Two nestling red-shouldered hawks receive care at the wildlife hospital. Illness caused the parent hawks to be unable to care for the babies.

Parent & baby red-shouldered hawks treated

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Three red-shouldered hawks were among the 81 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

Homeowners in north Naples had delighted in watching a red-shouldered hawk family nesting in their yard. Concern grew when one adult hawk was no longer seen attending the chicks and the second adult was seen perched in the same spot in a tree for 24 hours.

An adult red-shouldered hawk rests in an animal intensive care unit after being admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Cause of illness is unknown.

When the homeowners called, they were looking for guidance on what to do and willing attempted to retrieve the adult hawk from the tree. The hawk was extremely weak and fluttered to the ground — enabling the rescuers to contain her in a box and transport her to the hospital.

Realizing both parent hawks were gone, hospital staff knew the babies needed to be retrieved from the tree.

Thankfully Ian Orlikoff, owner of Signature Tree Care, adjusted his work schedule to help with the rescue. Ian went to the site and retrieved three baby hawks from the nest.

The home owners willingly made a second trip to the hospital in order to get the babies the care they required. One baby was in poor condition and did not survive. The two remaining nestlings were placed in an animal intensive care unit adjacent to their parent. They were pale and slightly dehydrated but had a great appetite and responded well to treatment.

As far as staff can recall, this is the first instance that we’ve cared for both a parent bird and her babies. The adult hawk’s condition was critical; she was given antibiotics, Chinese herbs, and placed on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit.

With the exact cause of illness unknown, our vet monitored the adult very closely. Although the adult hawk was incoherent, resting almost lifeless in the intensive care unit, she clearly reacted whenever she heard her babies calling.

After several days of supportive care, the adult hawk has made an astounding recovery. She is still weak and needs to gain strength, but she is perching and continues to respond to treatment.

The big question is whether or not we will be able to re-nest the babies when the adult is ready for release. The homeowners did see the second adult back at the nest two days after the rest of the family had been admitted to the hospital. That hawk, which we are guessing might be the male, also looked sickly but was still strong enough to evade capture.

Although we are always looking to the future to plan the best course of action for our patients, our current focus is ensuring the adult and babies continue to receive the care they need to make full recoveries.

Recent Releases — 23 Rehabbed Animals Returned Home

  • 1 sora
  • 6 eastern cottontails
  • 3 mourning doves
  • 1 peninsula cooter
  • 3 eastern screech owls
  • 1 marsh rabbit
  • 2 common grackles
  • 3 brown pelicans
  • 1 Brazilian free-tailed bat
  • 2 great horned owls

Opportunities to Help

Learn about all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida at our website at www.conservancy.org. Your volunteer time, as well as memberships and donations, are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Want to help wildlife?

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see conservancy.org.