Post-Release Monitoring of Hand-Reared Songbirds

This guest blog post is a short paper on an ongoing research project. Enter the world of creating and executing a research project. The authors describe their set up, the frustrating lack of initial results, and changes made to improve the study. I'm looking forward to seeing what this year will bring! - Kai

Guest writers Halley Buckanoff BS, CVT, CWR and Lynn J. Moseley, BS, PhD

The Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (VHS WRC) at the North Carolina Zoo, in partnership with faculty at Guilford College, has been conducting a post-release survival study of commonly rehabilitated backyard, non-migratory songbirds for four years to date.  A search of the literature revealed few studies on post-release survival and/or behavior of hand-reared and rehabilitated songbirds (Berger 1966; Dunning 1988; Ferguson and Ludwig 1991).  Anecdotal comments suggest that the behavior of hand-reared wild birds is sometimes distinguishable from that of their parent-reared counterparts as they act inappropriately for their sex or species, are unafraid of humans and/or continue to come to humans for food.

Seven species of birds were chosen for the study based on admission numbers at the VHS WRC and the potential for re-sighting released birds near feeders or around homes. All have non-migratory populations in North Carolina.  The species chosen were American Robins (Turdus migratorius, AMRO), Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata, BLJA), Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus, CARW), Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis, EABL), Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura, MODO), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis, NOCA) and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus, RBWO).

All study birds were admitted in their hatch year at fledgling stage or younger, and were hand-raised within the guidelines of the VHS WRC by trained staff, volunteers, and interns following standardized protocols for veterinary care as needed, husbandry, nutrition, and pre-release conditioning.

Robin with leg bands being held and examined
Banded American robin

Prior to release, birds were banded with a numbered metal band and three colored bands in a unique combination for specific identification of individuals. Bird-banding is regulated by the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) and requires a federal permit; both authors possess federal licenses for bird-banding.

All post-release data was compiled through periodic observations of banded birds. If a released bird was re-sighted, we recorded behavioral data according to the following categories: Feeding (F), preening/bathing (P/B), carrying nesting material (CNM), resting (R), other comments (O).  If feeding was observed, we noted whether it occurred at an established feeder.  We also recorded whether the bird was with other banded or non-banded birds.  We used this information to help determine whether a released bird demonstrated appropriate species-specific affiliations. 

During 2010, the study’s first year, we attempted to engage the public to be “Citizen Scientists” and participate in the study.  Birds were predominately released by the person who had rescued the bird and brought it to the VHS WRC.  Birds were transported to their original capture site in vented paper bags and hard released.  A total of 43 birds were banded with metal and color bands and released (Table 1). Unfortunately, no members of the public who released the birds reported any data, and upon inquiry the participants stated that they had not looked vigilantly for the banded birds.

Table 1.  Species of birds and numbers of individuals of each species rehabilitated, banded, released, and re-sighted in each year of this study. 

2010 18 3 3 13 1 2 3 43 0
2011 8 4 14 6 6 0 4 42 0
2012 12 1 5 2 1 5 2 28 1 NOCA
2013 15 6 13 7 0 1 3 45 5 CARW
TOTALS 53 14 35 28 8 8 12 158 6

The following year, in 2011, Volunteers/Interns at the VSH WRC conducted releases. Birds were again transported in vented paper bags to appropriate habitats and hard released. A total of 42 birds were metal and color banded and released (Table 1).  But, once again no data was acquired due to lack of surveying for released birds.

Explorarium hanging with robins ready for prerelease.
Psuedo-soft release

In 2012, study birds were released and monitored by the two authors only, and only at two locations.  Sites chosen offered suitable habitat for study birds (those species had been observed routinely at each site) and could be easily monitored. Feeders were maintained at both locations.  In the first half of the season birds were transported in vented paper bags and hard released; at the second half of the season birds were transported in Exo Terra Explorariums® soft-sided hanging enclosures.

The enclosures were hung in visual distance of a feeder and left, depending on time of day, several hours to overnight.  The door to the enclosure was then unzipped and the birds were allowed to leave at their own will.  We referred to this release type as pseudo-soft release.

Of the 28 banded and released birds, one pseudo-soft released Northern Cardinal was repeatedly observed for 5 months post release. The ethogram results suggest that it exhibited appropriate behaviors for a normal wild bird.

