Birds of Prey

By Haley Bayer

Alix Parks engages with Telly, a non-releasable Black vulture, in their usual handshake. Saturday, November 25, 2022. (Photo by Haley Bayer) 

Past the bustling noise and city lights of Chattanooga lies a home on Signal Mountain for all types of birds of prey on their way to recovery.

That home belongs to Alix Parks, the owner of Happinest Wildlife Rehabilitation and Raptor Rescue, 501c3 non-profit That used to accept everything from squirrels to rabbits, raptors and even songbirds. But after training a few other rehabilitators on other species, Happinest has become strictly a raptor rehabilitation center. 

After finding a passion in specializing in raptors, she decided to make it the main focus of Happinest.

“When I discovered raptors, [I] decided there’s such a great need for specializing in a certain species so you can focus all your attention on that species,” Parks says. 

Alix Parks holds an Albino Barred at a raptor workshop in Cloudland Canyon. Sunday, December 4, 2022. (Photo by Haley Bayer)

Following her retirement, Parks has completely submerged herself in raptor rehabilitation. She describes being a rehabilitator as a part of life. “It’s not a hobby and it’s really not a career,” Parks says. “It’s a way of life.”

Parks turned her entire backyard, garage and deck into a sort of hospital for the raptors. From splints to wraps and sutures, she can do pretty much anything that has to do with recovery including giving medication to the birds. Additionally, she works closely with a few veterinarians while helping these animals through the rehabilitation process.

In addition to her career as a backyard rehabilitator, Parks teaches many classes at UTC as well as several local state parks where she educates people on how to hold and treat the raptors along with basic knowledge about them. The message she tries to send to the public is that raptor rehabilitation is available. 

Alix Parks looks up at an Eastern Red Tailed that is recovering in her backyard rehabilitation center. Saturday, November 25, 2022. (Photo by Haley Bayer)

“If you do find a bird of prey and you realize it needs help, you will need to call a rehabilitator for instructions and that goes for any wildlife. Don’t just try to take care of it yourself…they have very special dietary needs and caging needs too,” Parks says.

She suggests using an app called Animal Help Now which is a resource that can list the rehabilitators in the local area.

Parks also joins John Stokes and Dale Kernahan, co-directors of Wings to Soar, a raptor awareness program that travels across the United States to raise raptor awareness. She helps Stokes and Kernahan with some of the classes they hold locally.  

Given how much time she spends with these birds, it’s only natural that she’s grown attached to them. 

“As a rehabilitator, you do form a bond with these animals, particularly with the birds. When you see a bird come in, it’s near death and you’re able to turn that bird around and get it back flighted… there’s no joy like releasing a bird that came near death and you’re able to release it.” 

Visit www.happinestwildlife.com to learn more and check out Happinest Wildlife Rehabilitation & Rescue on Facebook. Also, check out www.soarsouth.org to learn more about John Stokes and Dale Kernahan and their program.

Audio by Haley Bayer.

Meet the Storyteller

Haley Bayer is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is currently majoring in Communication with a Women’s Gender and Sexuality minor. Haley is a storyteller with experience in social media, photography, audio, and design. In the future, Haley looks forward to working in Media Management. She is a hardworking and persevering individual who aspires to use her voice in Rising Rock to share moving stories. To contact her for work, email fsb315@mocs.utc.edu 

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