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Patient Update: Swainson's Hawk

Updated: Jan 10

Swainson's Hawk

At the beginning of fall, many birds of prey can be seen near the outskirts of the City of Calgary when juveniles learn to fledge and fend for themselves. They can often be seen frequenting the green areas by busy roads in search of prey. Unfortunately, this means that these birds of prey are in danger of being hit by cars as they swoop down to catch a meal.

x-ray image broken bone

At the beginning of September 2023, a Swainson’s hawk was hunting prey near Stoney Trail and was hit by oncoming traffic. Luckily, someone witnessed the accident and the hawk was quickly rescued and received into the care of Calgary Wildlife. Upon intake, it was found that the Swainson’s Hawk had suffered a possible leg fracture from the trauma of the car hitting it. Staff splinted the leg and put in a request for radiographs. Our onsite veterinary technician performed these radiographs and sent them off to our attending veterinarian.

Unfortunately, not all fractures are reparable in wildlife and sometimes that means that the animal will no longer be able to survive in the wild. In this case, though, there was hope. Our veterinarian was able to perform surgery to place pins in the leg of the Swainson’s hawk to stabilize the fracture so that it could heal properly.

Swainson's Hawk surgery

After nearly a month of healing with the pins in place, the Swainson’s hawk underwent a second surgery to remove the pins. Shortly after the pin removal was complete, this hawk was able to be moved to one of the flight pens outdoors to acclimate for release.

Surgery patients like this Swainson’s hawk can end up spending more time in care and require more attention than some of our other patients due to the complexity of their injuries and the aftercare from surgery. They can be difficult cases to take on but our experienced team never shies away from a challenge and always provides expert, compassionate care to all species that come through our doors, no matter the species, no matter the size.

Birds of prey have large appetites and the species-appropriate food we provide isn't cheap. Please consider donating to the care of one of our raptor patients today.

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