Back to the Wild – Kestrels Recover and Find Freedom at our New Itasca Facility

Labor Day was a day to celebrate the fruits of our labor and release nine fully-rehabilitated American Kestrels back to the wild. The release couldn’t have been more perfect – blue skies and the beautiful setting of our new Itasca location with its tall trees, open prairies and plenty of good habitat.

Each Kestrel flew magnificently. Seven of the nine Kestrels has been relatively healthy orphans or babies that fledged the nest too early and whose nests we couldn’t locate in order to put them back. Two Kestrels require special mention.

One was a baby with a badly broken wing that couldn’t be repaired surgically. Rather than euthanize him, we took a chance and wrapped the wing (kind of like a wing soft cast). Although he had a slight wing droop and we initally feared he would be non-releasable, he flew perfectly in the flight chamber and perfectly on release. We have no doubt that he had 100% normal use of his wing.

The last of the nine Kestrels was an adult female who originally arrived in 2007 with a broken wing. She broke many of her flight and tail feathers and we had to wait until she molted into perfect new feathers before releasing her. When I opened my hands for her to fly to freedom, she flew to the roof of the facility (the Village of Itasca donates space to us in their Nature Center). She sat for almost a minute and then took off soaring. She flew back and forth across the blue sky, gaining altitude with each consecutive pass, displaying a typical Kestrel wing beat pattern (flap, flap, stall). This magnificent bird seemed to be celebrating her new-found freedom after a year of rehabilitation.

We wish them good luck and long life. Enjoy the release photos below. By the way, stay tuned for YOUR chance to see a release! Check the website as details will soon be posted.

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