On December 5, a Red-tailed Hawk was brought to the PAWS Wildlife Center after a man found him sitting on the shoulder of I-405 near Bothell, WA. The hawk was weak and in shock, and he had blood on the inside of his beak.
It is common for Red-tailed Hawks to hunt along highways, drawn there by the mice and voles that they can easily spot in the mowed areas along the shoulders and median strips. It is also common for the hawks to become so focused on their prey that they fly right in front of oncoming traffic as they descend toward an intended meal. The signs of trauma exhibited by this hawk were consistent with having been struck by a vehicle. Fortunately the bird escaped without any broken bones or other, more serious injuries.
After a few days of supportive care, the Red-tailed Hawk began to regain his strength. He refused to eat on his own, as some of our wild patients do, but our wildlife staff assist-fed him daily and kept a close eye on his weight to make sure he was getting enough nutrition. He graduated to an outdoor flight enclosure for the final week of his stay at PAWS.
On December 21, a volunteer and I released the hawk at a quiet park in Bothell. At first he was hesitant to leave his carrier, but with some gentle encouragement he exited and took flight. He flew beautifully, gaining altitude and circling away to the west before coming to rest in a tall fir tree.
Although we were thrilled to see the hawk flying, several nearby crows and one Glaucous-winged Gull were not. The crows quickly organized a protest that consisted of squawking and dive-bombing the hawk, while the gull circled overhead adding her vocalized complaints to the effort.
Eventually the hawk took flight once again. He was last seen heading north with the crows still in pursuit, but the hawk’s strong, confident flight was unhindered by their harassment.