Monday, February 20, 2012

How NOT to properly hold a hawk

And this person calls themself a rehabber with SIX years experience...

Cradling the bird as shown makes for a nice, warm and fuzzy photo op, but it's a good way to ruin your day and it sends out the wrong message. This photo was picked up from a social internet site and I blurred the face so the moron can't be identified.

The legs are twice as long as you think because they are hinged like our arms, so the reach is surprisingly long.

The feet are the business end with the toes being strong enough to bury the talons up to the hilt on whatever flesh they happen to be standing on, essentially having the capability of penetrating through your forearm if the feet are positioned just right. (where the main nerves and arteries run). Or if the person who is restraining them while you are working on them happens to lose their grip, under your eye socket and through the cheek bone is another dangerous position to find yourself in. The latter happened to a vet when the inexperienced tech lost her grip.

Since your eyes are forward facing like theirs, they see you as a threat, so when you lean over to help them, they will usually attempt to defend themselves by grabbing you with their feet. By far the safest method is to poke some holes in a cardboard box, upend the box over the bird, slide something underneath and after gently turning it right side up, duct tape the top down securely. A loose raptor in a closed vehicle is an interesting experience and one that you aren't likely to forget. It happened to me once and it lends new meaning to the phrase "the rapture". :)

Fireplace or welding gloves are good, but get ready for an intimidating experience of the bird lock down on you with their feet, sometimes bruising you through the glove, and then you have a hard time extracting the glove from them after you've gotten them in a box or your basic airline kennel. Ratcheting down or "Binding" (proper term) of the feet is an evolutionary adaptation to help prevent the prey from escaping, but it really sucks when it happens to you. Pull down and away, down and away, as soon as you think they might have hold of you, because once they have 'bound' to you, they can't open their own feet for a few minutes. This is how Osprey get into trouble and drown if they catch a fish that is too heavy for them to carry out of the water.

You can throw a blanket over them, but then you don't know where the feet are, so it's a crap shoot.

When you 'bare-hand' them, you need to first get control of the feet...approaching from the back, place the index finger between the birds legs, high up on the legs as close to the body as possible, wrapping your thumb and middle finger around the front, enclosing both legs and DON'T LET GO. Folding in the wings, you can then place them either on their side or their belly in the box, (or slide them into the airline kennel), then pull you have back quickly before they have time to lash out.

If you're using a plastic airline kennel, cover it with a sheet as to cut out visual stimulus, which will keep them calm.

NEVER put them in a wire cage because they can ruin their feet and cere (the fleshy part that seperates the beak from the face) and they can break off primaries and tail feathers.

NEVER offer them food because if they are down because they are starving, solid food will KILL them because their gut has shut down and won't be able to produce the proper enzymes to begin the digestion process. Their systems have to be jump started by administering sub-q fluids and tube feeding a high protein gruel.

Q - What's red and white and goes a thousand miles an hour?

A - Mice in a blender! (Margarita Night came to an abrupt halt once my friends discovered what the blender was used for besides frosty adult beverages!)

If it's possible to do it safely, you can offer them some water with a syringe/straw/pipette. Get thee to a computer terminal and start looking for a licensed (QUALIFIED) rehabber so the diagnosing/treatment can begin.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you can spare some "Mouse Money", please go over to and click on the 'donate' button, or you can snail mail us a contribution to:

Monteen McCord
P.O. Box 130
Holly Springs, GA 30142


At August 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM , Anonymous Thistle Ridge Farm said...

Thank you for posting this information, and yes, I realize it is several months old. As you recall, we had the male Great Horned Owl injured on our farm. I picked my husband up his pair of leather work gloves (better than bare-handed, right?) A word to the wise...while leather work gloves, welding gloves, and BBQ gloves are better than nothing, talons can pierce the leather.

At August 24, 2012 at 11:23 AM , Blogger Monteen said...

Absolutely, they can pierce certain leathers and even find the seam in a welders glove (it's happened to me before)


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