Community comes together to rescue, rehab and re-nest multiple baby hawks

April 29

By Joanna Fitzgerald, director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

112 animals admitted in one week!

Three red-shouldered hawks were among the 112 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a sora, a yellow-billed cuckoo, a Florida brown snake, a northern shrike, a burrowing owl, a least tern and 16 eastern cottontail rabbits.

A woman in North Naples was walking her dog when she was dive bombed by an adult red-shouldered hawk. The woman sought medical treatment for the puncture wounds caused by the hawk’s talons.

When she and her husband returned home from the hospital her husband noticed two fuzzy white nestling hawks on the ground. He concluded his wife was injured because the adult hawk was defending her babies that had fallen to the ground when the palm frond their nest was anchored to broke from the tree.

It takes a village…

Conservancy staff contacted volunteer Critter Couriers Ron and Gaylene Vasaturo to pick up and transport the nestling hawks to the wildlife hospital. A physical exam showed the babies were uninjured in the fall so we planned to re-nest.

Organizing a quick re-nesting was important because we were concerned the parents would move off since both babies were gone from the site.

Two nestling red-shouldered hawks settle in to a basket nest secured to a royal palm. The hawks original nest was destroyed when the palm frond it was resting on fell from the tree. Photo by Walter Morales, of Signature Tree Care.

Conservancy staff first contacted the homeowners to see if they would allow us to re-nest the hawks.

The homeowners were a bit concerned because of the hawk’s defensive behavior. Hospital staff believed that once the nestlings were safe in the tree the adults would settle down. They hadn’t been defensive prior to the nestlings falling to the ground so it seemed the close proximity of the dog and the woman to the babies instigated the aggression.

Although a bit hesitant, the homeowners agreed to the re-nesting.

Signature Tree Care helps with re-nesting

A nestling red-shouldered hawk responds after being re-nested. The nestling and its sibling were found on the ground when their nest fell from a palm tree. Photo by Walter Morales, of Signature Tree Care.

Conservancy staff then contacted Ian Orlikoff from Signature Tree Care for help with the re-nesting and explained the urgency of the situation. Walter Morales, ISA Certified Arborist at Signature Tree Care was delighted to assist and agreed to come in on his day off to re-nest the babies.

The re-nesting went well. One of the parent hawks stayed in a tree nearby and watched the whole situation. It wasn’t until several hours after the babies had been returned to the nest that the homeowner called to report one of the hawks was in the basket and had resumed caring for the nestlings.

Another red-shouldered hawk re-nesting

A second red-shouldered hawk family needed our assistance at the same time when one of their babies fell from the nest.

Hospital volunteer Susan Ferretti checked on the situation and confirmed a second baby hawk was still in the nest. The nest tree was to the rear of border of two properties so Susan engaged the homeowners who happily consented to the re-nesting.

Conservancy staff contacted Dan Powell at Davey Tree Expert Company for assistance. Dylan Jaques, Marcos Comacho, and Jorqe Martinez were working in the area and were able to help.

As the re-nesting crew maneuvered through the branches and prepared to place the fallen baby back in the nest, the young hawk that had remained in the nest flew and landed on a branch nearby. “Our” baby was placed in the nest and the crew quickly retreated to minimize the disturbance.

A young red-shouldered hawk peers over the edge of its nest. Wildlife volunteer Susan Ferretti was evaluating the situation for re-nesting after the hawk’s sibling was found on the ground under the nest tree. Staff at Davey Tree Expert Company were able to re-nest the fallen baby hawk.

One of the parent hawks stayed close by so we were confident it would continue to care for its babies.

Words of thank you really can’t fully express our gratitude for everyone involved in these situations. Our volunteers, the homeowners and staff at Signature Tree Care and Davey Expert Tree Company were amazing and gave these three hawks a chance at growing up in the wild.

Call us first


If you see a young animal you believe is in need of assistance call the wildlife hospital staff before taking action.

Many times we do need to get involved because the animal is truly sick, injured or orphaned but there are just as many times that the animal is a healthy fledgling and deserves to have a chance to grow up with its parents.

No matter the situation, we will always try to do what is best for the animal.

Recent Releases — 25 animals go home

  • 2 peninsula cooters
  • 5 eastern cottontails
  • 1 Florida softshell
  • 1 yellow-bellied slider
  • 1 gopher tortoise
  • 2 mourning doves
  • 2 grey squirrels
  • 11 opossums

Get Involved

Please visit our website at and learn about the many opportunities there are to get involved.

Volunteers are vital in our efforts to assist native wildlife.

If you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate.

However you choose to become involved, your support will help the Conservancy continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Note from the editor: It was a very busy week inside the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Typically, the hospital averages anywhere from 5 to 15 new admissions on a daily basis.
This past week, there were three days in a row with 25 new admissions each day.
The dedication of the staff, interns and volunteers that work inside the hospital never comes into question, but weeks like this one really highlight the commitment of Joanna and her entire team.