gumnut trans

  LONE PINE KOALA SANCTUARY
World’s First and Largest Koala Sanctuary

Tale of a Tail: Repairing broken feathers for 'Maverick' the falcon

We all know more or less what’s involved in repairing a broken bone, but what about a broken feather? Our resident male peregrine falcon, ‘Maverick’, recently underwent a procedure to fix his damaged tail feathers in a process known as “imping”. We sat down with our Wildlife Curator (and falcon fanatic), Frank Mikula, to get the scoop on imping and find out how Mav is going with his new feathers.

Maverick


Maverick feather procedure 2Why did Maverick need his tail feathers fixed?

“Tail feathers are essential for flight, especially for an aerial predator like the peregrine falcon which can reach speeds of over 300kph. In order to manoeuvre at such high speeds every feather needs to be in perfect condition. Any damage means less chance of catching a meal. Although in a managed environment, Maverick still has to chase down his prey. He does this a bit differently than his wild counterparts, either by chasing a swinging lure or, more recently, his robotic prey. We noticed that Mav had sustained damage to a few of his tail feathers so we decided to repair them through imping.”

(Image right: one of Maverick's old tail feathers versus new).

What is imping and what does it involve?

“Imping is actually a pretty straight-forward process that has been around for thousands of years and was first used by falconers in medieval times. It involves swapping out the damaged feathers and replacing them with new feathers from a donor bird.”

How does it work?

“First, we have to identify the damaged feather and find a donor to replace it, which can be tricky. The replacement has to be Maverick feather procedurefrom the same species and sex to be a perfect match. We usually collect feathers from our birds as they go through their yearly moults to keep on hand for these exact situations.”

“Once a perfect donor feather has been found, both damaged and donor feathers are trimmed at the exact same spot along the shaft, so they are of equal size.”

“We then prepare what’s called an “imping needle” using a piece of fibreglass fishing rod that is whittled down so that it can be slid inside the hollow portion of both feather pieces to join them together (image right).
Back in medieval times they actually used sticks for this.”

“Once the imping needle has been made to size, we apply a small amount of glue and join the two feathers together, making sure that the new feather aligns perfectly with the pre-existing feathers on either side.”

How did Mav's imping procedure go?

“It went really well. We successfully imped eight tail feathers in the space of an hour. His keepers have reported that since Maverick new tailthe procedure he is flying faster and demonstrating increased agility in the air, which is fantastic news”.



Well, we think Maverick looks very handsome with his new tail. We would like to give special recognition to Frank and our veterinary team. It is with their superior knowledge, experience, and dedication to our wildlife, that all of our animals are able to enjoy the best life possible.

  • As leaders of knowledge, we are dedicated to research and the discovery of new information.
    Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary conducts

    Read More
  • Green Team
    Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has created a Green Team to research and evaluate our environmental impact and we

    Read More
  • Supporting local businesses
    Electricians, plumbers, sustainable technology companies, and construction and maintenance crews are all hired from the local area.

    Read More
  • General enquiries:
    Email:
    Phone: +61 7 3378 1366

     

    Media enquiries:
    Email:
    Phone: +61 7 3378 1366

     

    Read More
  • Vacancies

    We are currently seeking expressions of interest for the below positions. Please email your interest to the relevant email

    Read More
  • Beating the Heat - Handy Tips for Keeping Animals Cool

    Whilst the official first day of summer is still a couple

    Read More
  • Why we're batty for flying foxes

    Some of our keepers have recently become new mums, but not in the way

    Read More
  • Make your New Year's resolution a GREEN one

    “Be the change that you wish to see in the world"
    - Mahatma

    Read More
  • The Science of Saving Koalas

    At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, we believe strongly in making scientific, fact-based decisions and connecting

    Read More
  • Tale of a Tail: Repairing broken feathers for 'Maverick' the falcon

    We all know more or less what’s involved in

    Read More
  • The Five Domains Series: Nutrition & satisfying some of the world's pickiest eaters

    Lone Pine recently received recognition from the

    Read More