Red-Tailed Hawk’s Illness And Recovery Bring Special Meaning To Rescuer

The following story was shared from Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre in Ontario, Canada.

hawk on a branchA red-tailed hawk was admitted on October 3, 2018. He was found at the side of a secondary highway outside of Kingston, Ontario. He presented with dull responses; aware, but very quiet and easy to handle. He had a heavy load of flat flies (flies that feed off birds and live under their feathers). He also was dehydrated and had a poor body condition. His weight upon admission was 1.8 pounds (816 grams).

We considered the most likely ailments were West Nile virus (we had seen lots of West Nile virus-affected raptors in August and early September) and head trauma. It seemed more likely to be a West Nile virus infection versus trauma, as we did not see any other signs of trauma. Either way, our treatment would be similar, utilizing subcutaneous Plasmalyte A, Meloxicam, and gavage-feeding Emeraid Intensive Care Carnivore every four hours. We continued gavage-feeding for three days, then we started to introduce mouse chunks with the fur and gastrointestinal tract removed.

At first, we had to physically hand-feed the mouse meat, but over the course of a day he started to self-feed the mice. We started to decrease the gavage feedings to two times per day, then down to none. However, once he was no longer being tube-fed, he started to get dehydrated and stopped eating on his own. We had to step back and start to tube-feed Emeraid Intensive Care Carnivore again.

After a couple of days of gavage feeding, his appetite returned and we were able to wean him off of the tube feeds and back onto self-feeding mouse chunks. This eventually led to him eating whole mice.

Medications were discontinued as he improved, and he was moved out to a larger flight aviary. He was flying well and was released on October 26, 2018 by his finder. The gentleman who rescued this hawk was very pleased to do the release. His father passed away recently, and the last picture he had sent to his dad was of this red-tailed hawk on the day he found it. Releasing the hawk held great meaning for him, as his father was a wildlife admirer.