Dedicated to the welfare of our native birds-of-prey
Recognized by the US Fish & Wildlife Service
OUR HISTORY SOAR is an organization dedicated to the welfare of our native birds-of-prey; founded in 1989 by George and Bernadette Richter - licensed Master falconers, rehabilitators, falcon breeders, raptor banders, and educators with decades of hands-on experience and knowledge.
SOAR'S PURPOSES ~to EDUCATE the public on the importance of raptors and habitat; ~to PROMOTE the scientific study of free-living raptors; ~to TRAIN raptor handlers, and help improve conditions for all raptors in captivity; ~to help RESOLVE human/raptor conflicts.
CONSERVATION AND SPECIES RESTORATION 1985 to 1990, SOAR participated in the five-year CHICAGO PEREGRINE RELEASE Project. 70 young falcons were released in and around Chicago to restock nature. This project, and others like it elsewhere, successfully helped restore peregrine populations. The falcon was removed from the federal endangered/threatened species list in 1999, and delisted in Illinois in 2014. Thanks to these restoration efforts, the Illinois Peregrine population has grown significantly (today's numbers exceed those before DDT). SOAR has been, and continues to be, the preferred rehabilitation facility for Chicagoland's peregrines.
In 1991, SOAR Directors participated in a COOPER'S HAWK POPULATION STUDY in the Shawnee National Forest (IL), sponsored by the US Forestry Dept. and Southern Illinois University. The research was conducted to determine the breeding status of the Cooper's in Illinois. This species had been listed as "state-endangered" in the 70s, and was delisted by the Illinois Endangered Species Board in 1996 because research proved their numbers had increased dramatically.
In 2008, SOAR began a partnership with Willowbrook Wildlife Center (Glen Ellyn) in a BARN OWL RESEARCH project which monitors and studies the movements of released owls using radio telemetry and satellite tracking. SOAR prepared the young Barn owls for release to the wild. RESOLVING HUMAN/RAPTOR CONFLICTS From 1996 through 1999, SOAR developed the RAPTOR REMOVAL AND RELOCATION PROGRAM for O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Large numbers of raptors congregated at the airport which threatened air safety. The US Dept. of Ag, Wildlife Services, at O'Hare contacted SOAR for management advice. SOAR captured, banded, and released (off-site) over 300 raptors, conducted research to determine the relocation distance and direction to discourage their return to the airport, trained airport personnel, and rehabbed injured birds found on site. The FAA officially recognized SOAR's RRR project at the 1999 Bird Strike Conference in Washington D.C., and implemented it at other US airports. The project continues at O'Hare to this day.
Some statistics from a US Dept. of Ag, Wildlife Services, Bird Strike Report - 1990 through 2005: 66,392 bird strikes reported to the FAA nation-wide 3,059 strikes in Illinois 13% involved raptors Of 3,510 raptors hit nation-wide; 1,112 American Kestrels 809 hawks (637 of those were Red-tails) 727 owls (304 of those were Barn owls) 540 vultures 105 Ospreys 87 Peregrines 71 Bald Eagles 59 others (harriers, kites, etc.) 51% were hit between July and October (bird fledging, and fall migration) 63% were hit during the day 59% hit during approach for landing (38% takeoff or climbing)
EXPOSING ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS In 1986, SOAR Directors spearheaded a campaign to ban RID A BIRD. This poison was used to kill flocks of "pest" birds (starlings, pigeons, and sparrows). Sadly, the poison also killed hundreds of raptors in Illinois alone after they ate contaminated pest birds. SOAR's efforts were instrumental in banning RID A BIRD nationwide in 1999. However, RID A BIRD's main ingredient "fenthion" is still legally used as an insecticide, and will continue to kill birds until it's banned entirely. The product continues to be sold and used in Central and South America, putting millions of migratory birds at risk.
Every day - world-wide - raptors and other birds are seriously burned or incinerated atLANDFILLS (garbage dumps). Buried rotting garbage produces methane gas underground. If the gas isn't reclaimed for fuel, it is vented into the air through tubes. The vent tubes have igniters which burn off the gas to eliminate odor. The methane flame is invisible in daylight (blue by night). Birds perch on the tubes - or fly through or into the flames when approaching the vent perches - and are seriously burned or killed. After SOAR rehabbed 16 burned raptors and discovered the cause in 2001, the hazard was reported to the Illinois Pollution Control Board and landfill managers. SOAR recommended the landfills install tall wooden "T" perches to attract birds away from the vent tubes and flames. Other deterents and protective measures can be implemented.
SAVING ESSENTIAL HABITAT In the mid 90s, SOAR rallied the conservation community to preserve 1800 acres of prairie land in Naperville IL. The Forest Preserve District had planned to use the prairie for quarrying stone and collecting storm sewer water. SOAR conducted a six-month roadside survey and documented on-site endangered species raptors. The development plans were abandoned, and the prairie was saved. Formerly called "Dragon Lake", the prairie was renamed "SPRINGBROOK PRAIRIE PRESERVE".
In 2003-04, SOAR became actively involved in a campaign to save PLUM ISLAND at Starved Rock State Park near Utica IL. This island is essential habitat for numerous wintering bald eagles along the Illinois River, and is also an ancestral burial site for Native American peoples. Developers had planned to build homes and marinas which would have destroyed this important site. In March 2004, the Illinois Audubon Society procured funds to purchase this site for posterity. The campaign was led by then-Governor Patrick Quinn and Senator Patrick Welch.
As you can see, SOAR is an ambassador for raptors and the preservation of habitat. We will continue to adhere to our goals to "Save Our American Raptors".
SAVE PLUM ISLAND -July 6, 2003: SOAR joined with Illinois then-Governor Pat Quinn, Midwest SOARRING Foundation, and the Illinois Audubon on the Lower Riverwalk along the Chicago River for a rally to "Save Plum Island" (at Starved Rock State Park) from development. Plum Island is home to wintering bald eagles, and is a historical Native American ancestoral burial site. Chicago television and newspapers covered the rally, and SOAR's bald eagle was a big attraction.UPDATE:March 28, 2004 -- SOAR was part of the VICTORY announcement and celebration at Starved Rock. The Illinois Audubon procured funds to purchase the island for posterity. See www.SaveOurEagles.org
EAGLE DAY IN ILLINOIS - January 21, 2004: then-Governor Pat Quinn announced proposed legislation in a press conference at the Thompson Center to establish an official 'Eagle Day' in Illinois in January every year. Deshka was there for the media.
NEW 60 CENT STAMP DESIGN UNVEILED - July 12, 2002: SOAR's bald eagle, Deshka, stole the show at the official unveiling of the Post Office's new patriotic eagle stamp in a ceremony held at the Oakbrook Marriott. The unveiling kicked off the American First Day Cover Society's national 3-day annual conference for stamp collectors. Collectors from all over the world attended. Dignitaries, collectors, and the Marine Color Guard had their pictures taken with Deshka to remember this historical event.
EDDIE EAGLE SOARS AGAIN - April 6, 2002: Our first bald eagle patient - an adult bald eagle we named Eddie - was admitted to SOAR in December 2001 after being shot with a shotgun. Eddie had 10 lead pellets in him and suffered from lead poisoning. Rehab was successful, and he was released April 6th at Goose Lake Prairie in Morris IL. Over 225 contributors witnessed this happy event, and enjoyed native American ceremonies, beverages, food, and artwork. Thanks to Goose Lake Partners, Eagle Ridge Drum Group, Midwest SOARRING Foundation, and all contributors to Eddie's care.