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Injured Red-tailed Hawk Flies Again at the California Raptor Center

December 5, 2014

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CRC manager Bret Stedman removes the soft hood over the red-tailed hawk as Dr. Sara Gardhouse prepares to release him. (Photo: Sallie Reynolds)

Written by Sallie Reynolds, California Raptor Center volunteer

On September 24, 2014, a good samaritan in Woodland found an adult Red-tailed Hawk on the ground, and took him to the veterinary hospital at UC Davis. There, veterinarians in the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine & Surgery Service found a fractured left humerus, which was repaired with external fixation, and a fractured ulna on the same wing, which was treated with a Figure 8 wrap. 

After surgery, the recovering Red-tail was taken to the California Raptor Center (CRC) for rehabilitation and placed in one of our small hospital cages for medication, physical therapy, and close observation. Some time later, after the breaks had healed well, the wrap and fixator were removed, and it was time for flight training. For this, we moved the hawk to one of CRC's largest cages for the final stage of recovery: exercise to rebuild strength and agility.

This bird was very fortunate, regaining his flight capabilities rapidly. We exercised him on a flight-line a few times to further build stamina and to check on his ability to gain altitude and sustain flight. And finally set the release for November 26, at CRC. He was captured in the flight cage, hooded with a soft stockinette over his head to keep him calm, and banded with a USFWS number. 

VMTH surgeon Sara Gardhouse, who repaired the fractures, had the pleasure of launching this beautiful wild hawk into his first free flight in two months. He flew strongly, landed securely on a nearby large tree to get his bearings, frowned at a rude magpie, inspected the band on his leg – and then  took off – with renewed strength and confidence! 

View a sequence of photos here.

Video here