Monday, January 12, 2015

Time to Leave Missouri

Sometimes animals migrate; it could be from the bottom of a mountain to higher pastures or it could be to another hemisphere. Sometimes animals just don’t know when to leave, or they may have an injury that prevents them from migrating.

The Broad-winged Hawk migrates through the Midwest on its way to and from central and South America each year.  There is a small window of time when these birds pass through the area. 

The World Bird Sanctuary’s Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife hospital admits a number of Broad-winged Hawks each year and most get released well before the migration south.  This year, however, there were two Broad-wings that each had broken wings.  It takes 6 weeks for a fracture to bond, and then another 5 to 6 weeks of physical therapy after the wing is unwrapped before a bird can be released. 

Even after a bird has recovered from its injuries, it does not mean it is ready to fly to South America.   Some years we have kept late migrants through the winter and released them in the early spring when the other birds return.  Since Broad-wings leave Missouri to escape the cold winters, and we didn’t have suitable indoor housing to keep them warm, we had to come up with an alternative plan.  This year we had the opportunity to send these birds to the Gladys Porter Zoo in south Texas.   This zoo has a small rehabilitation center for birds, and several of their staff released them shortly after they arrived.

A photo of the imped feathers from another hawk species which will  help our released bird in its flight.  

The birds were flying great after being in captivity for 4 months, but they had broken a few tail feathers.  After imping (super gluing) 5 new feathers onto each bird’s tail, then wrapping the tails in postal tape to protect them during shipping, the hawks were almost ready. 

An ingenious temporary hood created by Sanctuary Manager Joe Hoffman for shipping this Broad-winged Hawk to its release site

They only needed falconry hoods to calm them as they traveled.  Hoods are made by stitching leather and fashioning a pattern to fit over the head of a species.  No one makes hoods to fit a Broad-winged Hawk because they are not used in the sport of falconry, so we needed one-time use temporary hoods. I invented the duct tape hood.  None of the tape’s sticky part touches the bird of course. 

Then it was time to leave the sanctuary, Missouri, and soon maybe even the United States.  Being shipped by jet liner to a place so far south in Texas got the hawks closer to other Broad-wings staying the winter in central Mexico.  Even if the hawks stayed near the town of Brownsville, TX, until the spring migration, their winters are much warmer than here in Missouri.

Following are photos of the actual release:

Ready to fly (photo: Gwyn Carmean)
 Flying free at last (photo: Gwyn Carmean)
 Resting in a tree after the release (photo: Gwyn Carmean)

We would like to thank Dr. Tom Damaar and staff of the Gladys Porter Zoo for all their help in accepting, housing and releasing the hawks and Gwyn Carmean for allowing us to use her photos of the release. 

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary’s Sanctuary Manager 

1 comment:

Pam Gardner said...

This is an awesome story. You all do such great work. Loved visiting your facility last year.