Friendship and raptors at Treetop

Ollie the black vulture watches as his buddy is released into their new home at Treetop Nature Trail. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

Ollie the black vulture watches as his buddy is released into their new home at Treetop Nature Trail. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

Friendship comes in all shapes, sizes and species, I learned after a visit to the Alabama Wildlife Center in Oak Mountain State Park last week.

Earlier this year, I learned about Ollie the black vulture housed at the AWC. Ollie was brought to the AWC after being struck by a car, and although he made a full recovery, the nature of his injuries made him unable to survive in the wild on his own.

Ollie was living alone until a few months ago when another black vulture was brought to the AWC. Emaciated and unable to fly due to a gunshot wound, the new vulture was nursed back to health, and became fast friends with Ollie.

Like Ollie, the new vulture will be a permanent resident of the AWC due to his injuries, and the two buddies will live in an enclosure at the Treetop Nature Trail together.

I think Treetop Nature Trail showcases some of the best work the AWC does. Each year, the AWC treats nearly 2,000 birds from more than 100 species. While the main goal of the AWC is to treat and release the birds back into the wild, in some cases this is not possible.

The raptors housed Treetop have all been fully rehabilitated, like Ollie and his buddy, but cannot be released into the wild due to the nature of their injuries. They live in large enclosures along the nature trail.

The Treetop Nature Trail exposes visitors to some of the amazing wildlife and raptors native to Alabama. Visitors to treetop can see red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, black vultures, great horned owls, barn owls and barred owls.

Treetop also personalizes the experience, giving each resident raptor a name and detailing each raptor’s story on an information card.

“For many folks, Treetop Nature Trail is their first exposure to these beautiful raptors,” AWC Executive Director Doug Adair told me. “It’s a very different experience from seeing them on television.”

Treetop is open again, and I would encourage anyone to stop by and meet Ollie and his buddy, and all of the amazing birds housed along the nature trail.

Molly Davidson is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 524 or by email at molly.davidson@shelbycountyreporter.com.