The Luckiest Hawk…

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Sometimes you get a lucky bounce. One of the best places to hunt, especially if rodents and other small animals are your favorite, is the edge of highways… mowed shoulders and medians reveal the little ones’ movements. Light posts and wires afford good perching to watch, wait and swoop down for the meal.

Hawks, especially Red-tailed and Red-shouldered, are often seen this way – perched above our freeways.

Obviously, such a strategy carries a horrible risk. During 2013, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center/BAX admitted 9 Red-tailed hawks, 2 Red-shouldered hawks and 1 Sharp-shinned hawk that had been hit by cars. None survived.

Last Sunday, we took a call from a woman who was driving between Eureka and Arcata on US 101, near the Farm Store. She’d just seen a hawk get hit by a car. She stopped and found the bird lying still in the grassy edge. The hawk wasn’t moving except to take an occasional breath. She scooped him up in her jacket.

Our clinic isn’t far from this spot and she soon came through the door with the bird in her coat. She thought he might have a broken wing, a highly likely outcome. When we moved him to our holding incubator – something we usually do first since most injured animals are in danger of shock – the bird’s wings were held in an awkward position. It seemed as if indeed a wing had been fractured.

We gave him (on the small side for their size range so probably a male) some time in the incubator to calm down and gather his wits. After 20 minutes or so, we performed his admission exam.

He greeted us at the door of his incubator, on his feet, alert, ready to face what comes. In short, he was back.

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Not a single bone was broken. There was no visible bruising – not a scratch.

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We did find a brood patch, a bare area on the belly of many birds during breeding season that allows the warm skin of the parent to come in direct contact with the eggs so they stay at the right temperature. It meant this hawk is an expecting father, if his chicks haven’t already hatched. No doubt he’d been hunting for his family when he was hit by the car.

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After some fluids for his dehydration (stress can make a person want a drink!), we tested his flight in our raptor aviary. He passed with flying colors, as they say.

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Within the hour he was back in his territory and back at work bringing new Red-shouldered hawks into our world.

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You make our efforts possible. With your support we are ready to provide emergency care to all of Northern California’s native wildlife. Thank you!

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(All photos: Laura Corsiglia)

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