Recovered hawk begins search for past home
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About two months ago, Westside resident James Stewart found a dazed red-tailed hawk by the Roundhouse building off 21st Street and Highway 24.
Clearly, the bird had flown into something, possibly a wall or a window. It was hobbled, unable to fly. From a safe distance, another red-tailed hawk, probably her mate, watched helplessly.
Stewart threw a jacket over the injured bird, got it into a box and drove it to an area veterenarian, getting a painful peck on the arm for his trouble.
Fast forward to this week. While Stewart and a few others stood by in the Midland Elementary parking lot, Phil Carberry of the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center released the female hawk back to the wild.
He said that birds have an instinct called “nest memory.” There seemed little doubt of it in this case. The hawk was barely 20 feet from Carberry's hands when she wheeled to the northeast, flying in a fast, straight line toward a stand of tall, leafy trees between Broadway Street and Bott Avenue.
Supported by grants and donations, the center provides “care to sick, injured and orphaned wild birds and mammals brought to us directly by concerned citizens or via local veterinarians and shelters,” the Ellicott brochure states. Not all of them make it, Carberry explained. Some die within a few hours or a few days. A bird with a broken wing can heal by itself, but if the break is in any kind of joint it will never fly again.
The enclosed space the hawk was given at Elicott was 20 feet wide, 12 feet high and 50 feet long. Carberry said the damage to her right elbow was evident. Although it wasn't broken, “I could tell she was hurting,” he said.
He determined that she is in her second year, just getting the red in her tailfeathers.
He thinks it helped that another red-tailed hawk, with a similar kind of injury, came in a short time after the one Stewart had found. “They kind of bonded,” he said.
Still, it took about two weeks before the “Roundhouse” hawk could even flap up to a perch. But in the past week, “she flew all the way across,” Carberry grinned. “I said, 'I've got to call James.'”
The idea was to release the bird as close as possible to her former home. (Carberry chose Midland Elementary because it is just a block south of the Roundhouse and a lot less busy.)
Based on Stewart's having seen the other hawk and May being the time of year for a female to have a “clutch” (eggs that would hatch into young hawks), Carberry believes that's what the situation was for her and a mate about two months ago.
Unfortunately, the rest of the probability is that, without their mother, the eggs never hatched.
Still, her mate would likely still be around. If they see each other, recognition would occur. Odds are, they would become a couple again and could have another family next spring, Carberry said.
There's no way of knowing what happened after she flew out of Carberry's hands and disappeared into the trees. The bird was not tagged - he said the Division of Wildlife doesn't like the paperwork.
But Stewart was satisfied. The area native has saved animals in the past - including Kodiak bears, deer and elk during a 30-year sojourn in Alaska until 2003. “That's why I wanted to help this bird,” Stewart said.
For more information on the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, call 683-8152 or go to ellicottwildlife.com.
Westside Pioneer article