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SFWC Helps a Young Hawk Get Back on His Feet

Two orphaned Red-shouldered Hawks make a full recovery thanks to the expert staff of South Florida Wildlife Center’s wildlife hospital

  • The uninjured baby Red-shouldered Hawk upon arrival at our wildlife hospital. Toby Blades

  • The injured baby Red-shouldered Hawk. You can see he is unable to put weight on one of his legs. SFWC

  • One of the babies being fed by a masked staffer. SFWC

  • One of the hawks a few weeks after their arrival, and already much bigger, in our flight enclosure. SFWC

Baby birds fall out of their nests. Many times a parent is nearby and they are able to make it back home, a little shaken, but otherwise fine. But other times, for a number of reasons, they have to be rescued. For two baby Red-shouldered Hawks in such a circumstance, South Florida Wildlife Center’s ambulance and skillful staff quickly came to the rescue.

When they arrived, one of the baby raptors looked fine, but the other had a fresh leg injury. Although the non-injured baby could possibly have been re-nested, we erred on the side of caution and kept both so the siblings could stay together. Two days after their arrival, the injured hawk had surgery to insert a pin in the small bone and stabilize the fracture. The little patient had a good appetite, was eating well and growing fast—right on track with his age.

One of our main concerns with rehabilitating these beautiful birds was ensuring they did not become too acclimated to human contact or see us as a food source. We were most mindful of this with the injured hawk, since his medical care would require a significant amount of handling.

So what did we do? Camouflage, of course! Staff wore camouflaging nylon screen masks at feeding times and during any medical treatments so that the hawks wouldn’t become used to their presence. It may have looked a little odd to an outsider, but it served its purpose very well.

Over the next month, the initial fracture on the injured hawk healed, but the leg was not properly positioning to allow optimal function. Staff used various splinting and bandaging techniques on the little hawk to try to correct the deformity, but nothing worked as hoped. Although he could put weight on the leg, the hawk could not perch properly or hold his prey, and it became apparent that another surgery would be needed.

Fortunately, board-certified veterinary surgeon Dr. Avery Bennett volunteered his time to give the young hawk a second corrective surgery to improve the leg alignment. Experienced with raptors and other birds, Dr. Bennett was just the person for the job.

We kept the two siblings together for as long as possible, but the uninjured one was ready for release sooner. Luckily for our little injured patient, he wouldn’t have to be alone for long, since we had other juvenile hawks in our care that he could hang out with and from whom he could learn natural hawk behavior.

We never gave up on the little hawk. Two complex surgeries and three months of care set him flying wild and free, thanks to some very caring and talented wildlife experts.

We could not continue this work without your support; please consider making a donation to the South Florida Wildlife Center to ensure we can continue to care for the wildlife of South Florida 365 days a year.

Watch a video of injured hawk in recovery:

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