Released banded Carolina wren perched on railing
Re-sighting of released Carolina wren

Due to the encouraging results of 2012, the same techniques were used in 2013.  Of the 45 birds banded and released, five Carolina Wrens (CARW) were seen repeatedly (Table 1).  The first 4 CARW were released as a group and were seen on an almost daily basis for up to 3 months.  The activity log included reports of interactions with non-banded CAWR, feeding at feeders as well as foraging in brush, and bathing/preening. The birds gave alarm calls when observers approached.  The fifth wren was released at another date approximately 10 weeks later with another group of CARW and was seen almost daily for up to a month.  Ethogram comments were the same as for the four wrens released earlier, but also included molting, at which time it was caught by a dog and succumbed.

This study is still in its early stages, as we continue to refine our techniques, and does not have enough data for statistical analysis at this point.  However, as our techniques improve, we hope to increase the number of resightings, and possibly to include telemetry in the future.  We believe that understanding the impacts of hand-rearing songbirds on their post-release survival will provide critical information for wildlife rehabilitators, and may serve to test the effectiveness of different techniques for successfully raising songbirds.


Berger, A.J. 1966.  Survival in the wild of hand-reared passerine birds.  Condor 68:304-305.

Dunning, J.B. 1988.  Significant encounters with marked birds.  North American Bird Bander 13: 110-112.

Ferguson, Bruce and Daniel R. Ludwig.  1991.  Post-release behavior of captive-reared American Robins (Turdus migratorius).  Wildlife Rehabilitation 9: 193-205.

Product Information:

Explorarium®, Exo Terra,   Rolf C. Hagen (U.S.A.) Corp., Mansfield, MA. 02048



Halley D. Buckanoff, BS, CVT, CWR

Halley is the Lead Veterinary Technician at the North Carolina Zoo’s Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center overseeing rehabilitation practices, center operations, and volunteers/interns. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology.  She is a Certified Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of emergency, exotic, zoo and wildlife medicine and husbandry experience.  She has completed graduate level course work in animal population management and animal nutrition.  She has worked as field biologist mist-netting, trapping, banding, tracking and radio-collaring birds.  She is also the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s North American Regional Studbook Keeper for Perodicticus potto (a small African monkey).  She became a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator in 2009 and has been a contract instructor for IWRC since 2010.


Lynn J. Moseley, B.S., Ph.D.

Lynn is Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She teaches courses in Ornithology, Animal Behavior, and Vertebrate Field Zoology, among others.  She received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary, and her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her main areas of interest include social behavior and communication of vertebrates, especially birds, and behavioral ecology.

New IWRC Board Members

Welcome Kim Poisson and Kelly Donithan, recent additions to the IWRC Board. Kelly has been on the board since November, when she was appointed by the 2013 board to finish out a departing member's term. Kim joined the board January 6th, elected by the IWRC membership. She will serve a three year term.


Kelly Donithan

Kelly Profile Head ShotKelly is currently the Wildlife Rescue Program Officer for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, based at the international headquarters on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. IFAW’s wildlife rescue projects span the globe and include grizzly bear cub rescue and rehabilitation in Canada, orphan brown bear rehabilitation in Russia, Amur tiger rehabilitation in Russia’s Far East, raptor rehabilitation in China, an elephant orphanage in Zambia, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in India, and rescue and sanctuary placement of displaced big cats in the U.S. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and a Master’s of Science in Conservation Medicine from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. During her graduate studies, she completed a case study on the health and conservation concerns of international wildlife trade and investigated zoonotic disease risks at U.S exotic animal auctions. At IFAW, Kelly is also looking at the welfare concerns of live wildlife seized from trade and the potential of increasing rehabilitation and release efforts of such animals when feasible. She has been involved with wildlife rehabilitation and care in Arizona, Florida, and New England.

Kim Poisson, CWR

kim photoKimberly Poisson is the executive director of A2 Raptor Rescue, a non-profit organization in Washtenaw County.  A life long Michigan native, she resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and three children.

