Rehabilitated Birds of Prey

Injured Red Tail Hawk Recovered and Released
By Cheryl Killam    8-11-16

At 6:45 a.m. Sunday, June 26, 2016, I was on my way into Manchester for a dog agility competition at All Dogs Gym. As I merged off the Route 101 ramp onto the four lanes of Interstate 93 south, I noticed an object in the road ahead of me in the second lane from the median. I pulled right to avoid it and as I got closer, I noticed it was a hawk on the road.

As I was passing it I realized the hawk was alive so I immediately pulled into the breakdown lane and put on my flashers, then backed up a few feet.


Photo by Cheryl Killam

Thankfully the traffic on a Sunday morning is pretty minimal. I got out of my car, waving my hands and pointing to the hawk in the road so people would slow down and avoid him. Next thing I knew, all the traffic had stopped, including a tractor trailer truck, and they let me return to my car to grab gloves  and a fleece blanket.

The injured red tail hawk was sitting back on its tail with its wings spread, and its feet were clutched closed. I put the blanket over his back and head so he could not see, picked him up and returned to the car, where another lady stopped to help me. She got the trunk open, took my 2-year-old miniature Australian Shepherd out of her dog crate and put her up on the back seat so that I could put the hawk inside the crate. Then off to my dog agility event I went, knowing that I had to put a call in to Jane Kelly from On The Wing Raptor Rehabilitation Center for birds of prey in Epping.  The hawk stayed sitting calmly in the crate until later that day, when I was able to bring him to Kelly.

After observing the hawk closely, Kelly determined that he had suffered head trauma, as shown by his left eye ring being red with black spots rather than yellow, and it was twitching. In addition, he could not stand or perch.

He had to be force fed for three days to keep him alive because his throat muscles and swallowing reflexes were not working. He was given anti- inflammatory medications, and cold laser therapy was applied to his head. He recovered slowly and returned to eating on his own and eventually he remembered how to catch his own live food.

Red Tailed Hawks mate for life and the best guess is this hawk was about 3 or 4 years old, based on eye color that gets darker with age. The hope was that he would recover so he could be released to find his mate.

On Monday, Aug. 8 at 4:45 p.m., he was released back into the wild in a field near Lake Massabessic in Manchester, about a mile from where he was picked up. It was very rewarding to watch this bird fly free again.


Photo by Cheryl Killam


Red Tail Hawk Being Released by Jane Kelly......Photo by John McCarthy Photography


Red Tail Hawk Going Going and Gone....Photo by John McCarthy Photography


Red Tail Hawk Feeling His Freedom...Photo by Cheryl Killam


In addition to the Red Tailed Hawk, there were two other bird releases that same day.

Immediately following the Red Tailed Hawk release, an immature female Red Shoulder Hawk that New Hampshire Fish and Game had brought her for rehabilitative care about 6 weeks ago was also released. Kelly assisted New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officer Graham Courtney in the proper handling of a raptor while releasing her at the Audubon Society property in Auburn, New Hampshire.

NH Fish and Game Conservation Officer Releasing Female Red Shoulder Hawk .....Photo by John McCarthy Photography


When asked about the birds she has rehabilitated, Kelly said the Osprey was the most challenging and most rewarding bird she has worked with because they refuse to eat. An Osprey came in a few weeks ago emaciated, covered with parasites and showing neurological symptoms likely related to mercury poisoning ingested by fish. The Veterinary Emergency Surgery and Hospital in Brentwood works with Kelly to get the birds healthy again. The Osprey was released back into his territory on Monday morning, Aug. 8, over the Merrimack River in Newbury, Mass.

Jane Kelly Releasing the Osprey....Photo by John McCarthy Photography


Kelly said she rehabilitates approximately 30 birds a year. Last year she had mostly Red Tailed Hawks and this year she has had Red Shoulder Hawks, Broad Wing Hawks and Great Horned Owls, but the most enjoyable to work with are the Northern Saw-whet Owls and Screech Owls.

Currently she has 15 fledglings that she is raising for release that came in either injured or having fallen out of their nests. At On The Wing the birds are kept indoors to recover and then moved to a barn that has housing pens and a flight pen to test them to see if they are ready to be released.

Kelly also has her own birds that include eight education birds and two falconry birds that she brings to public educational presentations.

If you find an injured bird of prey, you can contact Jane Kelly by email : or call 603-686-2129 and leave a message or follow her instructions of where to leave the bird.

  For more information about other rehabilitated birds, visit and LIKE On The Wing Rehabilitation on Facebook .

In the interest of full disclosure, Cheryl Killam owns Raymond Area News.
























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