Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Hawk Rescue Requires Collective Effort
January 02, 2016
By Steve Grinley

     Paul Roberts of Medford shares with us an encouraging story of animal rescue:

     “The good news was that early on the morning of July 20 I had seen at least four and possibly all five hawks in a family of Redtails, including three recent fledglings, I had been observing casually over the spring. The bad news was that this was one of those days you dread when following fledglings. About 6 a.m. I found one of the kids, my favorite, on the east apron of a major state highway. The bird was standing erect, eyes open, but not moving, with for a partially extended right wing. 

     “I worked my way around it but the bird was totally oblivious to me. It seemed concussed, sitting numbly no more than 18 inches from the high-speed lane of a divided state highway. To me it appeared as though it might have flown into the side of a fast-moving car rather than been hit head-on. I waited a while to see if it would recover but it did not. It just sat there, facing into traffic going 40-50 mph just inches from it… 

     “I called the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Boston but their offices were closed so early in the day. The phone message said to call back later, and that the local police would have their emergency number. Meanwhile a DCR roadside mowing crew had just moved in with several tractor mowers mowing the public lands next to the roadway, right across the highway from the injured hawk. Aaaaauuuuggghhh! 

     “I spoke with one of the mowers, who expressed an interest in hawks and a concern for the injured bird. He signaled a co-worker on another tractor mower, and both expressed concern for the young hawk, saying they would keep away from the bird and notify their supervisor. I drove to the Medford Police who were helpful contacting the Medford Animal Control officer, who provided the emergency number for the Animal Rescue League. I left a message on the emergency tape, but did not hear back. Returning from the police station, I found the hawk in the same position just inches from the highway. 

     “Alex Paone, the DCR Mystic Barracks Supervisor who had arrived in my absence, expressed concern for the bird as well, using his truck with its flashbar to stop the traffic in the high-speed lane by blocking off the east lane of the highway north of the injured hawk in the middle of rush hour. With that safety barrier established, he proceeded to place traffic cones on the lane divider stripe to keep cars from coming within ten yards of the kid. The DCR staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and concerned for the welfare of this beautiful young hawk. 

     “I also learned a little about jurisdictional issues. This was a state highway, so Alex called the State Police to report that an injured animal posed a traffic hazard on a state highway. The State Police said they would take care of it, instantaneously calling Medford Animal Control to rescue the bird and remove it as a hazard to traffic. 

     “In the interim, the bird became a little more active struggling to get back into shade as the July sun was now beating down on it mercilessly. The bird limped about two feet north, moving more than I thought it could, and bringing its extended wing back up to the body. The kid voided, a good sign. By this time I was speculating that the kid had perhaps flown into the fence of the nearby state maintenance area, which in that spot is heavily camouflaged by vegetation. Young hawks have a real challenge understanding what chain link fences are, especially when their eyes are focused on something on the other side. Just guessing. And waiting….

     “About 4 hours after I had first arrived at dawn Patrick Hogan, the Animal Control Officer for Medford, arrived in response to the State Police call and quickly, easily captured the bird with a net and put him in a wire cage. The bird was alert, but the major question was if it had any critical injuries. Hogan said he would take the bird to MSPCA and call me with a report. 

     “I was extremely grateful that the Medford Police, the entire DCR Mowing crew, the State Police, and the Medford Animal Control officer had been so responsive to the injured hawk’s plight. Everything had gone almost as well as could have been imagined. When Patrick contacted me, he said he had taken the bird to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Grafton instead, which made me feel even more hopeful. The Tufts Wildlife Clinic (twice!) had helped [before].

     “At the back of my mind was the knowledge that many injured hawks cannot be treated and released. Hawks are incredibly powerful, fast, yet thin-boned and fragile creatures. You can appreciate why something like 60-80% do not live to see heir first birthday. I thought “The KID” had a chance, but I told the property owner that I would not bet the ranch that he would make it… I tracked the bird weekly, the critical news being that he did not apparently require surgery and, perhaps more important, had started to eat dead prey dropped in his cage, a very critical step. The kid regained his health over the next month of care, to the point that he was eventually moved into a large flight cage to see if he could fly well on his own to capture live prey. 

     “When my wife Julie and I returned from our Maine vacation in late August …I called Grafton for a status report on the Kid, only to learn that “he was fully recovered and was going to be released that morning. I could pick up the bird and release him on his natal territory, or they would release him in Grafton.” 

     “Fortunately Patrick Hogan was able to go down and retrieve the kid that Friday morning. Patrick met me with the ”Hawk in a Box” just yards from the Kid’s favorite perch tree. When Patrick lifted the box lid the Kid exploded out of the container like a rocket, arcing up to the north. As the “first-stage booster was released” the young hawk swung into a soar, ascending higher with shocking speed. The kid was strong and eager. After five weeks in rehab, he was back where he belonged.

     “Why this long story? First, to share the good news that so many had been part of a long chain of people responding to help a Red-tailed Hawk in distress. Second, to share the good news about the all the pro bono work done for wildlife, including birds and especially raptors, at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Grafton…Or make a gift to other local wildlife recovery and rehab organizations, such as the Animal Rescue League of Boston.”

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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