Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Finally..... Some happy news!!!

I am so happy to report that F1 is making significant progress in his rehab after some scary days when it was not certain that he would make it.  Hawkfans universally refer to him as Peanut because, as the last to hatch, he was always the smallest.  I must admit to having some difficulty calling this fierce young raptor "Peanut" but as his medical updates refer to him as Peanut, I will use that name in this post.

When I last posted, Peanut had been taken to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, and all we knew was that he had survived his first night, and was eating cut up mice.  He could not stand up even though there seemed no apparent damage to his legs.

On August 1, the indefatigable Carolyn Sutton who volunteers at SWRC took Peanut over to the Animal & Bird Health Care Center & Hospital in Cherry Hill, NJ, to be examined by Dr. James Boutette.  Exactly a week before to the day, F3 had made the same journey and similar to him, nothing untoward showed up for Peanut. Encouragingly though,  Dr. Boutette thought Peanut was much livelier than his sibling - alert, and aggressive. The concern was why he was having trouble standing, when there were no broken bones, and no neurological damage that Dr. Boutette could detect.  Peanut could move his toes and feet, and had feeling in them.

On the morning of August 2, he had not declined in any way - everything was about the same.  The SWRC staff continued to hand feed him cut up mice.  Knowing that F3 succumbed Friday evening following his Thursday vet trip, we were all so anxious on Saturday hoping for better news for Peanut.

It was a huge relief to get that August 3, Saturday morning update from the clinic that Peanut had made it through the night, and was resting in a dark, quiet cage,  continuing to receive supportive care.

And the good news kept coming....

Michele Wellard, assistant rehabilitator at SWRC, put a perch in Peanut's cage. When Ellen Boyar, another loyal SWRC volunteer, checked in on him, he was already on the perch. Ellen reported that "Michelle put in two mice and he gobbled one right up and then, while I was still watching, he started to preen!"

It was a huge step to see him preening.  It is sign of the hawk feeling good, or at least much better.  Sick birds don't preen, and for Peanut it also indicated that he was steadier and more comfortable standing and moving around.

By Sunday, he was grabbing dead mice as soon as they were thrown into his cage, and in Carolyn Sutton's words, Peanut was "perching proudly with 'addytood,' (that's Philly-speak for attitude). He looks SO much better than last Thursday when he visited the vet." 

Carolyn Sutton added this information: "When Peanut arrived [at the clinic] he could not use his legs at all, although he responded to reflex tests. He has been given pain meds over the past week and his preening is a good sign that whatever pain he has had is subsiding, The x-rays showed no obvious damage, but some injuries can't be seen on film. At this point no one is really sure what caused his condition, but blunt force trauma, perhaps from an encounter with a car, could be the answer."

Anyone who has ever been in a traffic or auto accident can attest to how beaten up one feels even if there are no fractures or visible injuries.

Then another wonderful development -- Peanut started calling - no, YELLING for food!  Michele Wellard made this video and told us,  "Today is the first day we heard Peanut's voice at the clinic! We knew he must be feeling better.  Apologies for the rubbish camera work and people talking in the hallway. I gave him mice right after he yelled. He made himself clear; he wanted food."

Turn up your volume to hear a real hawk scream, but don't put earphones on!!

Then Michele filmed him eating the mice she put in his cage. "Here's Peanut eating mice on his own.  Previously we had to hand feed him, so his eating on his own is such an improvement. It represents a real improvement and although Peanut has a long road, it makes us cautiously optimistic. "

Michele also provided us with this additional information: "The cage is larger than it looks  in the video, and he is wearing a temporary paper wrap "tail protector," since their tails are the most susceptible to damage in a cage, and are the most crucial to flight.  Also, you have to remember that before today he did not move at all, but instead sat in one small spot.  His moving around is a big improvement!  As he progresses, we will give him different and larger enclosures as appropriate, ending with, hopefully, a large 'flight cage' before release. Though sometimes, paradoxically, a smaller enclosure is safer. A larger enclosure has more room to bang oneself."

Many hawk fans have wondered if it turns out that Peanut can be returned to the Parkway in a week or so, will the haggards (Mom and T2) go back to making sure he's fed?  

