Red-shouldered Hawk

PATIENT:  Red-shouldered Hawk, #10-2257 LOCATION OF RESCUE:  Hanover County, Virginia CAUSE OF ADMISSION:   Gunshot ADMISSION DATE:  December 12, 2010 OUTCOME:  Released August 2, 2011 On the evening of December 9, a Red-shouldered Hawk was found injured in Hanover, Virginia.   Its rescuers took it to a nearby veterinary clinic; the bird was then quickly transferred to a permitted rehabilitator.  On Sunday, December 12, the bird was admitted to the Wildlife Center. The Red-shouldered Hawk was bright, alert, and in great body condition upon arrival.  It had a wound over its left pectoral muscle, an indication of a potential gunshot wound.  There was also some crepitus in the bird's right shoulder -- a grinding or crackling that typically indicates a fracture.  Radiographs confirmed that the bird had a broken coracoid -- and a pellet lodged in between the two fractured segments of bone.  A blood test found that the hawk had extremely high levels of lead in its blood.  Dr. Kelly Flaminio and team started the bird on chelation therapy to treat the lead toxicity. Sometimes, if a raptor is shot and a pellet lodges in the bird's muscle, the body essentially walls it off and the pellet may not need to be removed.  When lead pellets make their way into the bird's gastrointestinal tract  or the pellet is lodged in the bone, in contrast, lead is slowly leached into the blood. In this case, Center vets knew that the pellet would need to be removed.  Given the location of the pellet, this was a huge challenge, as the pellet was lodged in a highly vascular area with many nerves and large blood vessels.   On Wednesday, December 15, Dr. Miranda Sadar led the team in surgery to extract the pellet.  Using the fluoroscope -- a tool that allows the veterinary team to see a "real time” x-ray of the patient -- Dr. Miranda was able to continually visualize the pellet while carefully making her incision into the bird's shoulder.  This was the first time she had done this particular approach in a raptor's shoulder area.  After about an hour in surgery, Dr. Miranda's patience paid off-- she was able to safely extract the pellet.  Oddly enough, when she pulled the small lead pellet out of the bird's shoulder, it had a chest feather still stuck to it. Post-surgery, the Red-shouldered Hawk is recovering well.  Additional diagnostics reveal that the lead levels are gradually decreasing with continued chelation therapy.   The hawk has not shown a great deal of interest in eating yet, so the veterinary team has started to hand-feed the hawk; they hope that it will begin to eat regularly on its own now that the pellet is removed.    The hawk is wearing a body wrap to stablize the coracoid fracture; the veterinary team should know if the fracture has healed in about three weeks. This Red-shouldered hawk is one of four gunshot victims that has been admitted to the Wildlife Center in just the past two weeks.  Each of these cases has been reported to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  If you need to report a wildlife violation, please visit the DGIF website for more details.

January 5 update

On January 4, Red-shouldered Hawk #10-2257 was anesthetized so that the veterinary team could take radiographs.  Dr. Kelly Flaminio found that the bird has a great callus formation, though not the most ideal alignment of the fracture.  The hawk does have good extension of its right wing, so only time will tell how this fracture will effect the bird's flight.  The staff veterinarians will perform physical therapy on the hawk every three days to ensure the proper stretching of its wing after such a major injury.  In the meantime, the wing will remain bandaged.

January 26 update

On January 11, the WCV veterinary team removed the bandage on the Red-shouldered Hawk, though they continued to provide physical therapy every three days.  On January 16, the Red-shouldered Hawk was moved to a small outdoor pen; the physical therapy sessions were discontinued since the hawk could freely move around the enclosure.  Additional radiographs were taken on January 24 to check the site of the coracoid fracture.  While the the radiographs once again confirmed the slight mis-alignment of the fracture, the callus over the injured area looked good, so the veterinarians opted to move the hawk to a large flight pen.  According to Dr. Miranda, the bird "feels better than it looks," meaning that despite the displacement of the two bones, the hawk is able to stretch its wing fully and Dr. Miranda is pleased with what she feels upon physical examination of the bird.  The Red-shoulded Hawk will settle into its larger enclosure for the rest of the week before beginning a light exercise regimen the week of January 31.

March 28 update

By early February, the rehabilitation staff noted that the Red-shouldered Hawk was having trouble flying.  The staff veterinarians took another round of radiographs and found that the hawk had fractured the tubercle on its right humerus—a small nodule on one end of the bone.  This likely occurred as the bird’s mal-aligned coracoid fracture healed.  The bird was placed back in a small outdoor pen for additional cage rest; it was also given pain medications and anti-inflammatories.  When the veterinary team reassessed the bird at the end of February, the fractures had healed, and the bird was cleared to begin light exercise the following week. When the rehabilitation staff began the daily exercise regimen for this hawk in early March, they realized that getting the bird to fly would be challenging, given the hawk’s extremely stubborn nature!   Rather than trying to convince the hawk to fly in a flight pen, the staff began creancing the bird -- a falconry technique that uses a long monofilament, heavy fishing line that allows a bird to be tethered during flight.  The creancing sessions went much more smoothly; the Red-shouldered Hawk flew longer distances and seemed to be using his injured wing well.  The Red-shouldered Hawk also has some broken tail feathers -- feathers the bird will need to maneuver well and sustain its flight over long distances.  The hawk will need to grow in a new set of feathers prior to release, which will hopefully occur within the next few months.  In the meantime, the staff will continue to creance the bird every other day to maintain its conditioning. 

June 20 update

Over the past couple of months, Red-shouldered Hawk #10-2257 has been in one of the Center's flight pens.  The hawk's every-other-day creance sessions were stopped after the bird broke a couple more tail feathers.   The staff decided that the best thing do would be to wait for the hawk to start growing in some of those tail feathers again -- and then try to get the bird conditioned quickly and out the door. Since early April, it's just been a waiting game for feathers -- at this time in June, a couple new ones are finally starting to grow in. In the meantime, the hawk received a new roommate -- a Red-shouldered hawk chick that was found in Botetourt County at the end of May.  The staff decided that the hawk may as well serve as a "role model" while it was hanging out -- so #10-2257 was put to work and gained a new young friend in early June.  The rehab staff report that since the younger hawk has started to fly, this stubborn hawk finally seems a little more inclined to fly with its young charge.

August 8 update

Red-shouldered Hawk #11-2257 gained two additional young charges this summer -- in total, this hawk served as a role model to three Red-shouldered Hawk chicks .  Whether it was finally the growth of new tail feathers or the additional roommates, Red-shouldered Hawk began flying much more consistently throughout July.  By the end of July, the veterinarians declared the bird fit for release.  On August 2, the hawk was returned to the permitted rehabilitator who initially rescued and stabilized the bird.   The release reportedly went very well!      Your special donation will help the Center to provide state-of-the-art medical care to this Red-shouldered Hawk … and to the 2,200+ other patients the Center will admit this year.  Please help!