Today I headed down to the center to feed Nelson and I overheard one of the workers down there answer the phone, “You have a hawk that is hanging upside down in a tree?”
Immediately my ears perked up and without much thought, “I can go get it!”
After hanging up the phone my co-worker agreed to go with me.The two of us headed out and when we got to the location fifteen minutes later we saw that the hawk was indeed hanging upside down from a branch. And of course, I forgot my phone and had no way to photograph the bizarre image of a hawk hanging upside down like a bat.
She had a beautiful red tail, and that is how we know that she is a red tailed hawk. We had put her on her stomach so that we could give her fluids to aid with dehydration.
The finder told us that the hawk had been like that for at least two hours. Assessing the situation the hawk was dangling over a five-foot deep ravine. Not the ideal situation for rescuing a hawk. My co-worker climbed through the thick rhododendron and thorn bushes to the top of the ravine and I slipped and slid down through the brush and mud to the bottom. My co-worker was now eye level to the hawk but unfortunately, she was still out of reach.
The hawk was gripping the branch with both talons and was barely moving, terrified I wondered that when she was finally right side up that the blood rushing back to her head would kill her.
The finder called out to us, “I have a saw, do you think we could cut the branch?”
My co-worker and I thought about it and then agreed while not ideal it seemed to be the only option. I waited at the bottom to catch the hawk while they sawed the branch. In no time the hawk was hurtling towards me talons first. It was quite intimidating watching her talons grow closer to my face. The hawk angrily landed at my feet, stunned by the world tilting right side up again.
We wrapped her up in what we call a burrito. This allows us to exam and weigh her safely. Her mouth is open due to stress and dehydration. If it’s just stress we call it open mouth breathing but because her behavior was more defensive she was hackling at us. This is very much like a dog raising its hair when it’s on the defense and preparing to attack.
Oddly enough we couldn’t figure out why the hawk was upside down. The hawk appears to be fine other than a little bit of vertigo! My kid was amused by the story and nicknamed her Dizzy. We are hopeful that it was some freak accident and that she will be back to normal in no time and ready for release.
The red tailed hawk weighed close to three pounds, which is the weight for females. She is one hefty hawk! This makes me happy because she was hunting well in the wild and was a successful predator. In the picture below you can see her head feathers ruffled, another sign of her hackling.