Red-Tailed Hawk #1061

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Blood Transfusion Saves Hawk's Life

It was a dark and stormy night on December 11th, when Doris Duncan, Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue’s Executive Director, received an emergency call about an injured Red-Tailed Hawk.  She immediately dispatched Margaret and Roddi, two of SCWR’s rescue team members to evaluate the hawk, and bring him in for treatment if necessary.

The finders had cornered the hawk on their front porch to protect him from the rain. Using large leather gloves and a towel, our rescuers transferred the hawk to a secure box and drove him to the SCWR hospital for treatment.

One leg was severely broken and there was blood in the bird’s mouth. These signs, along with his location near a major road, led us to believe that this hawk was probably hit by a car. The hawk was also wearing jesses, which mean the bird had escaped from a falconer.  We set the bird up in a warm, dark kennel to rest and dry overnight, until our Animal Care Director could examine him in the morning.

Her examination the next day showed the hawk to be extremely emaciated, dehydrated, and covered in lice and flat flies (two common parasites in wild birds). Blood tests revealed that the bird was on the brink of death.  Although the leg fracture was treatable, the hawk was in too poor of a condition to undergo such an extensive surgery. We thought we might be able to splint his leg until the hawk was stable enough for the surgery, but the break was too high on the leg for that to be an option. Out of ideas, we consulted one of the veterinarians on our Good Samaritan team, Dr. Rob Jereb of North Park Vet Clinic. He suggested a blood transfusion so the bird could undergo surgery right away and even offered to do the surgery himself. We made an appointment for the next morning.

Meanwhile, the hawk was given strong pain medication so he would feel comfortable and tube fed every two hours around the clock to improve his hydration and nutritional status. The bird was so weak and frail that he could not eat whole food and needed a formula made especially for emaciated animals.

The next morning the bird and his blood donor “Leslie,” one of our resident educational Red-Tailed Hawks, went to the hospital for the procedure. A radiograph revealed that the break was worse than we had thought, and that the bird had a previously broken wing that had already healed. Dr. Jereb called to let us know that he could pin the leg and splint it but that it only had a 50 percent chance of healing. The bird would need months of intensive care and the cost of the pins and hardware would be around $400.

What was in the hawk’s best interest?  Could this bird tolerate months of treatment, or would it be kinder to put him down?

After a quick staff meeting we decided to give this hawk a chance. He received a blood transfusion, had surgery to fix the leg, and came back to the SCWR hospital later that afternoon.

Over the next few weeks we saw the bird’s blood values return to normal and a positive change in overall well-being. A few days after surgery he was able to start eating solid foods and has not stopped eating since. Our rescuers Margaret and Roddi searched several falconry websites and Craigslist to find the person who lost this hawk, without success.

We would like to thank Dr. Jereb and his amazing staff for their work with this bird. They went above and beyond the call of duty to save him.

The bird is still in our hospital and has had one follow-up radiograph; the leg is healing, but still has a long way to go. Hawk 1061’s favorite food is quail and he will eat up to two per day. Quail costs $1.69 apiece. If you would like to donate towards the surgery, food, care, or medications for this bird please click here or send checks to P.O. Box 448, Cotati, CA, 94931. Please make note that your donation is for the care of Red-Tailed Hawk 1061.

Animal Drop Off: 9-5:30 ~ Office Hours: Tuesday- Saturday 10-5 ~ Tours: Saturday Only
Hotline: (707) 526-WILD(9453) ~ Business Office: (707) 992-0274 ~ Exclusion Service/Fax: (707) 992-0276
Location: 403 Mecham Rd, Petaluma Ca 94952
Mailing Address: PO Box 448, Cotati Ca 94931

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