As program director for the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur, Nuzzo
and the rest of the center's staff and volunteers are responsible
for making sure our feathered friends are well cared for when they
"We can see anything. That's one of the most exciting
things about my job, is you never know what's coming in the door,"
Nuzzo says. "We can see pretty much anything that is migratory or
native to the state of Illinois."
As with any nonprofit organization, the Illinois Raptor Center
can't do its good work without the aid of others. To that end,
Ameren Illinois recently made a $50,000 donation to help the center
help injured birds. The donation, used to build new enclosures for
the resident birds, also included making the power lines on the
grounds safe for raptors and other birds, plus providing information
about how the power line protection system works.
"Ameren Illinois' assistance has been tremendous," Nuzzo says. "Ameren
Illinois has been a really neat team, and they've been very, very
generous in providing me and the center with materials and making
sure I understand what they are doing and how good it is. And I
agree with what they are doing. I've been impressed," he says.
When many of these power lines were built, no one thought about
environmental impact, such as birds getting injured or killed by
perching on unprotected lines – it was just about bringing power to
areas in need. But that has changed. Ameren Illinois is adding
protective covers to existing lines so birds can safely land and is
building new lines with enough room on crossarms to accommodate all
birds up to the 60-inch wingspan of an eagle.
"We made an agreement with the Illinois Department of Fish and
Wildlife that we are an avian-safe company, and we are
environmentally aware," says Riley Adams, a consulting engineer for
Ameren Illinois who also manages the company's Avian Protection
Program. "We're partnered with Fish and Wildlife – that's the way we
look at it."
The Illinois Raptor Center was established in 1991 and takes in
200 to 300 injured birds a year, mostly raptors such as hawks, owls
and eagles, but also other bird species, from loons and pelicans to
songbirds. The list of birds the center has helped includes
red-tailed, broad-winged and sharp-shinned hawks; great horned,
barred, screech, barn and short-eared owls; and bald eagles.
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Some of the birds can be rehabilitated and returned to the wild,
while others with more severe injuries like broken wings can't be
released. These birds become permanent residents at the shelter and
are used for education and as surrogate parents for younger birds
that are brought in. This ultimately leads to overcrowded
facilities, which is what the Ameren Illinois donation has been used
"The project that Ameren Illinois helped support allowed us to
build additional caging for the education birds," Nuzzo says. "It
frees existing facilities for the hospital."
Thanks to Ameren Illinois, IRC has constructed 36 new mews – a
falconry term for outdoor enclosures – to house the education birds.
That frees up 30 additional cages in the hospital area that can be
used for injured birds. The center currently has 25 resident
(education) birds and 12 injured birds, but both numbers fluctuate
throughout the year.
"We have 66 outdoor facilities," Nuzzo says. "It's kind of
mind-boggling when you think about it. As of this spring, when
everybody's moved over … we've almost got this endless source of
hospital caging. We can take in quite a few birds and get them
rehabbed. And some of these will be dedicated facilities just to
(handle) certain species, which will be great."
"The IRC provides an invaluable service to the community, not
only by retrieving and rehabbing injured birds but also by providing
education about wildlife and the environment," says Richard J. Mark,
president and CEO of Ameren Illinois. "We work closely with the IRC
and other avian experts to help train our employees on what to do if
they come across an injured bird of prey. Recently, a co-worker
responded to a report of an injured owl in a substation, that turned
out to be an endangered barn owl. Because of the avian protection
skills training he received from the IRC, he knew exactly what to
do, and the owl is now recovering here at the IRC."
For more information about the Illinois Raptor Center or to
To learn more about Ameren Illinois wildlife protection
initiatives, visit Ameren.com
and click the
[By DOUG KAUFMAN. Text from file
received from Illinois