Three assistant plant control operators at Gorgas — Cary Hamrick, Russell Davidson and Derreck Cagle — discovered the small, blue and orange colored bird while doing a 3 a.m. equipment check.
It was clear to the men the bird was injured because every time it tried to fly it fell.
They scooped it up and put it in a cardboard box until their shift ended. Cagle then took the bird to Veryl Graves, who is the president of the Gorgas chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization.
Last year, the Alabama Power Foundation gave grant money to the Alabama Wildlife Center at Oak Mountain State Park, which cares for more than 1,600 native birds a year with the goal of releasing them back into the wild.
The grant was used to build an outdoor housing facility called a mew, which is for glove-trained birds of prey. The center uses the birds for educational programs. After discussing the situation with co-worker Suzie Barnett, Graves decided to take the bird to the center, where it was nursed back to health.
“We knew the bird couldn’t make it on its own if we left it here at the plant,” Graves said. “We hoped they would be able to treat the bird and restore it to health.”
Once at the center, it was determined the kestrel was underweight and had a fracture to the bone above the shoulder of his wing, which prevented the tiny creature from flying.
“We wrapped his wing, so it could heal properly and fed him daily in an effort to help him reach a consistent weight,” said the Center’s Clinic Manager Katie Stubblefield, who was responsible for the falcon’s care. “Although he is small, we still had to wear leather gloves when working with him, because he is a raptor. And all raptors, no matter how big or how small they are, they all have strong beaks and talons.”
During Tuesday’s release, the Alabama Wildlife Center’s executive director, Carol Argo, said she is proud of the facility’s success in rehabilitating injured birds.
“We really get excited when it’s time for an injured bird to be returned back to the wild, because every release is so special,” she said.
Several of the Alabama Power employees who were involved in getting help for the bird took part in the falcon’s release Tuesday afternoon.