Santa Fe Raptor Center

 By Eileen Richardson

The Santa Fe Raptor Center is a registered nonprofit 501 ( c ) (3) organization that relies on private contributions to finance wildlife care.

The Santa Fe Raptor Center has an educational program that serves the community that supports it. The beauty of Santa Fe is enhanced by Red Tailed Hawks soaring in our skies and Great Horned Owls hooting in our parks. The Center's goal is to establish a working relationship with Santa Fe area grade schools, high schools, and colleges and to cooperatively partner on projects that inspire appreciation, understanding, and respect for the wildlife around us.

Many volunteers are needed to run this organization. They do cage cleaning, feeding and transportation More are always needed.

At any given time depending on rehab schedule and whether release is a reality for some of these birds, there are 10 to 20 birds at the center.

Hundreds of injured and orphaned birds are found by caring individuals each year in New Mexico. Common causes of trauma are impact with power lines and vehicles, and poisoning by pest control products and lead gun shot.

Their main goal is to care for injured birds in order to release them back into the natural habitat. They achieve this in 3 steps: Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release.


According to the raptor center if you find an injured raptor, take a moment and think of what you are going to do in order to safely capture a potentially dangerous bird. If the bird is quiet (possibly unconscious) the job will be easier.

A bird standing or thrashing about presents a challenge and a danger.

We do not recommend picking up an injured raptor. If you find the bird on the highway or a hiking trail take off your jacket and completely cover it using the steps below. The bird may calm down somewhat once it is covered. Call the Santa Fe Raptor Center. Volunteers may be able to meet you at that location.

Capturing Procedure

1. The easiest way to control the bird is to cover it with a towel, blanket, or jacket large enough to enclose the entire bird.

2. Approach the bird slowly, from the rear if possible. The bird will always try to face you if conscious. If the bird is alert and can follow your movements, anticipate that it will struggle when first covered. When close enough, carefully place the cover over the bird, being sure to cover it completely. It may take several attempts. If the bird is on your property, cover it with a large box or laundry basket and put a rock on top.

Call The Santa Fe Raptor Center at: (505) 699-0455 (Santa Fe)

(505) 662-7597 (Los Alamos)

(505) 662-7418 (Los Alamos)

If You Have to Pick Up the Bird

1. Remember where the feet are to avoid being grabbed. Wear heavy gloves if possible. Carefully gather the cover together. The best approach is to slide your hands down from the back, pinning the wings to the body as you grasp a leg in each hand, just above the ankle. Lift the bird up against your chest with feet pointing away, and then wrap the body firmly, but loosely around the head.

2. Place the bird on its STOMACH on the car seat or floor, leaving it firmly wrapped. It should be kept warm, but the covering may cause overheating in hot weather.

3. The bird should be transferred to a more suitable container as soon as possible. Stop at the first house or business and obtain a sturdy cardboard box. The box should be just large enough to allow the bird some movement, but not so large that it can thrash about. Place some newspapers on the bottom of the box. Ideally, they should be torn into 1" strips and fluffed up to support the bird's body. The box should be well ventilated. Put the bird on its STOMACH and seal the top securely. Darkness will keep the bird quiet.

DO NOT use machine-shredded paper. It has sharp edges that can cut the bird.

DO NOT put the bird in a wire cage. The feathers can be badly damaged and delay the bird's release.

DO NOT feed or give water as this may further complicate the injury.

The bird needs to be kept warm but not overheated

4. Give the bird a stress free ride - no loud music, no loud talking and turn down the air conditioner. Call The Santa Fe Raptor Center as soon as possible so you can transfer the bird to our care. An injured raptor requires IMMEDIATE, specialized care. Any delay reduces the chances for recovery. Most veterinarians have neither the special facilities nor practical experience to properly treat injured raptors.


Birds brought to the center are examined and evaluated by their licensed staff of rehabbers to determine how best to proceed with medical care. Using experience and established wildlife protocols, the treatment and record keeping begin in an ICU setting. Injuries requiring equipment and skills that cannot be provided will be treated by local veterinarians. Once stabilized, the patient will be moved out of the ICU for rest, recovery, and preparation for release back to the wild.


The time that each bird needs to recover in captivity varies from days to months. Once a bird has gained back its strength and is given a clean bill of health, it is ready to go back to the wild. SFRC will release animals into safe and compatible environments, taking into consideration the specific needs of the species, including food and water sources, migratory patterns, and original habitat.

To learn more about this organization go to Here you can learn of their success stories, get advice as to what to do when finding an injured or baby bird, and perhaps donate to this great cause.