Countdown to Migration

If you’re a broad-winged hawk, it’s time to skedaddle. September through about the first week in October is migration time for these small buteos. Traveling in huge flocks called kettles, broad-wings leave their breeding grounds in North America and head on down to northern South America. Pictured above is a broad-winged hawk perching in his outdoor rehabilitation enclosure here at VINS.

Now if you’re a broad-winged hawk undergoing rehabilitation during the month of September, this presents a problem for you. As of this week, the VINS Wildlife Services department has three broad-wings who are still recuperating from various injuries. Two of the hawks have severe eye damage, while one is a juvenile with an elbow injury. While their release date is unpredictable at this point, we are pretty sure they will not make it out of rehab before migration season ends. Besides fully recovering from their injuries, the hawks will still need time in our flight cage to build up their flight muscles. Additionally, they will have to be live-prey tested before they are released: we will need to see that they can catch live rodents to ensure they will be able to hunt in the wild.

Above, VINS Wildlife Services Intern Audrey Gossett takes one of the broad-winged hawks out of his enclosure so we can take a closer look at his eye. Below, you can clearly see the damage to this bird’s eye is still quite severe.

These three hawks’ injuries could take weeks longer to heal, and once they are flighted and their hunting skills tested, we could be well on our way to winter!

But don’t worry: we won’t leave these hawks out in the cold!

Migrating birds that cannot make it through their recuperation here at VINS in time to head south before winter hits will be “over-wintered” in the Wildlife Services department. In other words, we’ll provide them a comfortable, warm enclosure and feed them their preferred foods of choice until spring. While we always prefer to get birds out the door and on their way to their most natural setting in the wild, we sometimes have to make exceptions for migrating birds.


  1. Anonymous on September 25, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Thank you for all your hard work caring for our injured feathered friends and for also sharing their stories with us.

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