Sunday, April 23, 2017


Corrections! The editor, Kelsie, got a few of her facts mixed up, and apologizes! The Anderson County Leadership Committee did not put up our new buildings. However, they were a huge help in helping to take down our crumbling old buildings, repainting our main building, and doing some much needed care-taking of our whole center, including bringing us some sturdy new benches! Here is a picture of our freshly painted building, taken by our great photographer Mr. Haynes.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Open House

Attention raptor lovers! To celebrate Migratory bird day and to show off the awesome work that the Anderson County Leadership Committee did to improve our building, the Clinch River Raptor Center will be hosting an open house! On May 13th, everyone is invited to come and see birds, ask questions, and go on a tour of our grounds! Please contact the editor via email or Facebook message to receive instructions on how to get to our lovely Center!

2017 Annual Chalkwalk

The Clinch River Raptor Center had at least two volunteers at the Chalkwalk today in Knoxville! Art by Emma Kate Coker and Kelsie Herrell, photograph courtesy of City of Knoxville - Government. The two students did win first place in their category!

Baby Owl Guessing Game

Since it’s the start of baby-owl season, let’s play a game! Here are a few pictures of owlets that we’ve had in the Raptor Center in the past! See if you can figure out what type of owls they are! Be sure to note the shapes of their faces, if they have any ear tufts or distinguishing features.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

It’s Kidnapping Season!

Around this time of year, owls start their flight-training! That means that fluffy little fledglings start to hop around on branches, learning where to step and how to move around in their lofty homes. Like all creatures, owls are clumsy when they’re still growing into their bodies. So as owlets develop, they will often fall directly out of their trees.

When most people see the sad-looking, hunched up, round-eyed owlets looking up at them from the foot of a tree, they assume that the baby has fallen into harm’s way and has no means of surviving on its own. March marks the season where the Raptor Center gets the most people bringing in little owls that had fallen out of trees. As much as possible, we advise you not to do this.

It is perfectly normal for a baby owl to fall out of a tree when learning how to fly. They may look helpless but usually they can climb back up with their talons. If the owlet looks healthy and in a safe location, we plead that you leave them be! They’ll make it back up on their own. Taking them away from their nesting sites can separate them from their best teachers; their parents. Baby great horned owls stay with their parents up all the way into October!

Great horned owls are also the first owls to start fledging, followed by eastern screech owls, barn owls, and red shouldered hawks. The picture above is of the first baby great horned owl called in this year, taken from a smart phone by someone concerned that the owl might need help. It was running around and flapping its wings when people approached, so it was certainly old enough to be out of the nest. Taking a photo of an owl you’re unsure of is a great way to tell the Raptor Center the condition of an owl. With the picture, you could email the Raptor Center first before touching or moving the owlet, reducing the amount of owls taken from their homes this year. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


On Saturday, February 11th, I got to take part in one of the most intriguing parts of rehabilitating birds of prey, Imping. Often, the birds that are brought into the Raptor Center have really damaged feathers, due to the injury that it received or the box it might have been put in. Occasionally the raptors will damage their own feathers while stressed out in their cages, which is what happened to Cheesecake and Bouncer, two Cooper’s Hawks that have been at the Raptor center for several months. In cases like this, where a rehabilitated bird is back to a stable condition but unable to fly well due to damaged feathers, a process called imping may be used to prepare them for the wild.

Have you ever seen one of those old fashioned feathered pens? If you have ever stopped to wonder how they were made, you might have found out that a bird’s feathers are hollow.  The shafts of a feather are made of keratin, the same sort of building block that hair, nails, claws, and horns are made out of. Feather shafts are hollow to help keep a bird light, as well as to make sure the feathers can be shed and replaced if damaged.

When we at the raptor center want to help a bird regain flight, we can use these hollow shafted-feathers to our advantage. When a bird is euthanized, or if it loses healthy strong feathers, then we keep them and organize them by their type and gender. These feathers can be used as a sort of prosthetic replacement for a soon-to-be released bird that is missing its flight feathers.

