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Teenage avian specialist works to rehabilitate birds

(Photo provided)

(Photo provided)

Alexandra Forsythe walked to the intramural fields carrying a blue plastic container. It was a chilly November evening, but the cold did not bother her. She had worked many months toward this very special day.

She set the container on the ground and opened the front hatch.

A beautiful red-winged screech owl shot out of the box and darted toward the woods where it perched itself on a log. The owl is ready to hunt and survive in the wild – thanks to Forsythe.

A 15-year-old resident of Huntington, Ind., Forsythe has been fascinated by birds since she was in middle school.

“I have been helping to raise awareness about birds for three or four years,” she said.

Forsythe has spoken at several conferences and volunteers her time to different avian societies and nature clubs, including the Indiana Young Birders Club, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Race 4 Birds Foundation.

For the red screech owl, she picked up the bird shortly after it was born. The owl was unable to hunt on its own and would likely die had Forsythe not accepted it into her family’s home.

The owl was trained in the family bathroom – and never lived in a cage. She originally trained it to eat mice on strings until she felt the owl could thrive in the wild.

Her parents welcome any birds to live with them.

“They support me with all of my stuff and encourage me in everything I do,” Forsythe said.

Forsythe has always been a volunteer, even when she receives money for her efforts.

“I did receive $200 for the Charles D. Wise Youth Conservation Award, but I had them donate the money to Limberlost State Historic Site instead so that we could develop an educational outreach program,” she said. “I was also offered $100 for creating the Stockbridge Audubon website, but I asked them to donate the money to Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab.”

Forsythe is home-schooled and wants to continue working with bird rehabilitation in the future.

“I think it is very important for young people to get outside, get involved, learn more about the natural world, and do what you can to keep the planet healthy,” she said. “Birds help us a lot. Birds like that little screech owl will kill up to six mice a night. … Other birds will eat other harmful insects, and there’s other birds that eat weed seeds like ragweed so you won’t have many allergies. Birds just help us in all sorts of ways.”

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