Calurus: The Oldest Known Red-tailed Hawk?

Our Raptor Ambassador Calurus might just be the oldest known Red-tailed Hawk. Calurus was brought to a rehabber in 1992 after getting tangled in a barbed wire fence and suffering an injury to his left-wing. The extent of the injury required a partial amputation that removed some of his flight feathers. Calurus came to the rehabber with adult plumage, meaning he was likely born in 1990 or earlier. Based on this assessment, Calurus is around 32 years old this spring!

Unable to fly, Calurus was brought to live at HawkWatch International and serve as a Raptor Ambassador. He was named for the Western Red-tailed Hawk subspecies: Buteo jamaicensis calurus. It is hard to know how many programs he has taught over his 3-decade long career, as he has been around longer than we were logging data electronically. But what we do know is that he has had a massive impact on the local community—and across the world thanks to virtual programs.

Our Education and Outreach Director Melissa Halvorsen describes Calurus as “the perfect gentleman.” With so much experience under his belt, he has seen just about everything. He is very responsive to his handlers and can perform behaviors with little prompting. The only thing that still gets his feathers ruffled is going through doorways. For whatever reason, he has decided doorways are his mortal enemy. Calurus’ handlers have made moving him through doorways into an art. “It’s almost like a choreographed ballet watching a skilled handler help him overcome his nervous habits,” shared Melissa.

Calurus is something of a picky eater. He will only eat rats, and he prefers the white ones. These days, he needs a little help getting them started, so our bird care team has to make an incision over the thigh of the rat to help him get started. This also allows us to add any medications or supplements he needs to the area around the incision since we know he is likely to start eating there. 

Unfortunately, like all things, Calurus has started to face the effects of aging. Several years ago, Calurus had a stroke that impacted his balance and grip strength. He recovered well, but still struggles with balance and getting around. He also has been slowed down by the onset of arthritis. Because of this, Calurus is semi-retired—only coming out for programs hosted at the HWI office or nearby venues.

Despite his age, Calurus is still an overall active and healthy bird. These days, his favorite way to pass the time is to spread his wings and tail to soak up the sun. Our staff and docents are all deeply grateful for Calurus, and all our Raptor Ambassadors, for helping to spread the passion to conserve birds of prey. 

If you’ve read this far, we want to let you in on a secret—we have just added a new Raptor Ambassador to our team! If you would like to support our Ambassadors, new and old, consider making a gift in honor of Calurus to feed our birds. If you are local to the area, be sure to join our newsletter or follow us on social to hear when we will be hosting our next Education Docent training. Whether you volunteer with us, invest in our work, or share our posts with friends, THANK YOU for working alongside us to conserve raptors.

This blog was written by Sammy Riccio, HWI’s Communications ManagerYou can learn more about Sammy here.

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