Red-tail Rescue

I’ve been working on another post but it will have to wait. (“We pause to interrupt our general programing with a special announcement.”) This morning’s excitement at The Chicago Portage is too precious not to share immediately. I am still in awe of the entire experience.

It was a fairly crappy morning to be out, with a hint of drizzle oozing out of the cloud cover. I didn’t expect to get decent photographs of anything but I took the camera with me anyway. It was several minutes before I heard even one bird sound.

But the moment I approached the first bridge closest to Harlem Avenue – the same bridge where we saw the Wilson’s Snipe last week – my attention was immediately drawn to a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a log over the water.

The bird was very still. I figured it was hunting, so I did not proceed in its direction. I took a few more photos and decided to walk the middle trail.

There were hardly any birds to be seen. At first I thought that was because of the Red-tail, but it probably had as much if not more to do with the weather. I did manage to scare up the usual flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and hangers-on, but it wasn’t possible to focus on any of them, and I was still curious about the Red-tail. I continued to walk around the circular path that eventually leads back to the bridge.

I encountered a young woman also walking the same direction and told her about the hawk. When we both approached, it had its back toward us.

I now began to suspect there was something wrong with it. It just didn’t make sense that it would still be sitting there, and the more I observed its behavior, I was convinced it was not well. Generally, a puffed-up appearance indicates an attempt to keep warm. Although it was cold this morning it wasn’t windy. For what it’s worth, the bird also appeared to be a juvenile.

Just about then, Bob showed up, and we were soon both sharing our observations. I decided to call for help. I took a picture with my cell phone and sent a message to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors hotline. I figured even if they did not have someone to rescue the bird, they would know of other people in the area who could do that sort of thing. While we texted back and forth and Bob and I talked, standing in the drizzly cold watching the bird, I took more photographs.

Perhaps as a response to our attention, the bird decided to move off its perch and try somewhat solid, if wet, ground. It was wobbly on its feet though.

After taking a sip of the water and sitting in it for a few moments, the hawk might have understood me when I started to admonish it for sitting in cold water, for it started to move to another perch.

One nice view of its red tail…

Here’s how the bird last looked before I had to leave for a service appointment with the car dealer.

I went back to the Portage after the service appointment, and just as I parked and got out of my car, I noticed a vehicle and its driver who was half out of the car. It turned out to be Nora from Chicago Bird Collision Monitors. Perfect timing! She said she was just about to call me to see if I could come and show her where the bird was. We walked in, and the hawk had moved a bit farther away from the water, which made it easier to capture.

I took a video with my cell phone of Nora walking slowly through the vegetation with her big net and then placing it over the bird fairly easily. But I don’t want to post it without her permission, so if I hear back from her soon I will ask. I hope to find out what was wrong with the hawk. When I talked with Annette over the phone earlier, she enumerated several possibilities: head trauma, avian flu, West Nile virus, rodenticide from eating poisoned prey.

In any event, when Nora put the hawk into a travel box I got to help her by closing the door. It was also delightful sharing stories with her about birds, and she is a pianist, too. She said she specializes in capturing hawks. I feel so lucky to have witnessed her technique! She then took the hawk to Willowbrook Wildlife Center Clinic. I hope to hear about the diagnosis and the bird’s prospects.

I will be back with “regular programming” soon.

6 thoughts on “Red-tail Rescue

  1. Lisa, a great detailed and factual report of your morning. I am still impressed that you made the call to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors provide clear and accurate information and returned to check on the birds status and to meet with Nora. Well done! Let’s see which newspaper picks up the story. See you soon.

    • Thanks so much, Bob, for keeping me (and the hawk) company while I waited for response back from CBCM. If we had not been there to see the bird it might never have received help. For as often as I visit the Portage, it feels good to be able to give back something to one of the wonderful creatures who depend on it.
      As for a newspaper story, I’m afraid Red-tailed Hawk rescues are all too common for this one to make it into the paper but it’s a nice thought. See you again with some of Nora’s stories. 🙂

    • I was hoping to visit the place where the bird was taken to inquire, but I notice that it is closed to the public – apparently this has been going on since the pandemic – so I hope to hear eventually about the outcome,

  2. How exciting! I hope things work out in the bird’s favor, and if it does it will be thanks to you. What an experience for you on just an average day, it sure helps to put yourself out there.

    • I get so much out of that place, it’s like a second home to me. It’s vast enough that even with its crazy location in the middle of urban chaos, it almost feels like humanity’s imprint disappears for a while. It’s hard not to feel protective of and responsible for the creatures that rely on the habitat it provides.

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