Recovery for injured hawk, popular at Hopkins, slower than expected

Bird that smashed into JHU window in Nov. still grounded

April 10, 2011|By Scott Calvert, The Baltimore Sun

By now the injured red-tailed hawk should have returned to the skies over the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus — an airborne testament to good fortune and the determined care of an area wildlife center.

But there has been a setback for the popular hawk, which smashed into a window at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library five months ago.

"It has a soft-tissue injury, and it hasn't healed yet," said Kathy Woods, who has been tending to the bird at her Phoenix Wildlife Center in a wooded area of Baltimore County. "It's not strong enough to fly yet."

Unlike most birds, the female hawk and her mate enjoy some renown at Hopkins. Sightings have been so common in recent years that the hawks attained a "celebrity status on the Homewood campus," according to The Gazette, the university's newspaper.

The good news, Woods says, is that a second X-ray has confirmed an initial assessment that the bird did not break any bones. Woods remains confident that the bird will fly again.

"Yes, yes," she said. "It's just taking a little longer than we'd hoped."

Kathy Roush, who works at the library, is among the admirers. She used to especially enjoy catching a glimpse of the female hawk prowling high above the sculpture garden in search of a meal.

Roush has been calling Woods every couple of weeks to check on the rehab. She has also been sending regular checks to pay for the hawk's daily diet of six frozen mice (40 cents apiece).

By all accounts, the hawk was lucky to survive the collision with the library window on Nov. 16. The impact shattered the quarter-inch-thick plate glass, sending the roughly 4-pound bird plummeting some 25 feet to the ground.

Woods thinks she may have pulled up at the last nanosecond, sparing her head and neck the full brunt of the impact. Hopkins plans to install reflective decals soon to help birds avoid collisions, a spokeswoman said.

Tom Wheatley, supervisor of the campus carpentry shop, heard about the incident in a call from the dispatcher at the university's plant operations. A bird lover, he personally drove the injured hawk out to the Phoenix center and handed her off to Woods.

For a month, the bird stayed in a cage the size of a cat carrier to minimize movement, before moving into a larger cage. By late January she was about to graduate to a third and final rehab home: a 100-foot-long outdoor flight cage where she could rebuild muscles and better stretch her wings.

Despite the bird's droopy right wing, Woods was optimistic in late January that the hawk could return to North Baltimore by around late February. The hope was she'd link up with her mate in time for mating season.

But that was before the extent of the soft-tissue damage was fully apparent. Now that spring has arrived, the hawk still isn't flying.

"It's unfortunate, but rehab's like that," Woods said. "Some things get better right away; some things take forever."

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