Recently we had a Red-tailed Hawk come to us dehydrated, with a pronounced right wingdroop, and likely with a concussion. After doing wildlife medicine for awhile, there are some things you start to look for in certain types of cases. When we get a bird with the symptoms of a concussion or some other not easily visible injury preventing them from flying, it is very likely that they struck something while in flight. Often this can lead to easily treatable bruising and inflammation, although it does sometimes leave the bird with fractures or internal bleeding.
In order to get a better idea of what we were dealing with, the next step was to use more advanced diagnostic tools than a physical exam. First on the list was an X-ray, in order to search for a cause behind the wingdroop. The hawk’s X-rays all came back normal, with no signs of any broken bones or other issues. This couldn’t rule out a potential infection however, and so we still needed to draw blood and analyse it. This test, however, also came back normal, and so Dr. Adamski proscribed anti-inflammatory medicine for the concussion and likely inflammation of the wing, and had the wing wrapped to the hawk’s body in a tight bandage to prevent it from moving around too much.
After two weeks of treatment, his neurologic symptoms had subsided and his wingdroop was gone. As he showed no other signs of illness or injury and had been eating normally, we took him outside of the Center for a basic flight test. It is important when releasing birds to make sure that they are able to achieve both vertical and horizontal lift, meaning they can fly both horizontally and vertically in relation to the ground. When one of our interns released him from the towel he had been wrapped in, he shot off into the air and flew immediately to a perch on a nearby tree. Having thus proven his ability to gain altitude and sustain flight, we left him to fly off into the distance. Here is a video of his initial release and flight test.