Kimberly has been working with wildlife since 1994 and holds state and federal permits for mammal and raptor rehabilitation as well as education.  Her work with wildlife, along with the weaning and fledging of her children,  eventually brought one of her long term goals of starting her own facility to fruition.  In 2011 she founded A2 Raptor Rescue, an non-profit organization focused solely on raptor rehabilitation, with a strong emphasis on public education.  As part of A2's educational programing, a pilot program was started aimed at young children.  Wings for Literacy began as a test project to see if first graders would have any interest in reading to the resident screech owls, much like the reading assistance dogs that provide similar services.  The program was a huge success and now is in its third year and growing steadily.
In 2009 Kimberly was awarded her CWR by IWRC.  Having long been a steadfast believer in IWRC's mission to develop and provide quality courses and materials to rehabilitators internationally, she eventually joined the IWRC course development committee, which works to peer review, edit and keep current, all the IWRC curriculum and courses.

Call for Papers


The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association are proud to bring the annual IWRC Symposium to Cincinnati, OH December 1 to 6, 2014.

This symposium provides a platform to discuss how wildlife rehabilitators, researchers, legislators and conservationists can work together to promote the survival of species at risk of extinction. Each surviving individual in a declining population carries a greater proportion of the genetic heritage of that population. We as rehabilitators assist in the survival of these individuals and so can contribute to the conservation of endangered species. Join us in Cincinnati and become part of the discussion.

~Dedicated to the memory of Martha, the last passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorious) on the 100th anniversary of her death.

The abstract should include:

  • —— TITLE
  • —— AUTHOR(S)
  • —— ABSTRACT (Summary of the presentation in 250 words or less)
  • —— BRIEF BIOGRAPHY (100 words)
  • —— TYPE OF PRESENTATION e.g. Paper, round table, workshop

Presentations can be one of the following:
Paper presentation – 45 minutes
Round table – 90 minutes to 2 hours
*Workshop (class) 2 – 4 hours *deadline is April 30, 2014

The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2014
Please submit your Abstract to Kai Williams

Printable Version Available

What is WildHelp?

Recently, IWRC was able to interview Rebecca Dmytryk on the new animal rescue app, WildHelp she is working on:

IWRC: The description on kickstarter mentions that the app will provide safety tips and basic instruction on first aid to help save the animals life. Does this take into account the fact that most people that find injured wildlife don't have any experience in animal first aid?

Dmytryk: Most people who find a wild animal in trouble will have little experience handling wildlife and for their safety and the welfare of the animal they should keep their hands off. There will, however, be instances when a very basic, very simple thing can help extend the life of an animal until it reaches a professional. For example, placing a cold hatchling on a warm rice-sock in a small cardboard box could save its life.


IWRC: What type of additional information will be given to the finder after the data has been sent besides basic first aid information? And will it be general information or specific to the type of animal and injury?

Dmytryk: Depending on the information the user gives, the app will respond with information specific to the type of animal or situation.  If it’s a beached seal or sea lion for example, the app will offer the user tips on what not to do, instructing them not to pour water or sand on the animal or chase it back into the water, explaining that these animals haul out of the water to rest and get warm. If it seems the user is reporting an uninjured fledgling, the app will provide information on this stage in a bird’s development.


IWRC: If the finder of the animal is, for some reason, not able to identify what type of animal it is or what type of injury it has sustained, will there be a list of people/organizations that the finder can contact in order to better classify the type of animal/injury? 

Dmytryk: The app will offer very basic questions, starting out with identifying what type of animal it is. After making the basic selection between bird, mammal, marine mammal, reptile or amphibian, the user is asked to refine their answer down to the species if they know it, or they can skip along to the next question. As for the animal’s condition, here, too, the user can provide details if they’re able to, or skip forward. Let’s say the user gave a very general description of an injured bird about the size of a football, then the app will still route them to the nearest wildlife hospitals or nearby responders.


IWRC: If the initial goal amount is reached, how long do you expect it will take to complete the database of first responders and wildlife professionals before the app can be launched?

Dmytryk: The database of wildlife response organizations, and categorizing them, is what will take time. The more we raise, the faster we can produce it. If all goes well, we should have this up and running by February, in time for the 2014 season. If we don’t reach our initial goal in pledges, we get nothing - we’ll have no money to complete the app’s development, so we really need people to make those pledges, even if it’s only $1., and then spread the word far and wide. I feel confident that if enough people know about it, we’ll be successful. People want this.


IWRC: Were there any experiences you or someone you know went through that inspired the creation of this app? And if so, how would this app have helped or improved the situation of the finder and of the injured animal?

