May 26, 2012

High winds send babies to the ground

Windy conditions are likely to blame for sending three red-tailed hawk nestlings to the ground Friday morning, near Boulder Ridge Golf Club in San JoseA homeowner found the young raptors in their backyard, with both parents circling above.

WildRescue's Deanna, Duane, and Rebecca responded. On arrival, the team found two of the chicks injured from their near 40' fall. The third one was in excellent shape and could be re-nested.

Rebecca and Deanna began constructing an artificial nest. They drilled holes in the base of a large laundry basket and placed layers of small branches and twigs inside. Shredded eucalyptus bark, leaves were used to line the nest.

Meanwhile, Duane took on the challenge of climbing the redwood, which was very intense - the branches were slick and angled downward. Finally, he made it to a safe place where he could secure the new basket to the tree.

As a rule, we try to place new nests as close to the original site as possible, but human safety takes precedence. We settled for a site on the opposite side of the tree, about 8 feet below the original site.

When replacing nests, we also take into account the species and their nesting preferences. Red-tailed hawks nest on ledges and in wide open canopies of trees - wide enough for their near 4' wingspan. After securing the nest-basket, Duane trimmed a few branches to make the new site more open and appealing.
Getting the large basket up the tree would be a challenge, but Duane devised a zip-line system that worked really well. So well, they used it to hoist up the baby!

It was almost sunset by the time the chick was in its new nest. They cleared out of the backyard, and while Duane and Rebecca watched for the return of the parents, Deanna drove the two injured chicks to the wildlife hospital.

Both adults could be seen, soaring far and high. To draw them in, Rebecca played their chicks' vocalizations she'd recorded earlier. After a while, one of the parents flew by the tree with something in its talons. Another time later, it actually landed in the tree, on the tattered remains of its old nest, but never seeming to notice the baby below.

It grew darker and the team needed to leave, even though they had not seen a parent reunite with the chick. They would return the following next day.

UPDATE: Today, Duane and Rebecca returned to find one of the parents in the new nest with the chick. This is GREAT news!!!

On a sad note, however, we learned that one of the other chicks was so badly injured it had to be euthanized, and the other chick is in critical condition.

WildRescue will be working closely with the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley to see if the chick recovers, or if there are two healthy chicks of the same age that we could foster into this dedicated hawk family.

Stay tuned!