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Wildlife Discovery Center is home to injured, rescued birds

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Most Chicagoans think there are only two zoos in the area, Brookfield and Lincoln Park. But there are other smaller wildlife centers, including one in Lake Forest. (WLS)

Most Chicagoans think there are only two zoos in the area, Brookfield and Lincoln Park. But there are other smaller wildlife centers, like the Wildlife Discovery Center in north suburban Lake Forest, Ill., a hidden gem caring for vulnerable animals.

One hundred years ago, it was the farm of the Armour meat packing family. Now it's 35 acres of prairie dedicated to all sorts of wildlife that have been injured and rescued and now live there. Birds like Curly the red tailed hawk, Squirt the screech owl and an owl called Cyclone.

"It's a barn owl. He was hit by a car and as you can see he lost one of his eyes. That's why he's here," Kali Coteler, from the Wildlife Discovery Center, said.

Curly the red tailed hawk was pulled from his nest by humans to be a pet and he's still confused.

"He doesn't really know how to act like a hawk. He doesn't hunt like a hawk. He didn't learn the things he should be doing in the wild," Dani Orsins, Wildlife Discovery Center employee, said.

"This is squirt. He is an eastern screech owl. One of the smallest owls in the United States and we have him here because he hit a window and is now blind in his left eye," Riley Parrott, animal keeper and educator at Discovery Wildlife Center, said.

Lake Forest's Parks and Recreation opened the Discovery Nature Center in 1997 and ever since it's been giving injured animals a second chance.

The newest resident is a one-year-old bald eagle hit by a car in South Carolina. Her wing was permanently injured and that makes her about half a bird.

"She can flutter but she cannot fly. Our hope long term is to get her a bigger habitat where she can take shorter flights and build up her muscles and kind of relearn some of those flight behaviors," Rob Carmichael, curator at the Wildlife Discovery Center, said.

So far the nameless eagle's favorite part of the day is bath time.

"We learned early on that she definitely loves to have her daily, three times daily shower," Carmichael said.

Bald eagles getting hit by cars is nothing unusual. In the state of Michigan in the last six years, 222 bald eagles have been killed by cars because they are not picky eaters.

"Eagles are great birds of prey but they are also scavengers and they fly down onto the highways for roadkill and that's when they're killed," Carmichael said.

The eagle will get her white head and yellow beak in about three years.
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