Sunday, December 26, 2010
The Good Samaritan and the Red-tailed Hawk
The magnificent Red-tailed Hawk.
Red-tailed Hawks have a claim on our imagination. They are so majestic in appearance, so cool, so...Zen. Some of them have become quite famous. Pale Male, the 5th Avenue, New York City bird, for example, has his own website and Twitter account and a host of followers and fans, as the authorities found to their chagrin when they tried to move him and his mate a few years ago. The birds' nest on the side of an apartment building at a posh address on 5th Avenue was causing a mess so the owners of the building had it taken down. That resulted in a series of noisy protests and an international outcry. Those quirky New Yorkers, it seems, preferred the mess and their birds. In the end, they got them back. The Red-tails and their fans were triumphant.
Another Red-tailed Hawk found recently near Monroe, New York does not have Pale Male's notoriety or fan base. She doesn't even have a name, although if someone wanted to give her an appropriate one it might be "Lucky".
Just before Thanksgiving, this bird was found by a motorist on Route 17M near Monroe. She was sitting on a dead rabbit on the white line of the road. The motorist, fearing that she would be hit by a car, stopped to try to move her off the road. When he approached and the bird did not move and would not let go of the rabbit even when he tried to move her, he realized that something was wrong. She appeared old and possibly injured. It may be that this was her first meal in a while. She was not going to give it up.
The motorist managed to get the bird into the back of his van where she perched on a mop handle. He took her to Sterling Forest State Park but when a worker tried to transport her in a banker's box, she escaped. She was picked up again the next day on Route 17M and taken to Bear Mountain Zoo and then to a wild-bird rehabilitator in Garrison, New York. When she was finally able to be examined, it was discovered that she had a hairline wing fracture. But the real story was in that aluminum ring she carried around her leg.
You see, this bird had been banded when she was 6 or 7 months old - back in 1983! She was 27 years and about 9 months old when she was recovered, which makes her the oldest Red-tailed Hawk ever found in the wild.
Red-tailed Hawks live lives filled with danger. More than 60 percent do not survive their first year. The ones that do will do well to live half as long as the Monroe bird. She has lived long and prospered for more than 27 years on her own and when at last she needed help, she was fortunate enough to be found by a Good Samaritan who did not just swerve past her on the road with eyes trained on his route ahead. He actually stopped and took the time to investigate and to transport her to where she could get the help she needed.
Today, this lucky bird is at The Raptor Trust in northern New Jersey and she is on the mend. If she fully recovers and is able to fly, she will be released to the wild again in the spring, to soar free once more.