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jpdenk 03-08-2012 10:03 AM

Close encounter with injured Red-tailed Hawk
1 Attachment(s)
I recently had an experience with an absolutely amazing bird. After hearing what sounded like something trying to tear a hole in the roof of my house, I went outside to see what was going on and discovered the largest Red-tailed Hawk that I've ever seen. I've read that the females are larger than the males, so I'm assuming it was a female.

She was sitting on an extension of tubing from my rain gutters, and had a lot of feathers missing from her left wing. Apparently, she had tried landing on the edge of my roof but couldn't hold on, thus the sound I heard, and was now perched on something a bit lower.

As I approached, she fluffed up her feathers and spread her wings to scare me away, and it worked pretty well. She looked like she was ready, willing and able to mess me up, so I kept my distance.:)

I ran back into the house and grabbed my camera, snapped a couple quick photos, then went back in to call birder friends to ask them what to do. After spending about half an hour doing that, I went back out to see how the bird was doing, and she was nowhere to be seen. I looked all over my property, wasn't there, so I'm hoping she was able to fly well enough to take care of herself.

I feel awful that I couldn't help her. My main concern is that she can't fly well enough to hunt, but since there are thousands of acres of old farm fields where I live that are loaded with voles and mice, she should be able to live off them while her feathers regrow. As long as she avoids the Coyotes and idiots with guns, she will hopefully be okay.

I have to say that she was the most beautiful big hawk that I have ever seen, just a magnificent, spectacularly beautiful bird.

Here's a cropped version of one of the photos that I took.


Attachment 28582

linrose 03-08-2012 10:11 AM

Wow, that's not something you see everyday! How long does it take for their feathers to grow back? Do you think she'll be OK without rehab? I wonder how this happened to her in the first place.

Gloria 03-08-2012 10:37 AM

Good picture of the wing damage. A close encounter with the winged ones is so exciting. What did your bird friends say about her chance for survival?

disuhan 03-08-2012 10:44 AM

Keep an eye out for her for the next few days, and have available (if possible) welding gloves - for your protection, a laundry basket (works best when duct taped to a long pole), a large towel, and/or a large fishing net.

In the meantime find a number for a local raptor rehabber and keep it available. If she shows up again looking just as bad, or worse, try to enclose her somehow to keep her there until a rescuer/rehabber can come pick her up.

Don't try to touch her, or catch her with your hands. I'm an experienced raptor handler, and I've still had a female red-tail talon me through welding gloves.

It's possible she may have been in a fight and just lost some feathers. They will take awhile (my guess would be 1-2 months, but don't quote me)to grow back, if the tissue is healthy. If there's an infection or other injury the bird needs attention. Was she able to hold her wing in normally, or was it always outstretched like in your picture?

jpdenk 03-08-2012 10:54 AM

I'm not sure how long it will take for the feathers to grow back. I didn't see any blood, and she didn't appear to be holding her wings in a way that suggested broken bones or injury, so I'm cautiously optimistic that she'll survive. In the photo, she was spreading her wings in an attempt to look bigger and scarier.

My birder friends tell me that the hawks do some moulting at this time of year, but that looks like the result of some kind of trauma to me. Could be from an attack by a dog or Coyotes when she was on the ground feeding, could be she was hit by a car, could be that someone took a shot at her. Some of my neighbors have been known to shoot deer and Coyotes, so it wouldn't surprise me to find that they shoot hawks if they are in their yard. I know that Great Horned Owls will attack animals way bigger than themselves, so it's possible it was one of them too, and we have lots of them around here.

I'm assuming that she was able to fly, but not flying well. I can only hope she will survive.

Edit: There are only two rehabbers in the general area, and they don't come out to pick up birds. One of them charges money if you bring a bird in, and I can't afford that right now. I have been keeping an eye open for her, and will call one of my friends who has some experience with catching injured raptors and taking them to rehabbers if I see her again.

Cook County has animal control people, but they're not interested in rehabbing. The county animal control officer once came to my house when there was an injured deer in my yard that had been badly injured by Coyotes, its flanks and back of legs were torn up badly, and he just ran it off onto county forest preserve property where I'm sure it died pretty quickly, as it was in bad shape, barely able to walk. I'd be willing to bet that if I had called them, they would have tried to make the hawk fly away. According to my birder friends, if the county animal control officer captured her, he would have put her down.


Sage 03-08-2012 04:35 PM

Jpdenk, our local SPCA has a wildlife department, and they may pick up injured wildlife if someone can't bring the patient in. Raptors may from there, be sent on to a raptor rehabber. I recently had the opportunity to visit one which had hawks, owls and a Peregrine, the pefa being ready for release, which I got to witness. Red-tailed Hawks were my first love. They are astonishingly gorgeous birds! I wish your hawk well!

dapjwy 03-08-2012 07:27 PM

Beautiful bird...great photo. I like your description and can see from the photo how she was trying to scare you off.

From most of what you wrote, I'd be pretty optimistic for her survival...but I wasn't there, so maybe she is worse off than I'm thinking. The fact that she was no where in sight when you went back out, makes it seems she was able to fly off.

I'm sure you'll keep us posted if you see her again.

Equilibrium 03-10-2012 12:32 AM

disuhan> "I'm an experienced raptor handler" Way cool!!!
jpdenk> I had a red-tailed hawk get in my chicken coop. How it made its way through the chicken door.... I have no clue but it couldn't get out on its own even when I opened the people door and all the windows. I thought about trying to net it or tossing army blankets on top of it to get it out but was afraid I'd hurt it. I called these people, Contact Us: Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab. I doubt seriously if there's any situation they can't deal with and I doubt they'd charge you anything if you called them for help. They've got BIG hearts and they're licensed professionals. BTW.... all of 10 minutes and the hawk was out. I've spent every day off the last few weeks running fishing line over the top of my chicken run. I hadn't noticed the red-tailed hawk hanging out here before it ended up in my coop and scared the living daylights out of me but our Coopers Hawk did get 2 of our chickens so I needed to finish up running the fishing line anyway.

jpdenk 03-10-2012 09:13 AM

Thanks, Eqi, I'll keep their site bookmarked in case of future raptor adventures. But they're over 100 miles away, do you think they'd drive all the way down here?


dapjwy 03-10-2012 10:27 AM


Originally Posted by Equilibrium (Post 106415)
I had a red-tailed hawk get in my chicken coop. How it made its way through the chicken door.... I have no clue

...I hadn't noticed the red-tailed hawk hanging out here before it ended up in my coop and scared the living daylights out of me but our Coopers Hawk did get 2 of our chickens so I needed to finish up running the fishing line anyway.

Wow! What an encounter that must've been.

Sorry that you lost two chickens. :(

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