We bid a fond farewell to a long-term patient of ours. Gill E, as named by those who originally banded him, is a male peregrine falcon that was admitted to our clinic back in October of 2020. When he arrived, all of his flight feathers were singed and burned, an injury we see when birds perch on or fly over flare stacks at industrial sites and landfills.
Thankfully, more serious injuries to the body were avoided, but there was no way Gill E would survive in the wild without a healthy set of flight feathers. None of his flight feathers on his wings and tail were spared, with each sustaining some level of damage. If it had just been a small handful, we could have replaced them through a process called "imping." This involves taking a matching, undamaged feather that another bird already lost, and grafting it to the shaft of the damaged feather on the recipient (sort of like a hair plug procedure for raptor feathers).
But with all feathers damaged, we needed to let Gill E molt and regrow them on his own. We also needed to ensure no permanent damage was sustained that might negatively impact future molts once released. So it become a waiting game as we cared for and monitored Gill E during his extended stay.
His feathers eventually grew back healthy and strong, but he hadn't been able to fly and stay in shape during the process. So his next step was to enter an exercise program we designed - going on regular flights to rebuild muscle and stamina.
It was a long road to recover but Gill E received a final checkup and was released back to the wild this month with the help of Jackie Fallon from the Midwest Peregrine Society and Scott Mehus from the National Eagle Center.
Thanks to these amazing partners who are involved in these shared efforts to keep raptors like peregrine falcons healthy and flying free. And bon voyage to Gill E, given a second chance back in the skies!