A Collington “Save The Hawk” Story With a Sad Ending — But Well Worth the Try

Mike McCulley has sent us this story and photos.

It happened pretty quickly. I was sitting in our sunroom late in the afternoon on Presidents’ Day, watching the finches at our birdfeeder and our resident mouse on the ground getting the leftovers. The birds fled, the mouse stayed, and a red shouldered hawk came in for supper. But it landed awkwardly and missed its meal. Then it just stayed there. Clearly, something was amiss. It held one wing as if it were injured; when I moved on the other side of the sliding glass door, it didn’t fly off. When I got closer, it did fly a few yards and landed on the ground. Over a period of time, it worked its way to an electrical transformer next to the perimeter road. Cars went by; it didn’t move. A jogger went by even more closely, and again it didn’t move.

The bird needed help. Red shouldered hawks have 40” wing spans, strong talons and a predator’s beak; I wasn’t up to the task. So I called Crain and Jane Miller. They have forgotten more about birds and birding than most of us will ever know. Surely, they would know of someone who could help. Crain’s response to my question was, “I don’t know. Let me make a phone call. I’ll get right back to you.”

His advice was to “call Suzanne* in Poolsville,” and he gave me her number. By then it was getting dark, and rain was turning to sleet and freezing rain. She told me she was over an hour away and didn’t really want to venture out in such horrible conditions. Perhaps she could find someone closer to Mitchellville. A few minutes later, the phone rang and Kennon Smith introduced himself. “You live at Collington? My father used to live at Collington.” His father, Harry Smith, an engineer and lawyer, was a major part of the team laying out the perimeter road system and the placement of the cottage cluster. “I’ll get a trap and some things and be right over.”

Meanwhile, I had been keeping an eye on the bird; it would fly short distances – 20 to 30 feet, and then rest. It was headed for the trees behind the 3000 district parking area. It was ugly out. The freezing rain kept coming. Kennon phoned when he got on campus and we met in the 3000 parking area. We slogged around for about half an hour, using our flashlights to try to find the outline of a bird in the trees or perhaps an eye reflection in the light. Nothing. Disappointed, Kennon headed home on what were by then treacherous roads.

Tuesday morning brought with it heavy rains, gusty winds and rising temperatures. And a phone call: it was Suzanne. She said the weather would break in the afternoon and she wanted to come to find the bird. After the RA Council meeting, I changed into my “play” clothes and met up with Susanne and here two aides. We went in among the trees where Kennon and I had looked the previous night, looked up and there it was, about 15 feet off the ground! It took us less than a minute of searching. The rescuers immediately swung into action. One climbed up into the tree while the others readied a cage and attached a long extension handle to a net. Within minutes, the bird was captured and being given a preliminary assessment by Suzanne.


The wing had been broken for some time and actually had started to heal, but not in a way that would allow the bird to hunt. And because it had not been a successful hunter for some time, it was weak. Suzanne declared that the prognosis is not good. But they would take the bird to a vet, have it x-rayed, and do what they could to save it. But it may have to be euthanized.

The next day, I received a note from Suzanne which read in part: “I’m sorry to report that the story of the Red-shouldered Hawk ended sadly. We administered warm fluids and pain medicine and placed the bird in a warm incubator when we got back last evening, but he and died later last night. I’m afraid he had gone without a good meal for more than a week or two, and did not have enough strength left for us to help. It is unlikely we could have done anything to help his crippled wing, but we didn’t have a chance to get X-rays.”

* Suzanne Shoemaker of Owl Moon Raptor Center, Boyds, MD   http://owlmoon.org/



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