A young red-tailed hawk, unable to fly, was found in Christiansted on St. Croix in August by two construction workers. This was a stroke of luck for the young bird.
Toni Lance, who is licensed for bird rehabilitation with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said, “All these rescues are usually a team effort. There were two fellows here from Santo Domingo who were working on the waterfront down by King Christian. They had found the hawk with the broken wing down by the Red Brick gut near the seaplane. They took it to work with them. They fed the broken-winged hawk for four or five days. Then Michelle Pugh of the Dive Experience saw the hawk sitting there in the construction site. The guys didn’t know what to do so Michelle called me,” said Lance.
“If it wasn’t for the two nice fellows who took good care of the hawk and then Michelle who also was concerned, and then I took the hawk and rehabilitated it, then it wouldn’t have made it. So, again, it’s not just me,” she said.
“I’ve been doing bird rehabilitation for 43 years, that’s how long I’ve lived here. I’m licensed with Department of Natural Resources for about the last 25 years,” added Lance.
She named the young bird Adonis and began his rehab at the St. Croix Avian Sanctuary.
“What makes this story so nice is that this is a native bird, he’s young, when a red-tail hawk gets injured it is hard to be able to get food,” she said.
“When you get a hawk with a broken wing, most times they have to be put down. He was only about a year old when I got him. When I brought him home and saw that he had a very mild break way down in his metacarpals, the wing would have to be wrapped for six weeks which means the muscles would atrophy. And he would need to sit quietly. He did not want to sit quiet in a cage, so I tied him out on a perch during the day,” said Lance.
“Once the wing was unwrapped, he was quickly able to open it. Then the feathers all dropped out. When there’s a trauma to the wing they often drop their feathers, that’s 10 feathers. The next tricky thing is that hopefully he will grow new ones. Fortunately, all the feathers have grown in. That is a lot to lose,” she said.
After months of careful rehabilitation and care, Adonis was released in February, six months after he was found, and flew into a nearby tree. Shortly after, he flew east.
“I am likely never to see him again and yet, because he is young, he might stay close and come back for food. I’ve released many like this. Always the same heart-wrenching for me,” said Lance.
She runs the St. Croix Avian Sanctuary on the south shore in a secluded area. In the years since it was started in the 1980s, more than 700 birds have been rehabilitated following injuries. In addition to red-tailed hawks, she has worked with falcons, pelicans, kestrels, cattle egrets, ospreys and many others. The sanctuary is a non-profit 501C3. Lance may be contacted at 340-332-6034.
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