Critter Cam: Red-shouldered Hawk

PATIENT: Red-shouldered Hawk, #11-2633 LOCATION OF RESCUE:  Albemarle County, Virginia CAUSE OF ADMISSION:  Hit by car ADMISSION DATE: December 4, 2011 OUTCOME: Released April 3, 2012 In early December 2011, rescuers in Albemarle County saw a Red-shouldered Hawk as it was hit by a car.  They rescued the hawk from the side of the road and brought it to the Wildlife Center.  The young Red-shouldered Hawk, patient #11-2633, was examined by Dr. Adam Naylor.  Dr. Adam found a fractured ulna on the hawk's left wing, and was able to take radiographs to confirm.  The hawk also had a laceration on its right foot, which was cleaned and bandaged.  Dr. Adam noted old, small retinal scars in both of the hawk's eyes as well -- these were not caused by the collision with the vehicle.  Based on the location of the scars in the hawk's retinas, Dr. Adam did not think that the hawk's vision was compromised -- particularly since the hawk was in good body condition when it was admitted. Dr. Adam bandaged the hawk's wing to stabilize the fracture.  By mid-December, follow-up radiographs were taken, indicating that the fractured ulna was healing nicely.  The team started physical therapy on the Red-shouldered Hawk, to ensure that the extension of the hawk's injured wing was not compromised due to the bandage.  For a week and a half, the veterinary team anesthetized the hawk every three days and performed the physical therapy -- stretching the hawk's wing.  At the start of the physical therapy, the hawk was getting about 60 - 75 % extension -- but within a week and a half, the extension had greatly improved. The Red-shouldered Hawk went through a brief spell of not eating -- the veterinary team ending up force-feeding the bird while the rehabilitation staff experimented with the diet and time of day at which the hawk was fed.  In the end, they discovered that this hawk has a preference for eating birds rather than rodents -- and so the hawk is currently fed one chick each day. On December 23, the hawk's bandage was removed, and the bird was moved outside into a small enclosure a week later.  On January 10, the Red-shouldered Hawk was moved into a flight pen and the rehabilitation staff began exercising the hawk within a few days.  As of mid-January, the hawk is flying the length of the enclosure about six to seven times during an exercise session.  While the hawk looks good so far, the staff anticipate that the hawk will be here for several more weeks, building up stamina and strength.

January 26 update

Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 continues to fly well in the FP-6 enclosure. While the rehabilitation staff have found the hawk to be a bit stubborn during exercise sessions, thanks to a web cam, they are well aware of how active the hawk is in the enclosure by itself.  The hawk does have a left wing droop, though does not appear to have any trouble getting around because of it -- actually, the hawk appears to have great wing extension. Because the wing droop has been fairly pronounced within the past week, a five-day course of ant-inflammatories will be prescribed, in case the droop is pain-related.  The veterinary team will continue to monitor the hawk closely. The veterinary team will catch-up the Red-shouldered Hawk on January 30 for a foot and feather check as well as a weigh-in.  The bird continues to eat well.

January 30 update

Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 was caught up today for a foot and feather check, as well as a physical examination.  The hawk continues to have a pronounced wing droop, though the veterinary team did not feel any crepitus [grating or popping sounds associated with injury] and they report that the hawk has good extension on that wing.  The five-day course of anti-inflammatories did not have any effect on the wing droop, suggesting that this is not pain-related.  Dr. Miranda plans on taking a set of radiographs on January 31, just to ensure there are no other problems developing.

February 1 update

On January 31, Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 was brought into the hospital for radiographs.  On the radiographs, Dr. Miranda saw evidence of boney changes on the bird's left humerus, though the joint space does not appear to be affected. The wing is mildly swollen, though Dr. Miranda did not feel any abnormalities in the bird's tendons. The ulna fracture is fully healed with only a very mild misalignment. At this point, the changes to the bird's humerus are of concern, although the vet staff feels that the changes are subtle and stable enough to keep the hawk in the flight pen.  It can be tricky to anticipate what boney changes may mean -- though it is important to keep in mind that it can just be another stage of healing [as seen on NX's radiographs in mid-December]. Treatment with anti-inflammatories will be extended for the next two weeks, and another set of radiographs will be taken on February 13.  

