Red Hawk Down!

By Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator

A Red-tailed Hawk nest in Barnstable lost a nestling due to an unknown event. The home owners had been watching the interactions of a pair of hawks and their two babies.  The nestling was sighted on the ground after the caller heard a raucous of Blue Jays in the yard. The home owners called Wild Care, and we asked if they could get the bird into a box. That should not have been a problem, however the chick’s parents were swooping at them whenever they got near.

We put a call out to our hawk-savvy volunteers. Jayne was at the dentist, and Peg was at the vets. We did not want much time to pass, as the chick might have injuries and would surely become too cold. If it was bleeding it would attract flies, flies lay eggs and eggs become maggots-not a good scenario.

I remembered that my daughter was visiting for the weekend and told me that I could call her if I needed help at work, so I did. My request wasn’t what she was expecting. She’s a good sport and said she and her younger brother would drive to Barnstable to rescue the little hawk, stopping at Wild Care first for instructions.  It was exciting to send my grown children out on an adventure carrying welding gloves, goggles, and a thick winter coat to protect them from angry hawks. My family must love me…

In the meantime, the caller noticed the bird was looking worse. He saw the parents leave and quickly got the bird into a bucket with grass. My kids picked up the hawk, without having to ward off attacking raptors. The little chick was quiet and scared. We were hoping it was fine, but having fallen thirty feet, that was not probable.

Fortunately, the only problem we could see, other than it being dehydrated, was some blood in its mouth. We took x-rays and did not see any fractures.  Dr. Morgan (DVM) checked him out the next day and did not think there was any need to keep him from his parents. The bird had perked up, was vocalizing, eating pieces of mouse meat and the bird had “pelleted”. (Pellets are somewhat like a cat’s hairball. Woven pieces of fur, feathers, and bones and other undigested materials. They are coughed up. The hawk’s pellets were large from what his parents fed him, and had a few three-inch long black whiskers. It’s always interesting to see what remains are in a raptor’s pellets.)

We kept him for observation another day, which gave me time to make a plan to get the chick back into its thirty-foot high nest, ASAP. My eldest son is an arborist for a big tree company. He was able put the bird back into the nest using a bucket truck. The sibling flapped a bit, seeming to object to the company in the nest, but then settled down.

I knew everything went well when my son texted me “the Eagle has Landed”.
Photo: Intern Naomi, feeds the hawk chick.

If you find an animal in
distress, please call us at:

508-240-2255

Our helpline and our facility
are open EVERY DAY from
9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
We are located at the
Orleans rotary (on the Eastham side).

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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!