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Red-tailed Hawk Hit by Train Making Good progress

Posted on 12 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

About five weeks ago, we received a call late on a Sunday night regarding a Red-tailed Hawk that had been found in a Union Pacific rail yard. Unfortunately, the bird was south of downtown Chicago and we had no way to get the bird to our Barrington facility at 11:30 PM on a Sunday. We instructed the people to put the bird in a box and keep it in a quiet, dark place until morning and that we would collectively work on transportation the next morning.

When I got the call the next morning advising that the bird lived through the night, I sheepishly called Chicago Tribune reporter Don Terry to solicit his assistance. Don was scheduled to drive to Barrington that morning to work on the Chicago Tribune (Sunday) Magazine story. Don graciously agreed to meet the bird's rescuer in the city and transport the bird to Barrington.

We triaged the bird immediately upon Don's arrival and quickly determined that the bird was critical. She suffered from multiple fractures to her legs and needed to immediately be evaluated in order to determine whether the fractures could be repaired. The bird would either be a candidate for surgery or would have to be euthanized. Only x-rays would tell us the appropriate course of action.

The x-rays showed four fractures in the birds legs. All fractures were complete breaks (all the way through the bone and dangling - not just cracks). The birds right femur, left femur, left tibiotarsus and left fibula were all broken. Each break, however, was clean and simple (mid-way between the joint, no splintered bone) so we thought surgery was an option.

We located a veterinarian in Urbana who has extensive experience with avian orthopedics. After reviewing the x-rays (via email) he agreed that we should bring in the bird for a consultation. We tentatively scheduled surgery for Friday and drove down to Urbana, bird in tow, on Thursday for the consultation.

Dr. Welle repaired the left femur and tibiotarsus on Friday. He decided that, rather than risk having the bird under anesthesia too long, he would perform a second surgery on Monday to repair the right femur. Both femurs and the tibiotarsus had metal pins inserted in the hollow of the bone (called IM pins) and had external stabilizing bars inserted perpendicularly to the bone and tied together externally with dental acrylic (this helps prevent the healing bone from torquing).

Now about four weeks after surgery the bird is standing in her cage on a regular basis. Beginning a couple of days ago, she jumps to the front of her cage, legs extended, to aggressively get food. She is grasping with both feet.

The Red Tail returns to Urbana on Wednesday to have her external stabilizing bars removed. Her IM pins will be removed about 3 weeks after that.

Let's hope that she continues to do well. Right now, things are looking excellent for this bird.

I'll post a picture of her as soon as possible.

Dawn

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