When talking to a wildlife rehabilitator or even a falconer you will eventually come across the strange and probably foreign sounding word mews. You may then wonder how your conversation leapt from raptors to the sound of a frantic feline.
To a rehabber mews are definitely the cat’s meow as they are an extremely important part of our equipment and without it we would not be allowed by state or federal law to rehabilitate injured releasable raptors nor maintain nonreleasable education raptors. Following is a brief history of mews, a description of how WRCNU uses theirs and photos of a newly completed WRCNU mew construction project.
Mews defined by history: “Mews is a primarily British term formerly describing a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a paved yard or court, or along a street, behind large city houses, such as those of London, during the 17th and 18th centuries. The word may also refer to the lane, alley or back street onto which such stables open. It is sometimes applied to rows or groups of garages or, more broadly, to a narrow passage or a confined place. Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings, some greatly modernized and considered highly desirable residences.
“The term mews is plural in form but singular in construction, and arose from a building where birds used for falconry are kept. Originating in London, its use has spread to parts of Canada and the United States.
“From 1377 onwards the king's falconry birds were kept in the King's Mews at Charing Cross. The name remained when it became the royal stables starting in 1537. The present Royal Mews was then built in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.”1 The Queen’s Mews as they are often referred to today, house her horse stables, various carriages for ceremony as well as the present day car garage—a long way from the days of yore.
For WRCNU’s purpose a mews is a birdhouse or outdoor enclosure designed to house one or more raptors (falcons, hawks, eagles or owls). We use freeloft mews which allow raptors in the final stages of rehabilitation to reacclimate themselves to the outdoors and exercise flight muscles prior to release back into the wild. We supplement this passive form of exercise with creance flights which force the birds to fly while tethered to a long creance line under supervision of qualified handlers. Much like humans, birds exercise more often and more efficiently when a trainer is breathing down their necks and the effective gain is recognized more quickly than when left to their own devices. At WRCNU we also freeloft our education birds in mews.
Designated Mews are used as permanent residence for our resident nonreleasable education raptors. Each education mew is specifically furnished for the bird using it. For example, our nonflighted birds are provided with lower than normal perching, which allows them access without resulting in injury due to attempts to reach perches that are too high or falling from heights they can not easily descend.
During construction of a mews we must follow strict state and federal guidelines to ensure the proper size for each species as well as creating a safe environment to prevent additional injury or even death. One consideration we place special attention on is predator proofing. There are many stories of birds falling victim to rats, raccoons and other predators looking for an easy meal who have dug or clawed their way into an enclosure. WRCNU prevents such access with underground screening and fencing to prevent digging as well as ensuring strong little marauding paws can’t gain access through the outside of the enclosure to the birds inside.
That is Mews 101 in a nutshell. Now you can talk mews with the best of them and sound like an old pro! Check out our slideshow of a mews from start to finish as well as a couple of WRCNU’s primary rehabilitation/education mews used to prepare our animals for reentry into the Utah wilds. 1 en.wikipedia.org ; Used with permission under Creative Commons Licensing Notice: creativecommons.org