The Hiram College field station’s newest addition, the Mary Benjamin Rehab Cage, began with a baby hawk that eventually grew ready for flight lessons.
In 2015, Mary Benjamin, a senior majoring in environmental studies and biology, helped nurture the orphaned bird to near-independence at the College’s James H. Barrow Biological Field Station. Ready to spread its wings, the hawk eventually outgrew its shelter and was taken to Penitentiary Glen Wildlife Center in Kirtland. There, a flight cage provided the bird ample space for aviation practice before it was released at Cuyahoga Valley National Park near its original rescue spot.
“We were taking in injured hawks and needed a place where we could fly them,” says Benjamin, who has worked at the field station for the past two years, as well as at Penitentiary Glen.
Jim Metzinger, director of the field station, had a raptor cage on his wish list for quite a while, and even a stockpile of lumber with which to build it. Still, he ran short on funds to see it to fruition. Benjamin stepped in with a $2,000 gift she designated from her family’s charitable foundation to the field station.
Benjamin joined a small band of fellow students, including Mackenzi Bolyard-Pizana, Lance Henderson and Nick Rollason, to build the 20’x’6x’14 structure with field station steward Jim Tolan and Matt Sorrick, director of the Center for Science Education. The architecture features a roof fashioned out of galvanized steel fencing and a large exit door from which birds can exit independently. A tall tree trunk stump configured with angled perches graces the structure’s interior with practicality.
“Hawk, owls, turkey vultures and other birds of prey are comfortable at high levels,” explains Metzinger, pointing out that the ramps allow birds to make their way up the trunk stump.
While the field station can see anywhere from six to 10 orphaned raptors a year, until now, those ready for flight have been transported to Penitentiary Glen and the Mentor Raptor Center. Now students such as Benjamin will have an opportunity to care for these birds, many from hand-feeding at infancy, to their release back into the wild.
“Now that the flight cage is built, I can really see how it will impact students’ lives,” Benjamin says.