So often we just never really know what happened. A young Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) was found in a backyard in Myrtletown, close to the Fay Slough Wildlife Area, as the crow flies.
The hawk had been caught by a dog. How? Why? Only the hawk and dog know.
The hawk definitely got the worst of it. Besides his very low energy, or lethargy, a condtion that is what had even allowed him to be picked up, a few of his secondary flight feathers were damaged, the broken feathers bleeding significantly. Because of the blood loss, the hawk showed a pronounced anemia at the time he was admitted. Anemia, or a lack of red blood cells, has obvious signs. Pale mucous membranes and general lethargy are two of the most easily seen. Red blood cells primary task is to carry oxygen, critical fuel, to all parts of the body. For a wild animal, living in the non-buffered reality of Nature, lethargy caused by any illness will interfere with necessary, life-sustaining activities, like hunting and eating or evading danger. Anemia is cured by red blood cell production. Like all bodies, the hawk’s body needs food to replace lost cells. Anemic lethargy creates a negative feedback loop with death and dissolution as the only end.
Red-tailed hawks are a common and frequently seen raptor. Their piercing screech is often heard in Summer when parents teach their young to hunt. Many have seen one of these hawks strike prey right next to a highway. The mowed areas of grass around highways are naturally good places to hunt, and no doubt litter from passing cars increases the population of rodents and other species that Red-tailed hawks rely on to survive. We treat many hawks each year who have been hit cars. The neighborhood where this hawk was found means that he’s probably hunted around US 101 at the south end of the safety corridor between Eureka and Arcata. Many Red-tailed hawks and other raptors make use of the fields and wetlands of that area. It’s a dangerous part of the world, full of houses, traffic, pets and poisons. It’s this hawk’s home.
For all the blood and minor soft tissue trauma, there were fortunately no breaks or dislocations,. Finding no other significant injuries, we gave the him a supportive wing wrap, antibiotics, a mild pain reliever, some food and we left him alone for the night.
Within a few days his red blood cells, responding well to the steady supply of thawed rats (you can help us keep rats in stock! click here to donate to our account!), were rebounding. Soon he was able to thermoregulate. As soon as he began regenerating red blood cells his attitude began to improve greatly. His fierceness had never been dimmed but now he was able to do something about it! It wasn’t long before his activity in the protective indoor housing was signaling loud and clear that he was awake and very dissatisfied. We moved him to an outdoor aviary, out of the building, with more space and more privacy, acclimating back the elements, able to begin his recovery of flight, which we thought might take some time..
Immediately, however, the hawk began making very convincing, energetic flights around the aviary. After completing a course of antibiotics and after his red blood cells count was healthy and normal and after he’d been flying around in our aviary for close to two weeks, we took him back to his neighborhood and his wild freedom.
HWCC staff examines the hawk’s injuries.
The moment before capture for a routine exam is very stressful for our patients. We minimize contact as much as possible.
It’s an old joke but we’ll tell it again: This hawk is thinking, “Outside the box!”
A moment in the grass to gather one’s wits…
… and then up to a nearby tree…
… to have a better look…
…around the old neighborhood…
and then off…
… back to his life, on edge of Humboldt Bay.
Like all of our patients, this hawks care, his food, his medicine, his housing, all of it, is possible only becuase of your support. We need your help now. Please donate if you can.
photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX