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Rehabilitating George, and other Injured Birds at the Raptor Trust

2013 May 22
Red Tail Hawk with broken wing

Red Tail Hawk with broken wing

By Marcia Anderson

This Red Tail Hawk was found in March on the roadway of the George Washington Bridge by Bergen County Animal Control, so I will call him George.

In the wild, an injured wing is usually a death sentence for a bird, except this time, thanks to the Raptor Trust, located in Millington, N.J. The Raptor Trust is recognized as a national leader in the fields of raptor conservation, avian rehabilitation and the conservation of birds of prey. The “Trust” includes a hospital with state-of-the-art medical center, diagnostic facilities, and quality housing for several hundred injured, abandoned or poisoned birds brought to them from New York City and New Jersey.

Pictured below is the x-ray of George’s broken wing prior to surgery on April 21. At the fully equipped medical infirmary, veterinarian Dr. Andrew Major, pinned bone fragments back into place and treated an existing infection at the site of the injury. It will take months of care at the Raptor Trust for the bone in the wing to solidify before the pins can be removed. George is currently recovering from his surgery in an outdoor aviary. He is

eating and progressing nicely.  After his wing pins are removed and before he is allowed to be released, his joints must loosen by practicing short flights in an aviary cage. In the wild, hawks can attain speeds of over 150 mph when diving for their prey, so George must be completely rehabilitated before being released.

Broken wing X-ray

Broken wing X-ray

The Raptor Trust is open 365 days a year to receive injured and orphaned wild birds at their medical infirmary. The primary goal of the center is to restore good health or useful purpose to all birds. In 2011, the center had 3556 patients. They successfully rehabilitated 1644 of the birds including 203 raptors and 1441 non-raptors. Sadly, not all birds recover or can be fully rehabilitated. Unreleasable raptors may become part of the Raptor Trust’s captive breeding, foster parenting, or educational programs. Foster parent birds of the same species help to raise orphaned young and teach them correct behaviors, thereby avoiding human imprinting. Hundreds of young injured or abandoned raptors have been successfully released back into the wild as a result of the ‘Foster Bird Parent Program’.

All hawks are protected by state and federal laws. It is illegal to capture or kill a hawk, or to possess a hawk, alive or dead, without proper permits from both the State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

What you can do to help prevent injuries to wild birds around your home….

  1. Avoid removing trees and shrubs in prime nesting season: spring and summer. Wait until fall when bird nests are no longer in use.
  2. Birds accidently fly into glass because they mistake reflections for reality, so disarm window and glass doors by disrupting their see-through or mirror-like qualities. You can place streamers, a windsock or lines of colored string across the outside of the window. A hawk silhouette taped to the glass, or decals, act as a danger sign to most birds. Interior lights will also eliminate or reduce reflections.

Visitors to the Raptor Trust are always welcome and are afforded a unique opportunity to view at close range the many hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and owls that are permanent residents in the aviaries at the facility. For more information go to:  http://theraptortrust.org/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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