This Is the Good Stuff

Two red-tailed hawks who came into VINS Wildlife Services department as fledglings were released August 10. A longtime supporter of VINS had the honor of having both raptors released on his property in Bradford, VT.

I myself had the honor of releasing the birds from their rehabilitation setting and into the wild. This is the good stuff — seeing two young hawks who spent nearly two months in rehabilitation literally fly away from your outstretched arms. To know that the following morning these two birds awoke among a new world of towering spruce trees and acres of open hunting meadows makes the long hours of rehabilitation for all birds in our care worth it.

The red-tailed hawks came into rehabilitation separately in June. Both had fallen from their nests too early to survive on their own, and suffered as a consequence. One was found roadside, so we suspect it may have been struck by a car. Although there were no broken bones, the bird was a bit on the thin side and too young to be on its own. The VINS staff took the hawk in to raise the bird until ready to go it alone in the wild.

The other hawk was found in the yard of a woman who knew red-tailed hawks nested on her property. She found one of the babies on the ground, laying still and covered in flies. Although the bird — based on size — was likely close to fledging, the bird was found to be emaciated upon examination. The flies, we discovered, were coming from maggots that had burrowed into the hawk’s ears. We were able to successfully remove the maggots from the bird’s ears while he was under anesthesia.

Both hawks were kept separate until they were old enough to be moved to an outdoor enclosure. The pair was then transferred to our flight cage, where they could build up their flight muscles and practice flying. After each passed a live prey test — proving to us they could hunt in the wild — the birds were up for release.

Watch our video, posted below, of the hawk release. In the video, one hawk has already been released, as the second awaits his turn. In the background you’ll hear the sound of alarmed robins, who were in the tree where both red tails landed. Below the video, see a photo of one of the red-tailed hawks when he was first brought into VINS.


  1. Anonymous on August 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    What a cute little red-tailed hawk!

  2. Anonymous on January 10, 2010 at 1:48 am

    i found an adult red tail in highway. My third found raptor in 5 years…..seems to be getting stronger. Ate a bite of venison and a few drops of water. Deficated. Had two flys on its body but I see no other infestation/ myiasis. Main issue wh worries me for release is that one eye is closed???
    Opens manually and pupil responds / no redness etc???? any ideas. Also found in highway with no apparent broken bones which is my third. I used to think hit by car but now euepect some other encephalopathy etc????

    any ideas on eye lid???

    If does not open I cannot imagine survival probable??

    thanks you

    John Doe

  3. Meghan on January 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Dear John Doe. Thank you for caring for this bird, but please be sure this hawk gets to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator ASAP (or at least a veterinarian who can keep it temporarily and look at its eye). I have to mention that is it illegal to keep any wild bird, as per the Migratory Bird Act.

    The eye may need special treatment — it could be any number of things. It could be swollen/bruised due to head trauma, causing the bird to have trouble opening the lid. There could be an abrasion to the surface. It could be internal damage that the human eye cannot see from the surface, but a rehabilitator with special equipment could see and diagnose.

    Please don't release that hawk back into the wild with one eye closed — hawks need both eyes to be able to hunt and navigate during flight. The eye may be able to heal quickly with the proper treatment from a rehabilitator, but the more time that goes by, the less chance this bird has for survival.

    Again, thank you for caring about the life of this hawk, but please see that it gets to a rehabilitator. If you don't have a wild bird rehabber in your area, don't depsair — many rehabbers of different species network, so your local squirrel rehabber may be able to get this hawk to a raptor rehabilitator. If you need help finding a rehabber in your area, please call us at (802) 359-5001, ext. 212 — we'd be glad to help! Or go to to locate a rehabber in your area.

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