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Welcome to Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education's first newsletter!


It's hard to believe it’s fall already! As we look forward to gearing up for our fall programs, we want to take some time to introduce our organization to you. In each newsletter we will give you a little insight into what we do here at Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education (NIRRE), what our current projects are, and give you information on one of the species of Birds of Prey by highlighting one of our resident birds, or focusing on a Bird of Prey species from outside our area.

Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education is a non-profit organization recognized by the IRS as a

charitable organization and is sustained solely on revenue from programs and donations.


As the foremost rehabilitation organization in the Northern Illinois area, we are fortunate to be entrusted with more than 30 birds each year which come to us in need of medical care, rest and recuperation so they may be released back into the woods, prairies, savannahs, or other habitat that sustains them as part of our natural world. As the premier wildlife education organization in our area, we present up to 200 programs annually to schools and organizations. But we will talk more about programs later in the newsletter.

Most birds find their way to us by the observation and kindness of people just like you, who are out and about enjoying open spaces, or just going about their daily routines, when they come upon a raptor in trouble. There are hazards in the natural world, since even birds of prey can be prey under the right (or wrong) circumstances. But most injuries to these majestic creatures are done by humans, their autos, cats, window strikes, or poisons.

When a bird of prey is flying furiously to catch a meal, he's not aware that a car or van may be quickly approaching from the right or left of his field of vision. The result of the bird flying into the side of a vehicle or the vehicle hitting the bird, is frequently a broken wing or leg and/or eye injury. But it's not unusual for the bird to sustain serious internal injuries, brain injury, or many other traumas. If a housecat is involved, the injury can be quite gory and serious. If the bird gets caught up in a utility line or fence, fishing line, barbed wire, even soccer nets, there is often wing and foot involvement, preventing the bird from escaping from other animals. They then become prey.

Rescue...So what should you do if you come upon a bird of prey in trouble? Give a call to NIRRE at 815 633-9193 or to another wildlife rehab association that can advise you as to the safest way to get the bird into the hands of a rehabber. This usually means the rehabber will come to the site of the bird's injury to safely capture the bird and get it quickly into the medical facility for treatment. NIRRE will drive 3 to 4 hours one way for rescues. For injuries that occur farther away, we may ask to meet you half way or at a designated place a little closer to our facility.

Rehab...Once at the NIRRE medical facility, the bird's injuries are assessed and an individualized course of treatment will be formulated based on this particular bird's needs. Treatment begins as soon as possible after the assessment, always trying to minimize the bird's level of stress as best we can, since stress can often compromise the bird's health almost as much as physical injury. Of course, some injuries are too severe to fix. In these cases, the bird may not survive or the bird may be euthanized in the gentlest and most humane way possible. Most patients, though, will start their course of traditional and homeopathic treatment and be on their way to healing and eventual release.

Release...This is the part of rehabilitation that one never gets used to, never goes the same way twice, and often brings a tear to the eye of those who have worked-- many times for a long period-- with this magnificent creature who is now ready to return to the natural world. We try to return the bird as close to where he was found as possible. If the site where the injury occurred is dangerous, like a busy road or highway, we find a suitable place and release there. We often invite the public to join us for releases, so keep checking our Facebook page for news of coming releases.


As we mentioned in the article about rehabilitation, part of Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education's mission is to educate as many people as we can about these powerful and interesting creatures. Of the 30 or so birds in residence at any given time, most are non-releasable birds of prey. Why are they non-releasable? Sometimes a bird's injury begins to heal before it comes in for treatment, which may prevent full recovery. Sometimes the injury is severe enough, even when healed, to keep the bird from adequately flying or hunting. In these cases, our organization and other wildlife education organizations, may keep the bird for the rest of its life as an education “ambassador”. Then, if we find that its personality is well-suited for training, we may patiently embark on the many-months-long training process, eliciting the bird's trust, and culminating with the bird being an “education ambassador.” Our education ambassadors come along to programs as representatives of their species to give people an up-close-and-personal look at a creature which, in nature, may only be seen from afar.



Each newsletter will feature one of our resident birds or a bird whose range does not include our area. e We will share some information about what makes them special in our organization and also in nature. This time we would like to introduce Marshall, a Northern Harrier or Marsh Hawk.

MARSHALL – Northern Harrier

Marshall is a Northern Harrier, born in 1997 in Utah. He has a wing injury sustained in a collision, possibly with a tractor, which resulted in a frozen wing at the elbow. His injury resulted in limited flight.

Marshall joined us for programs for many years, but at the age of 21, he has been retired for some time and now enjoys his days in his enclosure, keeping busy with his favorite toys and enjoying meals designed for him. His mind is sharp, and he looks forward to meals, especially small rodents, quail, and small rabbits.

Harriers are medium-sized birds in the hawk family, although their wings and tails are much more slender than true hawks. As you can see from Marshall's picture, adult male harriers are beautiful slate gray with darker wing markings and outstanding lemon-colored eyes. Adult females are brown and buff, with barring on wings and tail, and their eyes are a paler yellow than the male. Juvenile harrier coloring resembles that of the female. Harriers of all ages and sexes have a distinctive white rump patch.

Harriers are not monogamous. Males may mate with 1 to 3 females.

In the wild, harriers inhabit grasslands and marshes where they are diurnal (day hunters), flying over their territory in great graceful sweeps, looking for prey. Harriers hunt with their legs and feet in a downward position, ready to quickly grab prey by surprise. They feed on whatever prey is abundant in their particular area, usually small rodents, although they also hunt reptiles, small mammals, and even small wading birds in marshy areas.


If you are interested in sponsoring Marshall or any one of our nearly 30 resident birds, feel free to go to our website, There you can read about what bird sponsorship entails, cost, gifts that come along with sponsorship, etc.


Of course, a monetary donation of any amount is always greatly appreciated. We also post a list of the items most needed on our Wish List, which is posted and constantly updated on the website.



The Migratory Bird Treaty Act has protected over a thousand species of birds for a hundred years. The list includes songbirds that visit your bird feeder, waterfowl like ducks and egrets, and Birds of Prey.

Recently, there has been an effort to change how this act is monitored and enacted, putting all species of migratory birds at risk.

Here in Northern Illinois there are five species of Birds of Prey that are either endangered or threatened:

Short-Eared Owl Endangered

Northern Harrier Endangered

Osprey Endangered

Swainson's Hawk Endangered

Barn Owl Threatened

If you feel strongly that all migratory birds deserve to be protected, the American Bird Conservancy has a letter on its website that gives the facts and is all ready to send to your legislators.

Also, if you would like more in-depth information about the MBTA, the Audubon Society, US Fish and Wildlife, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources all have excellent information on their websites. Thank you for your help!


Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education is accepting new volunteers! If you are interested in working with birds and are not afraid to get dirty, please give Candy a call at 815 633-9193 to talk about what volunteering is all about.


Fall Programs and Meet and Greets have started! Consult our calendar to see what’s on the schedule!

Programs are arranged by the hosting organization and are “invitation only” events unless they are noted as an “open to the public” program. We look forward, though, to seeing you at one of our many “meet and greet” events which are generally open to the public!

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