Well, I released Arion the other day. It was a long and somewhat agonizing decision. I kept starting to write about it and then could never decide exactly what it was I wanted to say.
He was a great bird to handle, but I never could get him to fly. We think he may have had something going on--may have run into a power line or something prior to me picking him up. Whatever was happening there, there wasn't anything physically wrong with him, but I never could get him to fly past a certain distance. Even off the creance and free-flying, he just wouldn't fly more than about 70 feet.
We ruled out any physical, health issues and my sponsor had given me an enthusiastic pair of thumbs-up about his training, which she'd said had gone perfectly. It's just par for the course that not all birds are going to be suited for a working partnership with a human being.
It could be he had a hidden health issue, could have been neurological damage from hitting a power line or being hit by a car prior to me picking him up, could have just been an ultra laid-back bird that didn't have much motivation to fly when he was getting fed routinely anyway. Who knows?
In any case, it was a tremendously valuable experience. We fed him heavily up for several days, then set him out on a fence row in the middle of miles of wide-open grass pastures less than a quarter-mile from where he was trapped. No predators for miles. A small copse of trees nearby for cover. A little stream for water. No haggard birds nesting in the area to chase him away. We left him with at least a day or two worth of food and a full crop. He was so comfy that he stayed put on the fence post, even after we removed his furniture and walked away. We sat watching him for a while just to see if he'd go up in the trees or fly away, but he just sat there on his rat with a full crop digging the sunshine.
A friend asked me if I was worried about him, and my response was something along this line... he was doing just fine before I interrupted his life, and will do just fine without me. He might make it or might not, but their mortality rate in the wild is around 80% even under the best circumstances, and I kept him fed and flying through the rocky first year--so if nothing else, he's back in the breeding population with a season's worth of good food under his belt.
Good luck, big guy!