all, each type of flooring has it’s advantages and disadvantages. You may also be limited by the space in which you construct your mews, so you make due with what you have.
Sand is ok, but difficult to keep clean.
Gravel is not so good, as it dulls talons easily.
Concrete / patio floors should be covered or padded; outdoor carpet, indoor carpet with padding, or I prefer interlocking yoga mats.
The floor is then covered with Builders Paper for easy cleanup.

Time and care will tell if the program worked or not.  I’ll update later on in the summer on progress. Stay tuned…

Health , , ,

Moulting in Full Swing

May 27th, 2010

Moulting in Full Swing

If it’s not hunting season for falconry, then it must be moulting season.  Such the way it is with flying Red-Tailed hawks for rabbits and squirrels only during the small-game season in Michigan. For the past several weeks, the occasional body feather has been shed by Tahoe, but this could easily be simply because of preening.  During the first week I found some larger feathers in the mews.  A matched pair of secondaries and two primary feathers off the right wing.  During the second week, she’s lost a few deck (tail) feathers as well.  I’m very excited to see these feathers, as it starts to show that Tahoe is starting her moult in earnest.  The loss of primary, secondary, and deck feathers are the best signal yet that Tahoe is officially moulting. We’ll collect the feathers during the moult to chart progress, as well as having spares around for imping should the need arise.

Good Moulting!

Raptor Biology , ,