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Hawk Rattles Cage and Flies Free

Injured raptor is rehabbed and released by wildlife center

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • Dr. Aguilar (left) invited this youngster to be part of the celebratory moment of releasing a now healthy and hale Red-tailed Hawk. Heather Fone/The HSUS

  • The bird made a beautiful recovery and was anxious to get back home. Heather Fone/The HSUS

  • Red-tailed Hawks are very adapted to life in the air and are one of the largest birds in North America. Heather Fone/The HSUS

  • The bird took some time in this tree to get her bearings before heading back home. Heather Fone/The HSUS

The day started out a little bit differently last November when an officer of the Harwich, Mass., Police Department received a call about an injured Red-tailed Hawk on a nearby driveway. The officer headed over and without much struggle was able to retrieve the animal and take her to the Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable.

Due to the size, staff concluded the bird was a female. She evidently had been struck by a car, severely damaging her right eye and causing a deep gash down to the bone in the right jaw.

Because a one-eyed diurnal raptor – or a bird who hunts during the day -- can't survive for long, the bird’s life hung in the balance for several days. But she was a trooper. Her jaw wound healed beautifully and her eye progressed well. After two weeks she had recovered almost fully.

Dr. Roberto Aguilar, the Cape Wildlife Center’s veterinarian, described the three-year-old hawk’s recovery as incredible. As the release time neared, she weighed approximately four pounds and was, as Dr. Aguilar says, “aggressive and in great shape.”

At three weeks, the bird was in excellent physical condition and raring to go. On December 19 at the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary, the impatient bird was jumping around in the safety of an enclosed transportation kennel in anticipation of her release. A local 10-year-old boy was on hand to open the cage door, and with more than 30 people quietly looking on, the bird took a couple of steps and then away she flew to the tallest tree around, where she sat until getting her bearings before leaving for her home territory about an hour later.

Her release was made at the end of a short program at the sanctuary, during which Ian Ives, the sanctuary director, gave a talk about diurnal raptors of the Cape and their ecology and Dr. Aguilar spoke about the history of the hawk. The release marked the first of many joint programs between Cape Wildlife Center and Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in the hopes of extending wildlife education and appreciation to the Cape’s community. 

The Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Mass., is operated in partnership with The Fund for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States to promote and protect the health and well-being of native wildlife and their habitats. Since 2000, the center has been open 365 days a year, providing emergency care and wildlife rehabilitation.

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