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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Cumbria vet nurses badly hurt bird of prey back to health

Meet Max the merlin – a bird of prey being rehabilitated at a vet’s surgery in Carlisle.

Merlin photo
Edda Pohlandt with Max the merlin

Vet Edda Pohlandt, who runs her veterinary practice Falcon Vets, is one of only a few vets specialising in the treatment of birds of prey.

And when disaster strikes Edda is on hand to help.

Max regularly goes to work with Edda where he sits on the surgery computer and welcomes other animals and their owners into her practice on London Road.

She said: “Max was involved in a road accident near Langholm and a man found him in his garden and got in touch with me.”

Edda contacted the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) who told her that Max, who was ringed, had come from a nest about 23 miles from where he was found.

She said: “Max had split his abdomen open, bruised his side and injured his left wing. I sewed him back up and it took him three months to recover.”

Max’s tail feathers were damaged and Edda is waiting for them to grow back, but in the meantime she is teaching Max to fly again.

She said: “We’ve got a working relationship based on familiarity and need. It’s not like a relationship that you have with a dog or cat. He’s very relaxed.”

Edda is hoping that when Max is strong enough to hunt alone she will be able to release him back into the wild.

She said: “He needs to be able to hunt alone. At the moment we feed him day old chicks and beef. He has a high metabolic rate and eats about a third of his body weight every day.

“He needs to be able to hunt properly before I can release him.

“He would be at death’s door in about three days if he couldn’t hunt – whereas an eagle in a similar situation could probably last for about 10 days.

“We’ve got a licence to keep him until the end of the year. We’d like to find him a mate when he’s better and then release him with his new family.

“I feel privileged to have been around to bring him on.”

Edda’s husband, James, breeds falcons for the Middle Eastern market, which likes bigger birds. They are mostly gers or ger hybrids and he also has Harris hawks.

The merlin, known as the Queen’s bird, was traditionally hunted by Queen Elizabeth I who used them to hunt sky larks – their tongues were a delicacy.

Edda was able to pursue her interest in raptors when she went to work in a bird of prey centre in South Africa. She went for six months but met James, who is originally from Penrith, and stayed for eight years.

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