Here in Scott County we are home to one of the most unique sites in Indiana BUT it is closed to the general public… The Dwight R. Chamberlain Raptor Center at Hardy Lake State Park, rehabs injured raptors and maintains permanently injured non-releasable birds for public education. The Center is NOT open for visitation. All monies required for bird care including medical needs, equipment and food costs are paid via donations to the non-profit group “Friends of Hardy Lake”. Without donations this center could not provide care to injured and orphaned Raptors.
Additionally, the Dwight R. Chamberlain Raptor Center also provides information and education opportunities about birds of prey. Our resident bids give us the ability to give public first-hand exposure to these magnificent birds during educational programming. Each one has been rehabilitated sometime during their lives but was deemed to be non-releasable. Our resident birds also act as foster parents to injured or abandoned fledglings, or other immature birds. Birds of prey include hawks, owls, eagles, falcons, vultures, ospreys, and kites. All raptors have excellent vision to find their prey, sharp talons to capture and kill it and a sharp hooked beak to tear the meat into bite-sized pieces. Some species are adapted for specific kinds of prey, while others may be generalists, eating anything they can find.
The Dwight R. Chamberlain Raptor Center is supported by the Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs’ volunteers and partners mission is to build widespread support of the division’s programs, facilities and resources (natural, cultural and human) by individuals, groups and the business community, and to foster philanthropic traditions through recognition of this support.
So who was Dwight R. Chamberlain and why was this center named after him?
Dwight R. Chamberlain studied the language of crows and ravens and helped to explain the intricate vocal cues they use in fighting, feeding and social interactions. In the 1960s, Mr. Chamberlain did early research on common crows, recording them so he could classify and understand the functions of their calls. He found at least 11 distinct calls, known as vocalizations, and described some of them in a thesis for his master’s degree at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1967.
Among the calls, he identified signals for assembly, dispersal and hunger and a plaintive call made by crows that are dying. Mr. Chamberlain reported that the birds made a squalling call as an emergency signal for help, intended to summon other crows quickly. More elusive were the sounds of courtship, which he said were extremely difficult to record because of the crow’s secretive nature.
With another researcher, George W. Cornwell, Mr. Chamberlain published the findings as part of an influential paper, “Selected Vocalizations of the Common Crow,” in The Auk, a journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union, in 1971.
The classifications listed in the paper remain important in the field, said Kevin J. McGowan, an ornithologist who studies the social behavior of American crows, also called the common crow, and fish crows at the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University.
Rather than continuing his graduate studies to become an academic ornithologist, Mr. Chamberlain, who began his career as a banker, changed course again and became a public educator, speaking about bird species and the need for conservation. He tamed and raised a common raven and appeared with it at schools and nature centers, to enlighten the public about the complexity of ravens, owls and other species.
In 1968, he was featured on the children’s television program “Captain Kangaroo” accompanied by his raven, named Rolf, who had a minor speaking part. In the 1970s, Mr. Chamberlain made a television appearance on “To Tell the Truth,” as an authority on crows and ravens.
He was also a consultant to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other environmental agencies and worked as a naturalist at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, near his home in Leota Indiana.
Dwight Chamberlain passed away on March 10, 2007. He is missed by all of us and we could not have a better namesake for the center.
What to DO if You Come Across a Raptor.
Under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state law, it is illegal for any person to injure or possess an indigenous bird such as a raptor. The Dwight R. Chamberlain Raptor Center at Hardy Lake State Park is licensed to rehabilitate injured birds by the US Fish and Wildlife Services, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
An injured bird requires immediate specialized care. Any delay reduces the bird’s chances of recovery. Most veterinarians do not have the time, special facilities or the practical experience to handle injured birds.
When birds leave the nest for the first time, they often do not have full flight capabilities, and spend two or three weeks on or near the ground attended by their parents. Please be a responsible pet owner and consider keeping your pet indoors during this sensitive nesting and fledging time.
What to do?
If the bird you find is NOT injured:
1. Be certain the area is free of any animal that can cause harm. Especially, keep cats and dogs away from
the nest site.
2. If you find a bird on the ground, carefully return it to the nest. It is a myth that parents won’t care for a
baby bird once it has been touched by a human.
3. If the original nest is unsafe or destroyed, place the bird in a small basket. Nail the basket to a tree near
the original nest site, out of direct sunlight. If you can’t find a basket, use a margarine dish, but be sure
to punch drainage holes in the bottom.
4. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the baby bird from a discreet distance. If the parents do not return
in an hour, call your local DNR or wildlife rehabilitation center for help.
What to do if the bird you find IS injured:
- Prepare a small cardboard box by punching ventilation holes in the sides and top.
- Gently place the bird on a towel and put in the box in a warm, dry quiet area.
- DO NOT GIVE THE BIRD ANY FOOD or WATER!
- Call your nearest DNR office or wildlife rehabilitation center.