Friday, December 18, 2009

December Broad-winged Hawk!

Yesterday, (12/12/09) my daughter called me to report a hawk at her mother’s house in Belchertown. The bird was sitting in the front yard and didn’t appear to be in a hurry to go any where soon. I was away for the day and told her that perhaps the hawk had struck the house or some other object in the yard- just leave it be and it will probably take off once it gets its bearings. Fast forward to 7pm, Samantha stops by for a visit and reports the hawk is still in the front yard- WHAT!

It’s obvious at this point the hawk was in real trouble, so we immediately headed down the road armed with gloves, a towel and a box to capture this bird. The front yard was pitch black, (forgot the flashlight) but she knew the exact location and we pick up the hawk with little resistance. (Hoping it wasn’t dead) At this point I still didn’t know its true identity, but it was a small hawk with a short tail? We get back to my house, get the hawk into the light and out of the towel - I was STUNNED to be looking at an Adult BROAD-WINGED HAWK.

The Broad-winged was in tough shape-barely alive. The only noticeable injury to the bird was to its right eye, but it was still alive. I called Tom Ricardi in Conway, (Raptor Rehabilitator) and told him I had a Broad-winged Hawk for him….a little pause at his end. He told me to keep it warm and if it makes it through the night, give him a call in the morning and he’d take it from there. Long story shortened- I met Tom in South Deerfield this morning and handed the Broad-wing off to him. The hawk was still in trouble, but was alert and Tom was at least a little optimistic about its survival.

A quick look through the Birds of Massachusetts (Veit/Petersen) shows the latest date for a Broad-winged Hawk was from Wellfleet, Nov 18th, 1959.

Update 12/14/09 - I talked with Tom Ricardi this morning, the Broad-wing was still alive, but had yet to eat. Tom indicated this was not unusual with raptors recently brought into his care. The injury to the hawk’s right eye that I mentioned earlier was recent. The eye still had fresh blood around it, if it was an older injury it would have dried up by now. Tom reports that the next 4-5 days will be critical to its survival. If the bird begins to eat on its own, things will look pretty good. If Tom is able to rehab the bird-he'll release it next spring.

Update- 12/18/09 -I spoke with Tom Ricardi this evening, my curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to know if the hawk was still alive. I quickly learned from Tom that the Broad-wing had died the day before. The obvious injury to the right eye was the tip of the iceberg. The left eye which looked perfectly fine- was not. The hawk was blind in both eyes! And an area of his left wing was partially swollen. Tom also believes the bird suffered more internal head injuries. Tom even tried to force feed the bird, but thirty minutes later it came back up. The injuries were probably brought on by a collision with a car (we found the bird in the front yard-close to the road) or possibly a window. The only thing certain is the injuries were recent- A hawk with these injuries would not have lasted very long.

This species of hawk breeds throughout New England and points north. From mid to late September, given the right weather conditions, thousands can be seen from lookouts around interior New England. By the first week in October hundreds of thousands are winging their way pass the hawk watches around Veracruz, Mexico. So...why did this individual stay behind? No one will ever know for sure, but for all practical purposes, the hawk seemed to be in good shape until its encounter with a large object on December 12th.

I far as I know, this is the latest date for this species in Massachusetts and maybe New England!


Valerie with Broad-winged Hawk.

Tom Ricardi- looking over the Broad-wing.

Tail shot.

Heading to the rehab center.