Flight plan: Husband and wife team nurture, rehabilitate birds

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    Chris and Liz Hatton feed a snack to Edgar Allen Crow. (Photo by Anna Skinner)
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    Liz Hatton prepares meals for the birds.
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    Chris Hatton approaches a great horned owl to feed it. (Photos by Anna Skinner)
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    The rehabilitating birds of For the Birds of Indiana include a variety of owls, hawks, chickens, buzzards, doves, pigeons and more.

By Anna Skinner

Upon entering Liz and Chris Hatton’s Westfield home, a domesticated black crow cries out a greeting from his perch on the banister. Most of the other birds aided by For the Birds of Indiana live outside in aviaries, some built by Eagle Scouts or donated by churches, until they are healthy enough to be released into the wild.

Liz has a wildlife rehabilitation permit from the state and federal governments. At  times, 50 to 60 birds can be on the Hattons’ property. That amounts to anywhere between 500 and 700 birds a year.

The Hattons care for sick and injured birds or orphaned babies to rehabilitate. They have been doing so for approximately 20 years.

“We release songbirds around our property, but we are required by law to take adult large birds,  like raptors such as hawks, owls and eagles, back to exactly where they came from,  because many of those birds mate for life, and you have to return them to a mate or to an area they know,” Liz said. “We take them back to the nearest safe place.”

Liz gives 12 educational talks a year to keep the birds she has on her property she isn’t rehabilitating. Chris said other than those birds, the three main steps are rescue, rehab and release.

To aid in rehabilitating orphaned babies, Liz and Chris have foster birds, such as a hawk and a few owls that will take those babies under their own wings and teach them how to survive.

“They provide protection and behavioral traits,” Liz said. “In some cases, they provide food. The main thing is because they’re in with an adult, they grow up knowing they are that particular bird and not a human.”

THE FUTURE OF THE LAND

However, the Hattons are unsure of the birds’ reaction to a development to the southwest of their 12 acres. The Aurora Planned Unit Development was approved by the city council Jan. 9 and spans 317 acres southeast of U.S. 31 and Ind. 38.

Although the Hattons have not been approached by developers interested in their property, they are concerned for the welfare of their released birds. Aurora representatives refused to comment about the situation.

“This is sort of a corridor from MacGregor Park through our woods to the woods that will be taken (by the development) for the birds we release, and they need some open space to go to,” Chris said. “The impact on us would be other things as well, such as noise, traffic, light pollution. That’s really important. Breeding patterns are disturbed by light pollution. (The birds) need to have darkness.”

Because the Aurora PUD was originally approved in 2006 and reappeared before the council with some new aspects, the Hattons aren’t sure when construction will begin.

Another concern the couple has is if single-family homes will be built on the development, which Liz said could bring children wandering onto the Hattons property, which could disturb the birds’ safe haven.

Although the Hattons have concerns, Liz said so far the development plans have not affected them, their property or the rehabilitating birds.

For more, visit home.mindspring.com/~chris.hatton.

 Rescuing birds

Liz and Chris Hatton have been rescuing and rehabilitating birds to release back into the wild for a long time, and they encourage citizens to take part if they see an injured bird.

“A lot of people think and have been told this for years that it’s illegal for them to actually pick up an injured bird. They are told to leave it alone,” Liz said. “Now, that is actually not true. There is a thing called the Good Samaritan Act enacted to protect people who need to pick up injured wildlife.”

People who rescue a bird can keep the bird for 24 hours while they search for a rehabber. They can bring them to For the Birds of Indiana or contact Chris and Liz Hatton at 317-877-1187 or email chris.hatton@mindspring.com.