One Lucky Red-tailed Hawk

by Stephanie Herman, Wildlife Care Center Manager

On a crisp, sunny Saturday morning in early November, about 20 Bird Alliance of Oregon volunteers and community members joined me at Whitaker Ponds to watch a Red-tailed Hawk fly free. Twelve-year-old Paloma Rochford helped me take the bird’s carrier onto a stretch of grass beside the lake and open it. Together we watched the bird hop out, look around, and finally launch into the air. After a graceful sweep over the pond, the hawk landed high in a nearby tree and allowed us plenty of opportunities to snap photos as they took in their sudden freedom.

Red-tailed Hawk being released
Red-tailed Hawk being released at Whitaker Ponds, photo by Tara Lemezis.

This beautiful moment came after three months of specialized care at the Wildlife Care Center. The hawk had arrived after colliding with the glass side of a sporting goods store. The impact caused head trauma and damaged one eye. We weren’t sure the bird would make it: thin and dehydrated, unable to eat on their own due to the head injury. But after intensive care, including administering tube feedings multiple times a day, we were relieved to find the bird’s symptoms improving. Soon we were able to assist-feed solid food, and then they began to eat on their own.

It took nearly two months of steady improvement, but eventually the head and eye trauma healed and we needed to help the bird prepare to return to the wild, where they would need peak endurance and strength. The first step was a few days in an enclosure large enough for short flights, but where we could easily monitor them and quickly intervene if needed. After that, a 100-foot-long flight enclosure for about a month to regain the important muscles that would allow the bird to soar and hunt, and then a trip to Whitaker Ponds to reclaim their rightful space in the sky.

Ashley Lema and Paola Arenas performing the Red-tailed Hawk’s intake examination.

This story could have ended very differently—millions of birds hit windows, and many don’t survive, or they sustain injuries they can never fully recover from. Some make it to a wildlife rehabilitation center, but tragically, many aren’t ever found. Here at the Wildlife Care Center, we often hear from folks bringing us birds that have hit their windows how a bird had never hit their window before, but when a bird hits a window once, there are always others that have hit, but no one was there to know. So in honor of this lucky hawk, go out today and make one window in your life bird-safe, at home, at work, or at school. Share this story with one friend who might not know how dangerous windows can be, and together we can work to make the world a safer place for birds.

Red-tailed Hawk perched in tree with wings spread
Red-tailed Hawk after release, photo by Tara Lemezis.