Hawks and eagles are top predators. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges — most of which come from humans. From hitting power lines and being injured or killed in windfarms while hunting birds to being hit by cars, shot (often intentionally) and poisoned, raptors needs our help – even more than most other birds. If you see a hawk that needs help, what should you do?
Most importantly, if you find an injured bird, don’t try to handle it yourself! Both you and the hawk might be injured. Plus, there are laws governing wildlife and there are people specifically licensed to take care of injured wild animals. There are wildlife and some specific raptor rehab centers across the US and the folks there are trained and licensed to handle these birds safely. Call a local center immediately and let them know what you have found. They will take the bird and try their best to rehabilitate it which means they will try to return the bird to the wild. This doesn’t always work as sometimes the bird has too much wing damage, for example, and will never be able to hunt. But don’t make this determination yourself. Make the call and let the pros take it from there.
I had an experience several years ago with a juvenile Red-tailed hawk. It was Thanksgiving and the bird was sitting on a low fence in the backyard. When I went out to see him, the bird didn’t fly away. This wasn’t normal and when I looked closer, I discovered the bird was very thin and had bones sticking out of his mouth — his last meal had gotten caught in his throat and he hadn’t been able to eat in some time. Despite it being Thanksgiving day, I was able to reach a rehabber who came out immediately and took the bird. They were able to cut the bones sticking out of his mouth and push them down, letting nature do the rest. They kept him for a few months and then released him back to the same location where he has been bothering the songbirds ever since. This may have been a story with a very different ending if he had not gotten help right away.
Rehab centers sometimes will let you visit them – but sometimes they will not as they may have birds or animals who are fragile or easily agitated. Often they don’t have the staff to take care of visitors. They are often funded by private donations, so if you want to visit and they permit that, offer a donation for this privilege. Even if you can’t visit there are always ways to connect with the centers, and by becoming a member, you can take advantage of what they have to offer. If you call with a bird that needs help, if you are able, please try to give them some financial aid as it costs a lot to take care of an injured wild animal. But if you cannot, don’t let this stop you from calling for help! It’s more important to get the bird in need help right away.
Here is a listing of some wildlife rehab centers across the US. Check online for more licensed wildlife rehabilitators.