Dmytryk: I’ve been involved in wildlife rescue and rehabilitaton since the earl 1980s, and back then this was an issue. It’s not like the system is broken, there’s never been anything in place to help people connect with wildlife experts. There has always been a major gap - a missing link. You know, you have 911 for people emergencies and animal control and police handle domestic animal calls, but injured wildlife? Unless the animal is a threat to public health and safety, it seems like the calls just slip through the cracks. We sure hear about it though - the wildlife hotline operators - don’t we? Just about every caller tells me of the difficulties they had in finding the right number, and such delays can be costly. Last year, a woman tried desperately to find help for an injured goose. It had line around its leg. Calling various agencies, she kept getting the runaround, until, get this, three months later she finally got through to an organization that helped rescue the bird. By then, though, it was too late. The bird lost its leg. Its life. So preventable. If she’d had the WildHelp app, the bird would have been saved in time.

I hope the rehabilitation community sees this as a valuable tool and supports its development. Remember, pledges through Kickstarter are just that - promises - no money exchanges hands until we are successful at reaching our goal. That’s when backers will be asked to make good on the amount they pledged. Safe and securely through Amazon Payments.

Using the Wildlife Heath Event Reporter

The Wildlife Health Event Reporter - A Surveillance and Communication Tool

Screenshot of WHER home page highlighting a reported event in North Carolina
Figure 1: Screenshot of WHER homepage.

Wildlife can be effective sentinels that alert us to potential health hazards and environmental concerns, but information about sick/injured/dead wildlife need to be reported and shared in a timely manner for professionals to evaluate and determine if response is warranted. The Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER),, developed by the Wildlife Data Integration Network (WDIN) and maintained by University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine, not only provides a destination for observations of sick/injured/dead wild animals, but also functions as an alerting system, quickly distributing these reports to those who are signed up to receive them. Since 2010, the system has been collecting reports from the public, citizen groups, wildlife rehabilitators and other wildlife professional organizations and is building a long-term dataset of wildlife morbidity and mortality event data.

Get Alerts! Stay Informed about Emerging Events
Did you hear about the multiple seabird mortality events that were reported along the US’ East coastline beginning in January 2013? An unusual number of dead/injured dovekies, razorbills and grebes have been reported along the US’ Northeast coast; while puffins and loons are being reported along the East coast from Florida to Maine. If you were subscribed to alerts through the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER), you would know about these occurrences as well as future unfolding events.

Figure 2: An example of a WHER alert delivered via email that provides a summary of the reports entered in to the system the previous day.
Figure 2: An example of a WHER alert delivered via email that provides a summary of the reports entered in to the system the previous day.

Alerts can be delivered daily by email (when reports are available) or in near-real time as an RSS feed. In addition, you can choose what geographic locations (by state or equivalent administrative unit) you want alerts from (e.g. Wisconsin, United States; Alberta, Canada; or Hunan Province, China). Or if you’re interested, you can select to receive all the reports made to WHER from around the globe.

Alerts include summary information about the wildlife health event, including the location, species involved, how many of each species were observed to be dead, sick and alive, and what actions were taken. To learn more and to sign up for alerts, visit:

Wildlife Health Observation Network for Data Exchange
Due to the health consequences of emerging diseases in wildlife and their potential effects on human and domestic animal populations, the collection of wildlife health data is increasing not only through professional monitoring efforts but also through citizen science projects. Despite this increase, the data often is not standardized nor formatted for distribution (e.g. as XML web services or RSS feeds) and therefore cannot be easily integrated or shared effectively across political or academic boundaries for practical surveillance applications or scholarly research.

In addition to functioning as a data collection application and alerting system for wildlife health events, WHER is also an open data exchange hub capable of importing, exporting and integrating basic but essential data fields from more complex datasets for epidemiologic study.

Figure 3: This diagram shows WHER’s capability of taking in multiple wildlife health data sources to produce a unified view of the data in different formats. It also lists a sample of the data types collected by WHER.
Figure 3: This diagram shows WHER’s capability of taking in multiple wildlife health data sources to produce a unified view of the data in different formats. It also lists a sample of the data types collected by WHER.

The WHER team works with organizations who are interested in sharing their surveillance data with WHER to help them automate the delivery process that will integrate pertinent data with WHER’s dataset. Currently WHER is integrating data from multiple sources. In addition to the public sharing their wildlife health observations through WHER, the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET), a citizen science effort that tasks trained volunteers to record seabird deaths and injuries along the Atlantic coastline, pushes their reports to WHER through an automated feed. HealthMap is also providing a feed of its wildlife health reports made through its mobile application, Outbreaks Near Me. In the near future, through a southeastern pilot study, US Fish and Wildlife Service field staff and other conservation partners will be submitting their wildlife health observations to WHER.