February 8 update

On February 7, Dr. Dave and Dr. Adam decided to bring Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 into the hospital for a laser therapy session.  In January 2012, the Wildlife Center received funds from generous supporters to purchase a therapeutic laser – an item listed on the Center’s medical wish list.  At this point, the veterinary team is testing out a demo laser before making the final purchase.  Therapeutic lasers are widely used in human and veterinary medicine and offer an array of patient benefits. Clinical studies and trials have indicated that low-level laser therapies may offer beneficial effects on injuries including anti-inflammation, anti-pain, accelerated tissue growth repair and cell growth, improved vascular activity, increased metabolic activity, improved nerve function and healing, and faster wound healing.  The team is excited to use this new therapy on a variety of wildlife and injuries.  The hawk’s laser therapy session only lasted a few minutes; the painless procedure was done while the hawk was awake.  One of the Center's veterinary externship students held the laser on four different spots on the hawk’s injured wing, using the machine’s probe that is designed for cellular regeneration.   The hawk will receive laser therapy every three days.   Dr. Dave is unsure of when results might be seen on the hawk’s wing; while the therapy is often used in humans and veterinary medicine, use in wildlife medicine has not been well-reported.  As Dr. Dave notes, laser therapy is more of an art than a science – and is definitely an area for further research and collaboration.  The hawk is still scheduled for radiographs on Monday, February 13.

February 10 update

The Red-shouldered Hawk was caught up for another laser therapy session this morning.  The session was brief -- diagnostic intern Katie held the probe on four different spots on the hawk's injured wing.  The laser was held on each spot for one minute.   The next laser treatment session will occur on Monday, February 13 when the hawk is caught-up for radiographs.

February 13 update

The Red-shouldered Hawk was caught up today for a series of radiographs, blood work, and another round of laser therapy treatment.  The Center is currently having technical issues with the digital radiology server -- while the staff can take radiographs, the server for viewing and storing images is having difficulties.  Hopefully this issue will be resolved within the next two days so that the veterinarians can interpret the most recent Red-shouldered Hawk images.  

February 15 update

With the Center's digital radiology server back up and running, Dr. Dave and Dr. Adam were able to view and confer on the most recent Red-shouldered Hawk radiographs.  While the bright, boney changes are still evident in the humerus of the hawk's left wing, the vets do not feel that this has changed significantly from the last set of radiographs.  That means that for now, the wing is stable.  The team does want to continue to monitor the bird's humerus, especially since the hawk continues to hold its left wing out.  The anti-inflammatories will be discontinued, since they have not had any effect on the bird in the past two weeks.  Laser therapy will continue every three days, and the hawk will have another set of radiographs taken in one month.  If the boney changes in the humerus remain stable and the hawk continues to fly well, release will be considered after the next radiographic assessment is made.

February 27 update

Laser therapy continues every three days for the Red-shouldered Hawk.  Since beginning laser therapy in early February, this means that the hawk has had seven treatments to date.  The hawk continues to droop its left wing intermittently-- only time and radiographs will tell how the bird is adjusting to its healed wing injury.

March 12 update

Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 was caught up and brought into the Wildlife Center for its latest set of radiographs this morning and the Center's veterinarians were quite pleased with the results. The bony changes that were very present the last time the hawk was radiographed in February have all but vanished. The pictures below illustrate the improvement in the hawk's bones:

Radiograph of the hawk's elbow taken on February 13, 2012.

Radiographs of the hawk's elbow taken on March 12, 2012.

With this marked improvement, the Center's veterinary staff will recommend that the hawk resume its prescribed daily exercise later this week.

