Meet the MARS Ambassador Birds!
Bringing wild education to northern Vancouver Island
“A bird, a bird, my kingdom for a bird” extolled Supervisor of wildlife care, Reg Westcott, when he first started working at MARS.His wish was granted when an injured Barred Owl arrived. Reg named him Shakespeare, became his handler and now they regularly appear at community events and classroom presentations in and around the Comox Valley on northern Vancouver Island.
Shakespeare was hit by a car eight years ago. He lost one eye and fractured his beak and sternum. It’s also believed that his hearing is impaired. He spent a year and a half in rehabilitation at the Orphan Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta, British Columbia. (O.W.L.) Wildlife caregivers determined his injuries would prevent him from fending for himself and so it was not possible to return him to the wild.
Originally Shakespeare was adopted by MARS as a foster parent to younger Barred owls. However, he wasn’t very good at it at first – although he has since learned – and so he became an education bird.
Horus is a Red-Tailed hawk and was named after the falcon-headed Egyptian god of the same name. She is a calm, older bird, well-suited to classroom visits.
Horus was found in the wild near the Quinsam River Salmon Hatchery near Campbell River on northern Vancouver Island. Like Scarlett, she was starving. She also had “bumblefoot” or pressure sores on the soles of her feet caused by improper perching and what appeared to be a permanent brood patch – a piece of featherless skin that is visible on the underside of birds during the nesting season. The brood patch indicates she was likely used for constant breeding. These clues tipped off MARS caregivers that Horus may have been raised in captivity.
She also had a curious habit of spreading her wings whenever someone approached her. During an early evaluation, MARS founder Mary Jane Birch approached the hawk with an outstretched hand and Horus climbed on proving that this was another imprinted bird. MARS staff speculate that a negligent breeder likely released the bird when she got old.
Brinley is a female Great Horned owl who came to MARS from The Raptors wildlife rescue in Duncan in 2012. She was transferred there after the bird of prey program at the world famous Vancouver Aquarium was discontinued. Four years later, she was on the move again this time to take up a new role as a MARS Ambassador Bird at the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre.
She is a calm, patient bird who bonds well with her handlers and depends on them for support while out in the field.Head scratches from Supervisor of wildlife care, Reg Westcott, are one of her favourite things!