NOBLE — More than 200 baby hawks, saved from Oklahoma's heat and drought, are ready to fly away.
The fledgling Mississippi kites, a type of hawk, were rescued by people who came across them on the ground and took them to WildCare Foundation in Noble, Director Rondi Large said.
Large said six of the 226 birds rescued did not survive injuries they incurred by falling out of their nests or being picked up roughly by dogs.
The kites were in their nesting period beginning about Aug. 1, and many babies jumped out of their nests when temperatures soared above 100 degrees.
Most of the birds were 2 to 4 weeks old when taken to WildCare. By 7 to 8 weeks, they start to fly.
At 2 p.m. Sept. 3, the kites will be released. The adult kites still in the area will migrate to South America soon, and the rescued birds can eat from food stands near the refuge building until they learn to hunt on their own.
All the kites to be released were banded by researcher James Parker, of Maine, who visited Noble to study the birds.
“This will give us some idea as to where they go and what happens to them after they are released,” Large said.
Kites generally migrate in early to mid-September and spend winters in southern Argentina.
“We specifically work very hard not to tame these animals,” Large said.
“We want them to have their freedom back.”
Animals nursed back to health are not domesticated and are never kept in air-conditioning.
‘This year is different'
The heat and drought caused the same problems with wildlife and kites in the Tulsa area, a spokeswoman for Wild Heart Ranch in Claremore said.
Director Annette Tucker, who operates the Wild Heart Ranch with co-founder Sandy Brooks, said she normally sees 20 fawns every summer but has treated 40 this year.
“The animals are coming in this year in much worse condition than in the past,” Tucker said.
She got one call about a fox that was having seizures.
“We used to look at that as the animal is diseased, but not this year,” Tucker said.
“This year is different.”
In Enid, wildlife rehabilitator Julie Miller said she helped save about 40 Mississippi kites this summer, many more than usual.
She said usually the parents will stay near the young on the ground to protect them until the little ones learn to fly, but this year the adult birds are abandoning the young, unable to feed them.
The baby birds are rehydrated by shooting fluids beneath their skin to restore electrolytes.
Then they eat a special raptor food. Large's husband, O.T. Sanders, made a trip to Nebraska to buy raptor food when local supplies ran out.
Large said the rescues were a big strain on her resources, but she had help from 25 volunteers.
WildCare usually rescues such animals as squirrels, opossums, raccoons, owls, eagles, deer and river otters, which had to be treated and quickly released to deal with the kite volume.
Large said some animals that can't be saved must be euthanized.
None of the animals are adopted out to the public as pets.