March 13 update

After discussing the matter with the Center's rehabilitation team, the veterinarian staff decided to begin the hawk's daily exercise prescription today. The Center's "Critter Cam" viewers should now be able to witness the rehabilitators exercising Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 in the late morning every day. At the moment, the Center's staff plans on starting the hawk with easy exercise and if it responds positively, the amount of exercise it endures should increase.  

March 26 update

Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 was caught up today for a foot and feather check -- and Dr. Adam also performed a quick physical exam of the hawk's injured wing while the bird was in hand.  Dr. Adam reports that all looks and feels just fine. The rehabilitation staff have been exercising the hawk daily -- and typically see the hawk make an average of about six flights per session.  However, the rehab staff are quick to note that the hawk doesn't stop due to endurance issues; rather, the hawk becomes stubborn and defensive -- something that the staff commonly see with Red-shouldered Hawks.  Because the Critter Cam has offered up additional insight into the hawk's flight capabilities -- the staff is aware that the hawk actually flies quite often on its own.  With that in mind, everyone is comfortable starting the bird on live prey testing. The rehabilitation staff will start the hawk on "mouse school", as that is the type of live prey that is readily available -- but because the hawk has preferred a diet of chicks and quail since admission, the rehab staff are not entirely sure that the hawk will pass.  If the Red-shouldered Hawk shows no interest in catching live mice, the staff will obtain small chicks or quail for live prey testing to ensure that the hawk is able to catch its own food with its newly remodeled left wing.

March 27 update

Critter Cam viewers who tuned in this afternoon may have been lucky enough to see Red-shouldered Hawk pass mouse school for the first time -- despite a preference for chicks, the hawk had no qualms about catching and killing a mouse from its tub today.  The hawk will need to pass two more nights of mouse school, but should be well on the road to release!

March 29 update

After passing two nights of mouse school (on cam!), the Red-shouldered Hawk has tentatively been scheduled for pre-release blood work today by the veterinary staff.  As long as the blood work looks good, and the Red-shouldered Hawk passes another night of mouse school, the hawk will be banded next week and released.

March 30 update

With a third successful night of mouse school, Red-shouldered Hawk has been cleared for release!  Pre-release blood work was all within normal limits.  Dr. Dave plans on banding the hawk on Tuesday, April 3.   Since this bird is a "call for release" -- meaning, the original rescuers would like to be a part of this bird's release -- some coordination is required.  If all goes well, the hawk will be released on April 3 or 4.

April 2 update

After 122 days of rehabilitation -- Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 will be released!  An April 3 release has been scheduled.  The hawk's original rescuers indicated that they are interested in releasing the bird; a Wildlife Center transporter will be taking the hawk to the rescuers on Tuesday afternoon, after Dr. Dave bands the bird.  The rescuers will release the Red-shouldered Hawk in northern Albemarle County, near the location where it was originally found in early December 2011.

April 3 update

Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2633 was caught up this afternoon so that Dr. Dave could band it before it was boxed up for release.  One of the Wildlife Center's Treatment Team volunteers will be taking the hawk to Charlottesville to meet up with the original rescuer -- then she will accompany her to the release.  Check back later for a release report! Dr. Dave fitted the Red-shouldered Hawk with a silver-colored aluminum band.  The band has a special alphanumeric code as well as a phone number and website where recovered bands should be reported.  Along with the band data, the Wildlife Center must record and submit data on the bird -- date and location of banding, and a variety of the bird's measurements [tail feathers, beak, halux, wing length, etc]. Banding the Red-shouldered Hawk: Selecting a Band: Banding Supplies: Red-shouldered Hawk: Banding:   Done! 6:35 p.m.:  Release Report! The Red-shouldered Hawk release went beautifully -- and our wonderful volunteer who transported the hawk to the rescuers was also able to snag a video of the eventFrequently Asked Questions about Red-shouldered Hawks Your donation will help support the Center’s work with patients like this Red-shouldered Hawk … and with 2,500 other wild animals in need.

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