I asked John Blakeman that question, and he replied, 
"Yes, the haggards will feed the released fledgling, as though nothing happened --- which for them, nothing did.
Now if this were two weeks later, when the photoperiod, length of daylight, begins to discernibly decline, the adults would be more reluctant to entice a mid-August immature to hang around. At that point, it's time for parental pressures to move the kids on their way.
But not yet. Should the young hawk regain full faculties, all should be well (or, more accurately phrased: 'normal,' in as much as a normal summertime for young Red-tails is not always "well," as we've so disconcertingly seen this year)."
--John Blakeman

It is hard to know at this early stage in his recovery whether he will be able to be released on the Parkway in the next couple of weeks. Rick Schubert will need to ensure that he can fly safely and catch live prey before he can be released.  It is a process that cannot be rushed.  Rick is enormously experienced in this work, and will make the best decision for Peanut.

Let's just hope that he continues to make good progress, but we can still dream that he will be back in the sky where hawks belong as he was just last week.  These pictures of Peanut were taken the day before he was found injured on the ground.

      Dinko Mitic

This tree is at 21st Street and the Parkway.  It is a favorite launch pad for chasing little birds, and Peanut was found lying only yards from its trunk.

             Dinko Mitic

Without Rick Schubert and Michele Wellard at the SWRC, and Dr. Boutette, Peanut would not be alive.  Many people have asked how they can help support this work.  Ellen Boyar, the SWRC volunteer who took F3 and another hawk over to Dr. Boutette has done some research on this issue.

"There is a way that we can have an immediate impact on SWRC's rehab work. Every time they take an animal, like F3 and Peanut, to Dr. Boutette's office, there is a charge. The doctor donates his time, but the clinic is charged, at cost, for medications, blood work, x-rays, etc. Joanne, the office manager at Dr. Boutette's office said that a special SWRC fund can be set up to be used to offset the charges that will be made to SWRC for the treatment of animals. 

A significant amount of money is spent at Dr. Boutette's office every year. For instance, it cost the clinic approximately $200 when I took F3 and a Cooper's hawk, who is on the road to recovery, to the vet. A contribution to an SWRC fund there [at Dr. Boutette's office] would be of great and direct assistance to the clinic. This would help our hawks, as well as other animals that the clinic cares for as it would free up the vet money for use at the clinic itself. 

If you want to contribute to an animal/bird care fund at the Dr. Boutette's office, please make out your donation to the Animal & Bird Health Care Center & Hospital with a notation to "Fund for SWRC."  Send it to Joanne's attention at this address: Animal & Bird Health Care Center & Hospital,  1785 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003. I don't think these donations are tax-deductible, but I'm not sure. The money that was already sent by some of you to the vet's office is being directed to that fund."

If you would like to make a donation directly to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, click on the box below and look for the "Donate Now" button on the right.  When you scroll down to the 
 "I want my donation to be designated toward" you can use the drop-down menu to select the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. 

                                 Kevin Vaughan

And finally, echoing the celebratory mood we are all feeling today, hawkfan Lisa Schallert wrote:

A Doggerel Ditty for Peanut (to the tune of Scotland the Brave)

Hark when the night is falling
Peanut is loudly calling
Still in the morning calling
"Feed me again!"

While we are still a-sleeping
Peanut is once more peeping
"Feed me, oh feed me, 
Oh feed me again!"

Towering in gallant feather
Peanut, our hearts forever!
Long may your red tail gloriously wave!

Peanut, the first to ledge
Peanut, the first to fledge
Peanut, our hearts are with you!
Peanut the Brave!!

            Dinko Mitic


  1. Beautiful and nspirational update! Hoping for continued improvement

  2. This is a really naive question, so proceed to flame away but do they ever put a small radio collar around the hawk foot to track the hawks? Obviously this is difficult to do in the wild but while Peanut was recouperating maybe it would easier.

    Thank you,

    Brian Wallace

    1. Not a naive question at all, Brian. Hawks (or any birds) can have GPS transponders attached or implanted, and they will last as long as the batteries are good. They are really expensive, however, and because Red-tail hawks are no longer a protected species, there is no real interest from the PA Game Commission to do this, or even band the hawks, unlike the peregrine falcons that nest nearby atop CIty Hall whose young get banded every year.

  3. Thank you so much, Sunny. Great news so far...talons crossed that he continues to improve. Appreciate the thorough storytelling and the links for donations to those who do important rescue work!

    Just heard that Cornell Hawks (who have been supportive of the FI hawks) reported sad news on two fledglings.

    Sheesh, it's been an unusually hard summer. :-(

    Hugs, GhentArt

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