They soar majestically on air currents. They are fierce predators with strong beaks and sharp talons. But raptors sometimes need help, especially as them come in contact with manmade things like lead shot and power lines.
That’s where a group called SOAR comes in. SOAR stands for Saving Our Avian Resources, and it’s a group that was started in the late 1990s by Kay Neumann.
Saving Our Avian Resources will be presenting at program at the Roland Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 11. Also known as SOAR, this organization is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of raptors. Linette Bernard will be bringing several birds along with her to educate the audience about how they help these magnificent animals. This free program is suitable for all ages and is open to the public. For more information about this program, contact the library at 515-388-4086. This program is made possible through a grant by the United Way of Story County.
SOAR’s goal is to return all birds to the wild. However, once healed, not all birds are able to be released because of limited to no vision or being unable to fly. These birds may become part of the ‘educational ambassador team’ here at SOAR.
SOAR provides educational programs featuring their non-releasable birds of prey. These programs are adaptable to any age audience indoors or out. SOAR can provide educational programming throughout Iowa thanks to our network of experienced environmental educators.
Live bird presentations are effective educational tools that make lasting impressions on any audience. Invite the SOAR educators for a unique educational experience filled with age-appropriate information and activities for your school, youth group, or public event. SOAR maintains all necessary U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Iowa Department of Natural Resources permits.
All SOAR programs emphasize the organization’s mission of raptor rehabilitation, education and research.
Rehabilitation and release are a major focus for SOAR.
SOAR provides care for well over 300 birds each year that have been injured or orphaned, primarily from western Iowa. Most injuries are the result of human activities: collisions with cars, windows, power lines, fences, mowers and effects from pesticides. Other injuries occur from storm damage causing nests to fall or birds to be blown into immovable objects.
SOAR receives the injured birds (usually after several phone calls to assess the situation) with the help of volunteer rescuers and transporters, Iowa DNR Conservation Officers, and county conservation board staff, as well as other wildlife rehabilitation groups.
Each bird recovers at their own pace, much like an injured human athlete. Once the bird is “released from medical care,” then the bird is put in a flight pen with others of the same species. In the flight pen, the bird is able to exercise muscles into shape. Time in the flight pen also will tell us if their vision is good.
SOAR staff can observe the birds from outside the flight pen. They look for effortless flight, with several laps around the pen without heavy breathing. With the return of good muscle-tone, effortless flight and a healthy appetite, the bird is ready for release.
With every bird, the key to a release site is appropriate habitat for that bird. Weather plays a factor, too. SOAR wants to give these rehabilitated birds every chance at continued success, so will not release right before a winter storm or during one of Iowa’s blazing hot spells. Owls tend to be released late in the day. Birds that migrate (like peregrines, osprey, swans and barn owls) and are ready for release after fall migration are held to be released the next spring. The same is true for winter visitors that are not ready for release when others of their species are heading back north to breeding territory in the spring.
SOAR has one public release event each year, usually held in late August. Otherwise most releases are subdued and low-key.
Bird patients, just like their human counterparts, are each unique. Treatment varies with each bird, but can include rehydration, special diets, de-worming, needing bandages, over-the-counter and prescription medicines, special therapies, plus visits to one of our veterinarians for x-rays, surgeries and evaluation.