“Coping” at The Raptor Center

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Like our fingernails, beaks and talons grow continuously. Wild birds have a rough enough lifestyle that they wear down naturally. With an easier life in captivity, we occasionally have to trim our birds’ beaks when they grow too long. To learn how to do that, Aldo and I went on an exciting road trip to The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota last week. Clinic Manager Lori Arent demonstrated the technique for trimming, or “coping,” a kestrel beak. These falcon beaks are more difficult than other raptors because they have a special notch that needs to be shaped in addition to shortening the whole hook. I observed Lori before it was my turn to cope Aldo. She made it look so easy, but once I was in the hot seat I quickly learned this is a skill that will take some practice. Balancing a dremmel in one hand and holding his beak in the other, it was difficult to maneuver everything at the right angle. I was glad to have someone with so much experience looking over my shoulder. About 10 minutes later, I could finally take a deep breath. Aldo’s beak wasn’t quite as polished as the bird Lori just finished, but it was the proper length and would make it easier for him to eat. Next time he needs a trim, possibly in two or three months, I’ll be ready with this new skill!

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