Red Shoulder hawk rehabbed, released
By Stephanie Johns
Two weeks ago Madison Animal Control officer Cindy Wiemann retrieved the Red Shoulder hawk that got hurt when it hit a building in downtown Madison early August.
Wiemann offered Mayor Bruce Gilbert the honor of releasing that hawk.
“I’ve never participated in one before,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated by hawks, falcons, owls.”
Wiemann said she has rescued between 15 and 20 but only about six survived. This hawk makes seven. Their survival depends on whether or not they can be released, she said.
A broken wing, depending on how badly it is broken, may prevent a bird from surviving. Also, three of the birds ingested poison while a couple of more were injured beyond repair.
“This is only the second of the survivors to come back to Morgan County,” she said, adding that the other was a young buzzard that flew into the windshield of a dump truck.
Wiemann said she always uses Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE).
“It’s one of the few places that’s really good at what they do,” she said.
She pointed out the dangers of untrained individuals trying to handle wildlife, birds in particular.
“They can be extremely dangerous,” she said, noting that beaks and talons will cause damage to humans just like to their prey.
Wiemann learned how to handle wildlife through classes, trainings, on the job experience and from growing up on a working farm in Arlington, Minnesota with wildlife all around.
Marjan Ghadrdan, a wildlife care supervisor with AWARE, said that both the hawk from Madison and another that lost its feathers last fall would be released at the same site, which is unusual.
She shared that they typically release hawks one acre apart but as these two hawks have been together during their recuperation they will be released together. The day of release needs to be dry, not rainy, and the time of day needs to be before 2 p.m. so that the hawks have time to know where they are.
The first hawk – the one from Madison – had head trauma from hitting a building and took a couple of weeks to recuperate.
“It was pretty down so we gave it fluids, anti-inflamatories, pain medicines, and vitamins,” she said. She suggested adding decals to the windows to help the birds see and avoid flying into the windows.
This hawk had several challenges to overcome: first, it was not standing. Once it was standing it would not feed itself. Then it was moved outside in a smaller flying cage before being moved to a flight cage and receiving physical therapy to stretch out its muscles. After the therapy it went through a week-long test to make sure it could hunt.
“The biggest part is the live testing,” she said.
Once a bird arrives at AWARE it costs between $50 and $75 per hawk for an average rehabilitation. Major injuries tend to cost between $100 and $150. The group survives purely off of donations.
Ghardrdan said that this hawk would have been released sooner but she had so many birds – 25 at one time – that this hawk’s release kept being pushed back.
“We’ve probably done 50 to 75 raptors this year,” she said, adding that they rescue about 1,600 per year.
The second bird is what Ghadrdan referred to as a “methane hawk.” She explained that these birds like to sit atop methane pipes at landfills to warm themselves. This bird had all of its feathers burned off in November of last year. It took six to nine months to regrow its feathers.
“All the landfills have to do is make the cap pointed and then the birds can’t sit on them,” she said. “It’s such a shame. It happens at dumps all the time.”
Printed in the November 15, 2012 edition