A car-hawk collision, rehabilitation, and release

These remarkable photos document the story of a red-tailed hawk
that survived a car collision in San Diego early this year.

The immature redtail struck a car going 70 miles per hour down a
highway in January, and the impact caused the hawk’s body to become
lodged in the thin space between the visor and glass windshield.
Incredibly, the hawk was still alive and staring at the driver, Dan
Cassidy, who called 911.

“I think the wind visor on my Forerunner saved its
life,” Cassidy said. “It looked like he was swooping on some prey
when I hit him. He smacked it sideways and got wedged in the space
between the windshield and visor. If that had not stopped him, he
would have gone over my car and been run over by the traffic behind

The 911 dispatcher immediately forwarded Cassidy to Project Wildlife in San Diego
where April Valentin, manager, took the call. The collision
happened 15 minutes away from her office, and she asked Cassidy to
come straight to their clinic to see if staff could remove the
hawk. She and volunteers watched for the vehicle and there was no
mistake when Cassidy pulled up with a bird (and its 49-inch
wingspan) sprawled over his glass.

“I thought for sure the bird was going to be mangled,” Valentin
said. “It looked like the hawk was in such an awkward position. I
thought he would have a broken wing or broken legs; that’s what we
usually see with birds and cars.”

Valentin and a volunteer gingerly slid the hawk towards the
center of the windshield and carefully wiggled it out of the narrow
space. He was given a quick exam and everyone was surprised to find
that the young redtail had no major injury. They gave the hawk
fluids for shock and a dose of pain medication.

After a few days, the hawk showed signs of corneal abrasions and
received some eye drops. A hawk’s keen eyesight is essential for it
to hunt. The bird was admitted in January and six weeks later, the
bird was cleared for March release.”

“We are a nonprofit and it’s hard to make ends meet on
donations, but we love wildlife and what we do,” Valentin said.
“Stories like this make it worthwhile for us.”

Project Wildlife was established in 1972 and performs 12 percent
of all animal rehabilitation in California. Staff and volunteers
treat over 10,000 patients a year from more than 320 species.

    – Sharon Stiteler

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