Diego: Red-Tailed Hawk

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Diego was found on the Davis campus in 2009, his first (hatch) year, showing signs of injury. He was taken to the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital at the University, where X-rays revealed an old shoulder fracture or dislocation.

In October, Diego was transferred to the Raptor Center for rehabilitation. After physical therapy and flight-lining, he still could not fly well enough for release. But he was calm enough to be considered suitable for the education program, so the "taming" process began.*

Diego worked well with two trainers and then graduated to several handlers, who take him out to see visitors. At times, he shows signs of spirited independence when a handler asks him to "step up" onto the fist. But once he's out on the glove, he seems content to meet the public.

Diego is a "rufous" Red-tail, showing lovely rich rust on his chest, belly, and legs. Red-tails have a number of color variations, and in our area, rufous is quite common. In other parts of the country, other colors dominate, some darker, some quite light, as anyone will agree who has seen videos of the famous New York Red-tail, Pale Male.

In the past few decades, Red-tails have appeared more and more in cities and and towns. They are drawn by the rodents humans seem to attract, and have even been photographed flying down city pigeons. They readily nest in populated areas, and live out their lives in front of fascinated audiences.

* Taming is the process of teaching a bird to stay perched on the gloved fist. First, the handler fits leather bracelets around the bird's ankles, and then introduces jesses, swivel, and leash, so that the bird can be controlled while it sits on the fist. This way the bird cannot fly away or injure itself if it should become agitated while being handled.

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