The imping process begins with catching the bird, one person securely holding the bird with a towel over its head so that it isn’t frightened. (Picture 1-2) The person doing the imping has to tape back any downy feathers so that they don’t get in the way of the process. This job requires about three people. One to hold the bird, another to mix glue and hand over supplies, and the third to replace the feathers as quickly as they accurately can.

The first bird that I got to watch being imped on Saturday was the Cooper’s Hawk that we named Cheesecake. He only really needed his tail feathers replaced, so Kathy laid him gently on his back and held onto his sharp talons to keep him still and safe. (Picture 3) Katie had Melora lay out the feathers by order of index, in the order they’ll need to be placed to function correctly. (Pictures 4 and 5) Tail feathers have their shafts in relation to which side they’ll grow into, with the leading edge (The thin side of the feather) facing out on the sides, and no obvious leading edge in the very middle.

The next step is to start putting together your glue and dowels. The glue that we used was a fast acting 5-minute epoxy that had to be put together directly before use, so Melora worked hard on getting that together while Katie cut dowels into small enough pieces to fit inside the shafts of the feathers. (Pictures 6-8) The damaged tail feathers are cut at an angle and propped up on a piece of cardstock so that they stand out and are easily accessible. (Picture 9) The replacement feathers are also cut at the same angle where the wispy feathery portion starts. The matching angles help to keep the shafts accurately lined up to prevent twisting.

With a good dip in the glue, a dowel is inserted into the replacement shaft. The dowel is dipped in glue again, then slid into the original shaft and neatly folded into the paper, keeping it sturdy and separated while the other feathers are imped.  (Pictures 10-13) The new feathers will stay firmly in their new shafts until the next molt, where they will naturally be shed and replaced.

The last step is probably the most important one. A raptor ought to be released very soon after being imped. In captivity, with very little to do except rest and recover, a hawk may sit and pick at the new feathers out of boredom, ruining the hard work of our supervising volunteers entirely. Back out in the wild, there are many more things to concern one’s self with, like establishing territory, finding a mate, and hunting. Cheesecake was released directly after we were finished imping him. If you’d like to see the video of Cheesecake’s release into the wild, check out this link!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lethal Force

Lethal force is one of the newest additions to the Raptor Center, a huge magnificent beast of a raptor. She is a huge great horned owl, one of the largest and most beautiful one we’ve seen here at the Raptor Center. A very notable feature is her massive feet and talons. Those little daggers are wicked sharp.

She came to us after being hit by a car somewhere in Clinton, and suffers from a fractured but not displaced right radius. That injury has healed up very well. Lethal Force also has an injured eye that she has lost sight in.

The story of how Lethal Force got her name has everything to do with her eye injury. We typically try to preserve as much of the bird as we can, and although the eye was damaged, it remained in her head. But her eye was swollen and required eye drops daily for treatment. That requires one supervisor catching the bird and holding her while another puts the drops in her eye. In one such treatment, she managed to get her massive talons into Kris’s hand.  The wicked sharp talon hooked in and got Kris right on the knuckle. The grip was incredibly tight, and it took Katie several minutes to pry them loose. That fact, and her vicious biting of Katie’s arm later, gained her the apt name of ‘Lethal Force’.

With her stubbornly fierce nature and her rapidly healing injuries, we at the Raptor Center have a good feeling that Lethal Force will be returned to the wild very soon! 
Also, look forward to a large post next Thursday about how we replace feathers a raptor has lost!
 A process called imping. 
Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Raptors on the Big Screen

A few months ago, Erick Baker from the show: Tennessee Uncharted brought a camera crew out to the Raptor Center to interview our volunteers and get a bit of insight about our work. The video has now been posted on their youtube channel, the link I will provide below. We just want to throw out our thanks to Mr. Baker for helping to spread the word about us, so be sure to check out his other videos and explore more hidden gems in Tennessee!
The section on the Raptor Center starts around the 7:00 minute mark!