JACKSON, Wyo. — The Teton Raptor Center (TRC) announced the name of its newest avian ambassador, Bert, in memory of one of Jackson Hole’s most renowned bird watchers, Bert Raynes, who had taken flight into the heavens on New Year’s Day.
This Northern Saw-whet Owl arrived as a patient in Teton Raptor Center’s clinic on June 9, 2020. The young owl was found on the back deck of a house by a resident in Rexburg, Idaho. The owl had classic immature plumage, indicating that it was a hatch-year bird. Upon admittance to TRC’s clinic, the avian care team discovered that the bird was unable to fly due to an injury in his left wing that occurred sometime before he was rescued. It’s likely the owl’s parents kept him well-fed while his injuries healed.
While in care, the owl was evaluated for flight strength and mobility, but was only able to sustain short flights of six feet in length and achieve lift of only three feet from the ground. This limited flight ability would prevent the young owl from returning to the wild. However, since the nature of the injury was determined by TRC’s advising veterinarians not likely to cause long-term discomfort, it opened the door to joining the ranks of Teton Raptor Center’s avian ambassador team. In December 2020, TRC received final approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide a permanent home to this little owl to serve as an ambassador for its species.
TRC does not name its patients, only giving them a date and species code as an identifier. However, permanent avian ambassadors are given unique names. Recently, TRC staff narrowed down a host of names sourced from staff and volunteers and then put those names out to the public to weigh in just after the first of the New Year. The names included: Rex (short for Rexburg, where the bird was found), Sawyer (incorporating part of the owl’s common name), Moseley (the name of the original owner of the Hardeman Ranch where TRC is located), and Wilson (the name of the hamlet in Jackson Hole where TRC is headquartered). TRC received nearly 200 votes, with Wilson taking the lead.
However, with an opportunity for comments in the survey instrument, TRC received compelling feedback from supporters that this little owl (weighing in at 84 grams, less than the weight of a deck of cards), should be named after Jackson Hole’s most beloved birder, Bert Raynes, who passed away the morning of January 1, and supporters from near and far encouraged TRC to bestow the name “Bert” on the little cavity-nesting creature.
“In selecting a name for one of our avian ambassadors, we know that it is particularly meaningful if the name offers an opportunity for storytelling, which may be the individual bird’s story or a conservation message,” said Amy McCarthy, TRC’s Executive Director. “The name ‘Bert’ for our newest avian ambassador offers a strong conservation message, allowing us to share the story of a charismatic birder and naturalist who inspired thousands of people, of all backgrounds and ages, to discover the natural world right in their own backyard. ‘Bert’ can open the door to discussing citizen science, nature mapping, and keeping common birds common. We are honored to celebrate the life of Bert Raynes by welcoming Bert the Northern Saw-whet Owl to TRC’s avian ambassador team.”
As with many organizations throughout Jackson Hole, Bert Raynes was an inspiring individual to TRC’s staff, board, and volunteers. Mr. Raynes served on TRC’s advisory council for over a decade. Bert the Northern Saw-whet Owl joins fourteen other permanent resident raptors at TRC and will reside in the newly created bird care facilities that opened last month at their home in Wilson, WY.
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