As a hub, WHER can exchange and integrate wildlife health data either within the WHER system (e.g. view joined data on maps or tables) or in a user’s local system (e.g. WHER data can be streamed or downloaded for analysis in outside systems) to evaluate for trends or investigate potential disease hot spots.

We Work Better When We Work Together
The ecology of wildlife disease is complex and poses many challenges to effective disease management, which can be best overcome through collaboration that leverages resources, reduces duplication of efforts and broadens access to information about disease events. WHER can facilitate communication and collaboration about emerging wildlife health events. It was developed to collect and distribute wildlife health data, and complement other organizations’ surveillance systems. Whether you are interested in contributing or obtaining WHER data, you are invited to become a member of the WHER community. Increase your awareness about wildlife disease and health events and your ability to work with others to address the challenges of wildlife disease!

Want to Learn More about WHER?
Your are invited to check out this online wildlife health surveillance and communication tool at and explore its capabilities to inform you about where wildlife disease incidences are occurring on the ground through maps, tables, downloadable data and alerts. Email comments and questions to us at

WHER Resources
● Use case of how WHER is being used for tracking and communicating unusual bird mortalities as described above,
● How to get report alerts from WHER -
● Handout [benefits and proposed enhancements] -
● Two- minute overview video -

Forging a New Frontier

I'm going to start this post off by quoting myself. In the introductory editorial of the third Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation issue of 2012 I ask rehabilitators to consider the following questions "What is our place in the larger conservation community?  How can we effect change for individuals and species?  How can we share our experiences with our colleagues?" These are big picture questions, too large to be answered with a single cup of coffee, especially when gulped down during a two minute break! But that doesn't mean we should dismiss the questions. We answer them by being, by doing, and by teaching.

IWRC keeps a list of current research projects that wildlife rehabilitators can get involved in. The current projects are up on our research resources page. The raccoon polyomavirus study came from a rehabilitator asking a veterinary researcher to look at an odd raccoon. Now UC Davis has launched a full scale study and is looking for specific raccoon tumor samples. Meanwhile another researcher is looking at tick hosts across Canada to find out how animal range extension is affecting the movement and occurrence of tick species.

You don't need to be a researcher at a major university to create a study. Partner, learn, be brave, and jump in. Ann Goody, a wildlife rehabilitator in Hawai'i is no stranger to research projects. She works with interns on a research question almost every year. Ann took some time to speak with me about her current project:

I am seeking information on if any of the people using educational birds display them in mixed species habitats and if so with what other types of species. We found over many years that captive raptors really do very well with tortoises and or pheasants on the floor of their aviaries. We plant them in natural foliage and this seems to really be stimulating & enriching for the birds. Our raptors (endangered Hawaiian hawk) have successfully bred and reared a chick which was parent reared and returned to the wild. My thought is that the stimulation seems to cause less of the behaviors associated with stress and allows for a better educational experience for the visitor. Our facility is visited only on docent guided tours.

The idea for these blended species exhibits this originally came from my work on enrichment projects for our exotic species. One of our BOD (who just passed away) Dr Hal Markowitz, was the grandfather of behavioral enrichment. Papa Hal always complained about the furnishings of the typical raptor exhibits and said that in the wild this bird would be non-stop focused on surroundings and other creatures. That led me to work out a healthcare protocol with our avian vet (another BOD member)which allowed us to pair reptiles who move around the aviaries with the raptors. This led to adding pheasants as well which, in our minds, is like raptor TV. Just thinking like they do and knowing that the natural soaring overhead provides hours of stimulation does make you sympathetic to the edu birds whose entire world consists of a mews. So many of these species are endangered or threatened and are seen at our facilities on static display by visitors. To provide a more natural habitat with plantings is one thing we always should aim for but to also add movement of creatures on the ground, that is a whole new level of stimulation.

