Talons Crossed: The Incredible Work of Rescuing Raptors

January 03, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

I first heard the phrase “talons crossed”, on an Instagram post from Nancy McDonald -- a raptor rescuer located in Maryland – who is sometimes called the “Osprey Lady.”  Talons crossed – is a take on the expression “fingers crossed” -- something said when praying in our own way for a good outcome.  Raptors – hawks – owls – eagles – and ospreys have talons, not fingers, so that phrase, “talons crossed”, is a good fit. Nancy – an Army Veteran, and a former federal Aviation Security Investigator among those who helped shut down United States air space during the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. -- has probably said a lot of “talons crossed” over the years she’s been rescuing Hawks, Owls, Eagles, and Ospreys. In 2021 alone, she rescued 125 raptors and that’s double the number she rescued in 2020. She’s rescued them after they’ve been found hit by cars, hanging from trees caught in improperly discarded fishing line, laying injured on the ground after their nests were destroyed, and even after they’ve been shot. Yes, shot. 


I met Nancy in the summer of 2021 after I became a volunteer transporter for the injured raptors, she and another raptor rescuer -- Donna Cole -- were rescuing and trying to save.  Myself, and several dozen other volunteer transporters, drove these birds, part of the way or all of the way –sometimes well over a hundred miles round trip -- to the designated wildlife rehabilitation center that could help them, or humanely end their suffering.  I’m still helping transport these injured raptors today.


It takes courage, strength, skill, a calm mind and a big heart to save wildlife from suffering.  I’m excited to interview Nancy in my newest podcast and hear about her courageous and compassionate work to help save the lives of injured and orphaned raptors.  Listen now, and follow Nancy’s Instagram account @rescuingraptors to learn about this incredible work of rescuing raptors.


Here’s the questions Nancy answered:

  • Let’s start with the numbers.How many years have you been doing this (raptor rescue) and have you kept track of how many birds (raptors) you’ve rescued?


  • You live close to the Chesapeake Bay and you do some sailing.Did this have any influence on how you got started in raptor rescue – particularly Ospreys?


  • On your Instagram account you have a post mentioning your desire to write a book about your rescue stories.What rescues are the most memorable or important to talk about?


  • How do you coordinate with the permitted wildlife rehabilitation centers once you’ve rescued an injured raptor?


  • We haven’t yet come up with animal ambulances, but there is a volunteer transport group for the injured raptors. I’m in this group, and I have to say I was surprised at the number of raptors that needed transporting just since I became involved. There are of course peaks and valleys in transport needs, but this is great resourcefulness and ingenuity to solve the big challenge of getting these birds the help they need.How did the volunteer transport concept come about?


  • Can anyone just go out and capture and rescue an injured hawk, owl, eagle, or osprey?


  • You’ve had more than one occupation over the years –which I think is a great thing to showcase. Earlier in life you served with the Army and then went on to work for the federal government for over 23 years. And what really got my attention was information you shared in one of your Instagram posts about being one of the Federal Aviation Administration representatives who helped shut down US air space during the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. I was living just a few miles from the Pentagon at that time. What can you tell us about that part of your work-life?


  • What else should we know about this (volunteer!) job of rescuing raptors?


Blog photo credit: Mary Hollinger


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