Life, death, and, of course, wild birds.

Guess who has two thumbs, forgot to post last week, and is already falling behind on this week?  [pointing two thumbs at self]  This girl!

Last week I didn’t really have anything nice to say, so I opted to not say anything at all.  I did get a few interesting photos but overall had a frustrating rehab session with the Cooper’s hawk and the adult red-tailed hawk.  We all have bad days sometimes, so I didn’t really think anything of it.  It was physically and mentally exhausting, as most rehab sessions should be, but it wore on me last week.  Indeed, Mother Nature is, on occasion, a harsh mistress…but is one I will keep coming back to.

Here are a few photos from last week (July 6):

Above is the adult red-tailed hawk who has been in the flight cage for a few weeks due to an air-sac injury.  This was the first time I’d been able to get any good photos of her.  She is a beautiful, magnificent bird.  If I was a bird, I’d want to be just like her.

Here she is, giving me the stink eye before I put her back in her cage.  Her eyes are a warm, chocolatey brown and are completely lovely.

For a few minutes, she decided to exercise her right to say “no” by hanging upside down from the rafters of the flight cage.  She was adamant about not wanting to fly that day, so I obeyed her wishes.  Sometimes, it’s all you can do.  They may be wild, but their body language still rings clear as a bell.

Finally, below is one of my favorite photos from any rehab session.  It’s not a particularly great photo but I enjoy the angle and the sharpness (no pun intended) with which you can see her talons.  I was holding her with one hand and took the photo with the other.  NOTE: You do not want to tangle with this one.  Or any of them, really.  They are wild and can obviously tear you to shreds.

And that’s all I have to say about last week.

 ***

And now for a brief interlude.  I am saddened to report that Plato, our resident Broad winged hawk, passed away on Sunday, July 12.  She had been a resident at the Macbride Raptor Project for 22 years (which is 6 years shy of my entire life!).  While we will all miss her greatly, she is truly a testament to the loving care that the MRP volunteers have provided year after year.  The average lifespan of a wild Broad winged hawk is 12 years.  Per Animal Diversity Web:

Based on a study conducted between 1955 and 1979, the average expected lifespan of wild broad-winged hawks is 12 years. The oldest known wild broad-winged hawk lived at least 14 years and 4 months.

May Plato soar the eternal skies, and never know a day without sunshine.  RIP, little bird.

***

On Monday this week (July 13), I added another bird to my rehab roster.  The juvenile red-tailed hawk, who has been in the flight cage as long as the adult with the air sac injury, is finally able to be exercised in the flight hallway.  He had a talon removed on his right foot due to in injury and infection.  His toe is completely healed and the sutures have fallen out, so his time to shine had arrived.

Monday was his first flying session, and while he did not make his 10 perch-to-perch flights (he managed 5), he did an amazingly good job for his first time.  I’ve nticed that it takes the birds a few times to realize what we want them to do.  And while I did explain the process to him – out loud, yes, because I am a dork – sometimes birds have to figure things out on their own.

Here is a photo of his feet, sans talon:

And here is what all of him looks like:

It looks like his red tail feathers are just beginning to come in, so I would estimate him to be about 2 years old.  I look forward to working with him again next week.  Overall, he is an impressive and well-behaved bird.

[For my full For the Birds set on Flickr, go here.]

So that brings us up to date, I guess.  I did forget to mention that last week sometime we got ANOTHER red-tailed hawk in the flight cage, so that brings our grand total up to:

  • 5 Red-tailed hawks (4 juvenile, 1 adult)
  • 1 Cooper’s hawk
  • 1 American Kestrel

Right now, only the Cooper’s hawk and two of the red-tails are being rehabbed.  Everyone else is under observation only.  It will be a long, long day when all seven birds need to be flown.  But until that day comes,  I won’t worry about it. 

And even when it does get here, I will smile to myself and say, “I helped seven birds today.”  How many people can say that?  Not many.  I’m glad I’m one of them.

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