Wildlife Center releases pair of hawks

Oak Mountain State Park Superintendent Michael Jeffreys prepares to release a rehabilitated red-tailed hawk on Sept. 19 at the park. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

During his time with the Alabama state park system, Oak Mountain State Park Superintendent Michael Jeffreys has witnessed several rehabilitated birds of prey take flight as free birds.

But he had never been closer than he was on Sept. 19.

“I’ve witnessed several birds being released, but nobody had ever asked me to actually release them,” Jeffreys said.

When it came time for the Alabama Wildlife Center to release a pair of rehabilitated red-tailed hawks, AWC Executive Director Carol Argo knew she wanted to share the joy.

Although the AWC is located in OMSP, the Wildlife Center is a separate entity from the state park system. Through an agreement with the Alabama Department of Conservation, the AWC is able to use a building and land off Terrace Drive in the state park.

“We love the thrill of seeing birds released. For us, every time we release a bird is just like the first time,” Argo said. “We like to share that excitement.”

The two hawks had been in AWC care for a few months after they were found young and alone by local residents. One hawk was found on the side of a road in downtown Birmingham, and the other was discovered in a backyard in Maylene.

Neither bird had injuries when they were found, but both had been separated from their parents and appeared to be malnourished.

“The first thing we do when we find a baby bird is try to find its parents,” Argo said. “We sent someone out who was trained to find the parents.”

Because the AWC rescuers were unable to find the birds’ parents, the center placed the birds with “surrogate parents” at the center, who helped to train and develop the birds’ hunting skills.

When the birds were ready to take flight into the wild, the release went off without a hitch.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a better release than the one I did,” Jeffreys said with a laugh. “It had nothing to do with me, the birds were just awesome.

“It’s a pretty neat feeling. I highly enjoyed it,” Jeffreys said. “I recommend anyone who doesn’t know about the Wildlife Center to go up there and learn about what they do.”