I myself had the honor of releasing the birds from their rehabilitation setting and into the wild. This is the good stuff -- seeing two young hawks who spent nearly two months in rehabilitation literally fly away from your outstretched arms. To know that the following morning these two birds awoke among a new world of towering spruce trees and acres of open hunting meadows makes the long hours of rehabilitation for all birds in our care worth it.
The red-tailed hawks came into rehabilitation separately in June. Both had fallen from their nests too early to survive on their own, and suffered as a consequence. One was found roadside, so we suspect it may have been struck by a car. Although there were no broken bones, the bird was a bit on the thin side and too young to be on its own. The VINS staff took the hawk in to raise the bird until ready to go it alone in the wild.
The other hawk was found in the yard of a woman who knew red-tailed hawks nested on her property. She found one of the babies on the ground, laying still and covered in flies. Although the bird -- based on size -- was likely close to fledging, the bird was found to be emaciated upon examination. The flies, we discovered, were coming from maggots that had burrowed into the hawk's ears. We were able to successfully remove the maggots from the bird's ears while he was under anesthesia.
Both hawks were kept separate until they were old enough to be moved to an outdoor enclosure. The pair was then transferred to our flight cage, where they could build up their flight muscles and practice flying. After each passed a live prey test -- proving to us they could hunt in the wild -- the birds were up for release.
Watch our video, posted below, of the hawk release. In the video, one hawk has already been released, as the second awaits his turn. In the background you'll hear the sound of alarmed robins, who were in the tree where both red tails landed. Below the video, see a photo of one of the red-tailed hawks when he was first brought into VINS.