Red-tailed hawks are powerful birds. But the hawk that lay on an examination table in New York City was weak and helpless. Wildlife rehabilitators kept a gentle grip on the bird as they inspected the injury above its right eye. The hawk had probably been hit by a car while swooping to grab prey.
"The bird was pretty out of it," says Rita McMahon, cofounder of the Wild Bird Fund (WBF). She helped treat the hawk. Each year, the WBF provides emergency care to about 1,500 sick and injured birds and small mammals in New York City. Often, migrating birds get hurt when they fly into tall buildings. The animals get a full exam, X-rays, blood tests and medicine, if needed. Extra help is provided by two nearby veterinary hospitals.
Patients at the WBF have included geese, ducks, swans and hummingbirds. In November, a wild turkey was brought in with a fractured leg. But pigeons are the WBF's most frequent winged patients. The birds are abundant in New York.
On a recent TFK visit to the WBF, we saw about 50 pigeons lined up in cages against a wall. At the sink, a volunteer soaped and scrubbed a pigeon whose feathers were coated with cooking oil. The oil had made it hard for the bird to fly. That's a common problem, McMahon explained, caused by pigeons' fondness for food scraps. "A lot of birds like to live under hot-dog carts," she said. "They come in very fat—and very greasy."
And what about that red-tailed hawk? McMahon says it is expected to make a full recovery and will soon be flying free.
To see a slide show about the WBF, go to timeforkids.com/birds.
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