Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Imping" - The Ancient Craft of Feather Replacement

Modern veterinary practices allow the World Bird Sanctuary to do tremendous rehabilitation work and release many of the magnificent birds that come into the hospital back to the wild.  However, on occasion, the best treatment is not necessarily a product of modern veterinary science but a call back to ancient falconry techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years.

This was recently the case when staff, volunteers, and interns treated a hawk with damaged primary feathers.  The bird was rehabbing well and was becoming strong enough for release.  However, due to previous damage to primary feathers on one wing, the bird's flight capabilities were questionable.  Waiting for natural replacement thru molting would keep the bird in captivity for additional weeks or months.

The solution was the old falconry technique of "imping", a contracted term for "implanting".  Using corresponding feathers from an injured bird of the same species that did not survive attempts at rehabilitation, the damaged feathers with good shafts still in the wing were cut and replaced with new feathers that were spliced and super-glued to the healthy shafts.  The result was a strong wing with good primary feathers, capable of flight and an earlier release.

Under the direction of staff veterans Roger Holloway and Joe Hoffman, WBS staff, interns and volunteers were shown the procedure and then actively participated in imping the replacement of several feathers.

Following are a series of photos showing the procedure.  All photos by Jim Kent.

Choosing the feathers to be implanted

The bird's head is covered to keep him calm during the procedure.

Making sure that the new feather will fit

This bird is well on his way to a new usable wing

Super glue is a wonderful invention

Under close supervision the interns and volunteers got to try their hand at imping

Next stop for this bird--Freedom!
Preliminary assessment is that the imping was successful and that the hawk is well on its way to release.

This is a great example of why WBS has garnered the respect and support of both professional colleagues and our many visitors and supporters.

Perhaps this bird will be someone's "Return to the Wild" bird.  If you would be interested in supporting our wildlife hospital you might like to purchase a "Return to the Wild" event.  To learn more Click Here.

Submitted by Jim Kent, World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital Volunteer

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