Celebrity rehab, The Raptor Center style
October 20, 2020
Lori Arent
Orton after rescue in transport carrier - photo by Foxfeather Zenkova

Orton after rescue in transport carrier - photo by Foxfeather Zenkova

In late July, a little “stardust” settled on the clinic as a celebrity made a visit. His name? Orton, the male breeding peregrine falcon from Rochester, Minnesota. Orton and his companion, Hattie, have graced the skies of the Mayo Clinic campus for the past six years, raising young from their nest box atop the Mayo building.

In mid-June, four chicks left their nest, ready to face the challenges that awaited them. Young peregrines are supported by their parents for several weeks once they take to the air. What these chicks did not know is that their father would soon need support himself, but of a different kind.

Orton, identified by the leg bands he wore, was found on the ground in the shade of a parked car, taking respite from the hot sun. The Raptor Center (TRC) got the call that a peregrine was down and immediately contacted Foxfeather Zenkova, a Rochester wildlife rehabilitator we network with. When she arrived on the scene and slowly approached Orton, he tried to evade her.

“He gave me quite the chase,” said Zenova “I could tell he was injured because of the way he was flying, skimming the ground and unable to get any height.” Once she contained the feisty falcon, one of TRCs transport volunteers brought the famous falcon to TRC. He was greeted by Dr. Dana Franzen-Klein, staff veterinarian. “This bird was amazing”, reflected Franzen-Klein. “Gorgeous feather condition, exceptional body condition, compact and powerful.”

Oron lateral radiograph with arrow identifying keel divit

A physical exam revealed that Orton had a crack in his keel bone. This bone is like our breastbone. In birds, it anchors the wing's large flight muscles. When it is damaged, a bird is unable to gain lift. Radiographs (x-rays) also indicated he had internal trauma, a very common result of collisions. “While his injuries were significant, they could have been much more severe,” said Franzen-Klein.

For the next four weeks, Orton was a guest in our clinic. His treatment consisted of supportive care and rest. He healed without incident, flew long and strong during his flight evaluations, and was transported back to Rochester. When given his freedom, Orton flew to the nearby Gonda Building and surveyed his territory. Two of his fledglings entered the scene, and then Hattie returned too. What followed was truly a gift to his caring community—an amazing array of aerial displays as Orton and Hattie re-established their pair bond. Beloved by many, this falcon family was together again.

Slow motion exercise flight of Orton the peregrine falcon

Raptors in this article