Injured Raptors: What to Do

16 March 2017
Adult male Sharp-shinned Hawk Adult male Sharp-shinned Hawk

Just as we were closing the office yesterday, we received a call from an individual who had watched a raptor collide with his office window.  The bird was moving but seemed to have trouble with its wing, leaving the concerned citizen afraid that the hawk was seriously injured.

Unfortunately it is a call we receive quite frequently here at HawkWatch and although we're not a rehabilitation center, we work closely with several rehabilitators and accept all concerned calls and injured raptors found by people.  Life is notoriously difficult for raptors, with between 50 and 65 percent of many species not making it past the first year or life.

When our animal-loving friend arrived at our headquarters, he carried a large cardboard box in which holes had been cut.  Looking inside the box together, we all discovered a feisty, adult male Sharp-shinned Hawk with a full crop and no signs of injury.  It appeared the bird’s collision with the window had left him stunned. The impact was so great, and the raptor so concussed, that it had taken a number of hours for him to recover.  Staff at HWI monitored the accipiter overnight and then released him near the area where he had been injured the next morning.

So, what should you do if you find an injured bird?

First, you should observe the animal long enough to determine that it is actually injured and not a fledgling or non-injured bird.  This may take an hour or more.  Raptors will typically fly away when approached by humans, unless they are protecting their food or babies.  If the bird is injured, contact a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.  Both HawkWatch and local veterinary offices may provide contact info for rehabilitation centers.  Should you need to transport a raptor to the rehabilitator, follow these tips to protect yourself and the raptor from injury.

Interested in learning more about what to do when you find an injured or baby bird? Join us at Mark Miller Subaru on Saturday, April 15th or at REI on Wednesday, April 19th to hear more from the HWI Education and Outreach Director, Nikki Wayment, and for a chance to meet our non-releasable Raptor Ambassadors.


Release of injured Sharp-shinned Hawk