A Hawai'ian hawk gazing from a high perch
A native Hawai'ian hawk (Buteo solitarius). Photo Credit Ann Goody
Medious size tortoise walking
Tortoise housed with Hawai'ian hawk. Photo Credit Ann Goody










So you see, each research project begins with a simple question. Whether the study is to improve the welfare of animals in captivity, to understand disease vectors, or to explore the success (or failure) of a rehabilitation technique, the pursuit of knowledge is always useful. "Without wildlife rehabilitators working with scientists and sharing this important information, our observations and the impact of animals admitted to wildlife centers will not have a broader impact on conservation activities." (Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation 32:1)

Keeping Your Data Straight

A guide to record keeping options

Record keeping is a fact of life. Every job from police officer to tax accountant requires a certain level of documentation for proper functioning, legal purposes, and record keeping. Wildlife rehabilitation is no exception; our records provide data on what treatments are needed for a specific animal, how that animal has fared over time, and the medical-legal outcome of each case. I remember as a teen being enlisted to enter each year's worth of intake sheets into an Excel program. Tedious for sure, but quite amazing once all that data was entered and we suddenly saw that 70% of our waterfowl came from Oshkosh or that the number of squirrels with pox had greatly decreased in Menasha.

Fortunately today there are many documentation options, from web based solutions (WILD-ONe, Wildlife Rehabilitation MD), software options (RAVEN, RaptorMed), and state-run databases (Wisconsin), to Excel documents, and the traditional pen and paper. What to choose? Well, it depends entirely on what level of technology you are comfortable with and what your situation is. Here are some of the common options, their benefits, and contact information so you can research further. Note that most of the developed options are made in North America. However, several are either currently useable worldwide or are working to become useable worldwide. Be sure to check with the developer before dismissing an option as "not for my geographic area"!

Cloud (Web) Solutions

Cloud solutions, sometimes called software as a service (SAS), provide an off-site database for collection and analysis of rehabilitation data. This option has several benefits.  For example, most cloud databases include back-up security; automatic back ups make the loss of your data less likely.  In addition, other benefits include the ability to easily run analytics (e.g. how to determine what was the major cause of intake in raccoons this year), low cost or free to the user, ease of version updating, and the ability to add information about a specific animal after intake to track its care. The major downside is the need to have a reliable internet connection to use the product. These web-based solutions don't work when your internet is down.  A few cloud solution are listed below.

WILD-ONe - Free
Visit to learn more or sign up

Wildlife Rehabilitation MD -  Free
Visit to learn more or sign up

State Database

State databases are a cloud-based service, similar to the web products described above. A major difference is that registration is limited to people in that state or region. The obvious benefit is that it’s created by the regulatory body, so there is no delay in it keeping up to date with regulation changes.


Software solutions, like the web-based options, are out of the box (RAVEN) or developer customized (RaptorMed) programs for the collection and analysis of rehabilitation data. Benefits include not needing an internet connection, ability to easily run analytics, ability to track finances as well as animal care, and a more reliable and easier to reference system than the old pen and paper.  Further, you are not recreating everything from scratch like in Excel! On the downside, software generally has a cost involved and updating to a new version may involve more work than cloud systems, although most developers offer highly discounted new versions to customers with an older edition.

RAVEN - $70
More information can be found by reading RAVEN_Product_Information_Sheet or emailing Product can be purchased in the IWRC store or direct from the developers.

RaptorMed - $2500 - $5000 (tailored to organization) More information is available on the website


Excel and other spreadsheet programs provide rehabilitators with an electronic way to track their data. The complexity and ease of use depends entirely on the ability of the operator; this can be used as anything from your primary method of keeping data on animals in care to an end of year project to look at macro level data and compile governmental report data. Excel is something most computer users already own and basic use is quite simple. However, advanced use can quickly become complex.  Analytics need some understanding of chart and graph creation at a minimum, if not formal statistical training.

Pen and Paper

Ah, the old pen and paper; the classic method of tracking data. The upside? It’s amazingly portable (unless you are lucky enough to have an iPad you can carry around) and each file can stay with the animal while it’s in care, making excuses of not updating the charts nil.  Further, it is a common technology, so volunteers will be comfortable with its use. Downsides include relatively more easily lost and destroyed documents, disorganization, lack of a central collection system to allow for easy analytics and search for past information.  In my opinion the biggest downside of this method is that you cannot quickly and easily learn from the past (e.g. did that new antibiotic your vet prescribed increase your cat-attacked songbird survival rate?).

There are many options out there, and no one option is everything to all people. Evaluate your needs, and then choose a system based on how you plan to use it. That is the best way to ensure you have a good fit.

Have you had experiences with a system? Share with other rehabilitators by posting comments below.