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Pilots N Paws

Raptors flown to Montana

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Kari Gabriel of Montana Wild Wings Recover Center with Duke the Peregrine Falcon

Kari Gabriel of Montana Wild Wings Recover Center with Duke the Peregrine Falcon

Meet Duke and Sweeney

Our  newest education Ambassadors, Duke and Sweeney, flew 1062 miles in just under 12 hours from Wickenburg, Arizona to Kalispell, on Thursday, March 13th!  Duke, a gorgeous Peregrine Falcon, and Sweeney, a beautiful Swainson’s Hawk, arrived at Glacier Jet Center, courtesy of three very generous private pilots that fly animals in need across the country, as members of Pilots N Paws.  Dr. Michael Pardis, of Helena, MT and the third pilot in this cross-country trip, delivered Sweeney and Duke to Beth Benjamin Watne, MWWRC Director on Thursday evening about 5 PM.


Duke is a male Peale’s Peregrine Falcon, and is approximately 1 ½ years old.  He arrived at Liberty Wildlife in December, 2012, as a first year bird.  He was seen hitting a window of a business building in Scottsdale, and  fractured his left metacarpals (wing.)  He underwent surgery to repair his wing, but the surgery was unsuccessful due to a compromised blood supply from the injury, so the wing had to be amputated below the wrist, rendering him un-releasable.  He was a first year bird when the injury occurred.  Duke is now undergoing training with handlers to be a part of MWWRC’s education program, and will soon be visiting schools and events, thrilling audiences everywhere.  He still has his juvenile plumage, so it will be fun to watch him change during his next feather molt!
Sweeney is a *male Swainson’s hawk, and is also approximately 1 ½ years old.  He arrived at Liberty Wildlife in



October 2012, from Sierra Vista, AZ, with an older fracture of the left carpus (wing).  It was some type of impact injury, and surgery was not an option due to the location of the fracture.  He was a first year bird when injured probably during his first migration.  (*We may never know for sure if Sweeney is female or male, due to his weight – he is right at the in-between weight that distinguishes males from females.)

Duke and Sweeney’s journey began at about 4 AM in Wickenburg, AZ, where Beth and her husband Bob Watne, spend part of their winter.  Nate Rydman and his Dad Allen, flew their 1950 Cessna 170 A Model from Moab, UT to  Wickenburg, on Wednesday afternoon and stayed with Bob at the Watne’s home that night.  Unfortunately, Beth had flown home earlier in the week to deal with a foot of water in the basement of their Kalispell home.  At first light on Thursday morning, Nate, Allen and Bob loaded the birds in the plane, and the Rydman’s took off on the first leg of the journey to Heber, UT.  There, they handed off Sweeney and Duke to Nathan Smith, another private pilot.  Nathan is from Idaho Falls, ID, and flew his 1967 Piper Cherokee 180 into Heber to pick up the birds and fly them back to Idaho Falls.  Michael Pardis and his daughter Allison, flew from Helena to meet Nathan in Idaho Falls, and then transferred Duke and Sweeney to Michael’s 1967 Beechcraft Bonanza, for the final leg of the journey into Kalispell.

Did you follow all of that?  One rare March bluebird day with unusually cooperative weather through several IMG_2175_1mountain ranges, two beautiful birds of prey flying thousands of miles in that one beautiful day, and three incredible, philanthropic pilots who volunteer their time, fuel and planes to give animals a second chance.  Duke and Sweeney are a wonderful gift from our friends at Liberty Wildlife Center in Scottsdale, AZ, and we are also very grateful to them for allowing us to give them a permanent home.

About the Pilots and Paws N Pilots

Nate Rydman lives in Moab, UT, and is a full time pilot, flying for Pilots N Paws (PNP) in his spare time.  This was his third trip for the nonprofit organization, and he said PNP is similar to another group that uses long haul truck drivers.  This was the first trip he participated in where he met up with other pilots, and also the first involving birds!  Nate and his Dad both fly for PNP, and sometimes are able to fly together.  Nathan Smith owns his plane with several partners, and he has been registered with PNP for about 6 years, and has flown about 6 flights and several trips by car for PNP.  He enjoys flying, and this is a great way to build hours and help animals in need.  Mike Pardis is a retired Chiropractor, and enjoys flying in his spare time for a good cause.  He and his daughter Allison jumped at the opportunity to combine their love of flying, animals and the opportunity for a quick hello to his son, Alex,  on their way through Kalispell.  Mike said, “My first experience with a Peregrine Falcon was while I was in high school and climbing in the Gates of the Mountains, near Helena.  I had a Peregrine dive at me while I was climbing near a cliff, and then he did it again!”  All three pilots are able to monitor the PNP website (www.pilotsnpaws.org) for flight opportunities and choose those that are a good fit for them, this being PNP’s first mission with birds.  All three pilots all had incredible weather for flying (and mentioned how rare that is for the distance they traveled that day).  Some of Nate’s pictures taken on his flight from Moab to Wickenburg, and also of Nathan Smith taking off for Idaho Falls are included.  

IMG_2173.1_2_1Beth Benjamin Watne, MWWRC Director, stated, ” MWWRC operates solely on monetary contributions from individuals and organizations, food donations from the public and FWP, and veterinary services from local veterinarians.    MWWRC volunteers spend their own money on needed supplies, food and gas, and occasionally medication, for resident birds.  FWP fisheries personnel bag and donate fish for our eagles, and sometimes transport birds for us.  The mice, which the majority of the residents require, are purchased, and cost the center .50 to 1.00 each.  Approximately 25 mice are feed daily to the owls, so it adds up pretty quick.  We couldn’t do this work without our wonderful volunteers or the help we receive from FWP, local veterinarians and eye doctors, and the monetary contributions to help buy food for our birds.”

 Here are some pics of Duke the Peregrine Falcon out enjoying the March sun!  Both are settled in nicely and glad to be in their new home!

Thank you again for your gift of flying them to us.  We appreciate what you do to help animals get to their new homes!  Sweeney the Swainson’s Hawk is also pictured.

Kind Regards,
Kari Gabriel, Communications Director
Montana Wild Wings Recover Center
Subaru and Petmate are Proud Partners of PNP!
Posted by Kathleen Quinn Charleston Executive Director Pilots N Paws


Duke the Peregrine Falcon out enjoying the sun today


Duke the Peregrine with Beth


Sweeney sunning himself with one of our volunteers, Doug


Sweeney, sunning himself with one of our volunteers, Doug

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