A Flight Plan for Bird Conservation

Edison International helps protect raptors and other avian species through education and infrastructure modifications.
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Stories : Environment
Stories : Environment

A Flight Plan for Bird Conservation

Edison International helps protect raptors and other avian species through education and infrastructure modifications.
Contributors
Photo Credit: Taylor Hillo

A red-tailed hawk suffering from several gunshot wounds sits sedated in a veterinary hospital, a typical patient of the Ojai Raptor Center.

The center takes in hundreds of injured raptors every year. Its mission: to rescue, rehabilitate and release as many as possible.

“Gunshot wounds are really common,” said Jaclyn DeSantis, education program manager at the Ojai Raptor Center. “I think about 90% of our patients are coming in due to anthropogenic causes, meaning they’re human-induced. Aside from shootings, most of them are unintentional.”

A red-tailed hawk suffering from several gunshot wounds sits sedated in a veterinary hospital, a typical patient of the Ojai Raptor Center.
A red-tailed hawk suffering from several gunshot wounds sits sedated in a veterinary hospital, a typical patient of the Ojai Raptor Center.

Some of the most frequent reasons a bird falls into the center’s care include head traumas from hitting cars or windows, insecticides or rodenticides poisoning their food supply and babies who have been “imprinted” or habituated with humans and can no longer survive in the wild.

“Sometimes we get birds that have nothing wrong with them and people just think there is something wrong with them, so they bring them to us and lo and behold their parents were actually feeding them,” said Dr. Kathryn Rasp, the Ojai Raptor Center’s veterinarian. “The best thing you can do before touching the bird is to call us or send us a picture so we can assess the situation.”

Once in their care and after a full evaluation by the veterinarian, the raptors begin their rehab.

The center is home to the largest flight cage in California, built thanks in part to an Edison International grant. It’s large enough to allow birds to bank and turn, condition their muscles and test out their flight abilities.

The staff can also determine if the birds can mimic wildlife scenarios like hunting with prey tanks stocked with game.

Two bullets in this bird's chest cannot be removed due to the trauma it would cause.
Two bullets in this bird's chest cannot be removed due to the trauma it would cause.

Edison International has partnered with the Ojai Raptor Center for nearly 20 years, helping to make bird education more widely accessible in Southern California.

“Edison International has been proud to partner with the Ojai Raptor Center, supporting them in different ways, including sponsoring their Traveling Talons program. The outreach program allows them to visit underserved schools in Southern California teaching students about raptors, the environment and the conservation issues birds face,” said Caitlin Ishigooka, Southern California Edison senior advisor of Corporate Philanthropy.

In addition to its education efforts, SCE has also been working to diminish the impacts of its infrastructure on the bird population.

Many birds are attracted to power lines, and often perch and nest on utility poles and towers. This puts them at risk for electrocution if they contact certain electrical components.

SCE has been mitigating those risks since 1988 with the implementation of its Avian Protection Program.

Wonder, a turkey vulture, can no longer survive in the wild because of injuries he sustained during migration.
Wonder, a turkey vulture, can no longer survive in the wild because of injuries he sustained during migration.

“One of the main focuses of the program is minimizing our impacts on birds when we’re rebuilding our infrastructure or building new infrastructure. There are ways we can build our lines and other equipment so that they don’t electrocute birds and reduce the chance that they'll collide with our lines,” said Kara Donohue, SCE Avian Program manager. “One of those is covered conductor, which also aids in wildfire mitigation.

“By implementing those standards, we’ve also been able to see a decrease in animal-caused outages for our customers.”

Learn more about SCE’s conservation efforts.