Birders flocked to the Monte Bella Park on Monday to witness the release of two broad-winged hawks. The birds’ release was the result of a joint effort between the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri, and the Gladys Porter Zoo.
Dr. Thomas deMaar, the zoo’s head veterinarian, said the birds were recovered in St. Louis after both suffered broken shoulders in August and were unable to fly. “By simply bandaging the wing against the body the bones were able to heal several weeks ago,” deMaar said. According to deMaar, shoulder fractures are a common injury among birds when part of their wing strikes on object such as a power line.
After their injuries healed, deMaar said the birds underwent several weeks of rehabilitation at the WBS to practice flying and hunting live game. Although the birds are “young of the year,” meaning they had hatched this season, deMaar said that they had already amassed adult feathers. The birds let skittish chirps from their short curved beaks as their amber eyes widened when deMaar reached for them. DeMaar grasped them firmly by their feet to release them one by one at the park.
The first bird flew high into the air before settling into a grove of trees. The second bird flew low to the ground then seemed to gather his bearings on a nearby mesquite tree. The WBS contacted the zoo to release the birds because the hawks’ migratory path had passed. DeMarr said that the since the hawks’ recovery was too late to join the migration through Missouri, the best option was to release them in South Texas so they could continue their journey south. According the zoo, broad-winged hawks typically migrate to South America and Northern Mexico during the winter months.
Birder and photographer Gwyn Carmean said she had seen the hawks fly through Brownsville about a month ago. Cynthia Galvan, the zoo’s marketing director, said the zoo spends about $30,000 annually for rehabilitation of wildlife brought to the zoo. But deMaar said that most of the time when encountering wild birds, the best course of action is to leave it where it’s found. With the wind at their backs, deMaar said the hawks had made a full recovery and should make their way south soon.