Red-tailed Hawk Recovers from Spinal Trauma

We were blessed by divine weather last Friday when Patrick, an adult Red-tailed Hawk, returned to the wild near St. Patrick’s School. Patrick had apparently struck a window in the courtyard of St. Patick’s School in January, causing head trauma and significant spinal trauma.

We began around-the-clock supportive care for Patrick that included fluids, medication to reduce spinal swelling and tube feedings. Unable to stand for almost a week, we monitored Patrick for any signs of improvement. He showed little improvement for the first three days except that his feet, which were intially clenched into tight little balls, began to relax. By day four, Patrick could begin standing back on his hocks. By about day seven Patrick was able to stand, albeit somewhat unsteadily. He began to eat small pieces of food unaided.

After almost two months, Patrick was ready to be transferred to a large flight chamber. Here Patrick spent the next several weeks reconditioning his muscles in preparation for his release……

Patrick and I were joined on release day by several people from St. Patrick’s School, Frank E. Lee from WXRT, a Chicago Park District employee and a fabulous volunteer for Flint Creek Wildlife. I removed Patrick from the box and loosened my grip on him. He immediately took off, gaining altitude and flying to a nearby tree where he proceeded to contentedly rouse and preen.

Fortunately, Patrick’s initial leg paralysis was completely reversible with intensive care. We wish him long life and many offspring.


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