Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

The Curious Hawk

September 10th, 2014

The Curious Hawk

This week, I observed a new behavior in Cedar.  It seems that she becomes very curious while on the perch when I first approach her after she’s been sitting out there for a few hours. After a little research, I couldn’t find a proper name for this behavior (or a purpose, for that matter) but some like to refer to it as ‘bibbing‘.  Cedar shows me her ‘bib’ of her chin in an effort to see me or gain some perspective.



Training a Hawk to use her water dish

May 25th, 2013

Summer ‘Training’ for Red-Tails

Training a Red-Tailed hawk has many methods and ways of achieving conditioning for your hawk. There are creance flights and jump-ups to build endurance. Most of these exercises are used in combination of weight management during the fall, in order to get ready for the hunting season. But what about the Summer? Typically, Red-Tails are fed up to be “fat and happy” so that they have enough energy to moult and grow new feathers. You don’t stress out your red-tail during the summer in fear of creating shock-marks in the feathers. A good steady diet of quail, rabbit, and mice will grow out your red-tail’s feathers nice and strong during the summer months. Conditioning exercises will just have to be repeated in the fall, so what else can you do during the summer?

I spend a lot of time watching my bird in the summer. It’s a time when I can learn a lot from their behavior and body language. Set the bird out in the weathering area on a perch with a water pan and let your raptor enjoy the summer shade and gentle breezes. After watching my hawk for some time, I noticed that she wasn’t using her water dish. Not even for drinks. Most of the time, I provide water via a squirt bottle, or on hot days, I’ll mist her down, give her a good gentle soaking, and let her dry out. This works pretty well, and is probably more of a bath than the bird really wants, but definitely needs regularly. So how can you get a hawk to WANT to take a bath?


I cleaned out the dish and filled it with water, set it next to the perch, and then emptied out a small bag of goldfish from Meijers. Feeder goldfish are typically cheap, about 19¢ each. A few minutes later my hawk noticed the little tid-bits in the dish and started to investigate. Load of fun to watch and my hawk learned to use her water dish. I’ve kept the fish alive for a few more days with a change of water each day, and the mews is now regularly wet from Cedar playing with her new pet goldfish in the water pan.

** As an afterthought, there was one other behavior that was observed during these bath-pan training exercises. Raptors typically mate in the spring, and with Cedar being outside on a perch and visible to the sky, any other Red-Tails would and do notice her perching.  When a young male suitor Red-Tail came closer in to investigate, Cedar began making a strange noise  / call that I’ve never heard from a Red-Tailed hawk before.  The call sounded like “Rrrrrrr….. Rrrrrrr… Rrrrrrr…”.  So, now I know what the “Buteo Booty-Call” sounds like.  🙂

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More Raptor Talon Care

February 18th, 2013

More Raptor Talon Care

The maintenance and care for your raptors feet and talons is a primary area of focus for maintaining a healthy raptor.   Regularly checking on the condition of talons and feet is an important part of my daily routine so when some odd-looking lesions appeared on Cedar’s feet last week, I immediately started to focus my attention on treatment.  These sores appeared (pictures below) approximately two-weeks after a hunting expedition that nearly ended in tragedy with Cedar alighting upon some high-tension wires. Luckily, she did not completely land on the wires, but found them uncomfortable and she decided against landing there. In attempting to land, however, her feet came into contact with the wires. I inspected Cedar after the hunt, but was unable to notice anything at that time.  A few weeks later, I noticed some sores on her feet that appeared to be similar to bumblefoot, but were not seeping, weeping, or causing any apparent discomfort to Cedar.  I am currently in the process of healing up these sores with regular feet soaking in a mild solution of warm water and betadine.  Additional treatment with Silvadine should clear these up in a few weeks.  Healing foot injuries takes a great amount of time for raptors as there is decreased circulation in raptor feet.

My personal feeling about hunting near electrical towers and wires is quite simply “no way”.  The risk to injury to the bird is too great to take a chance and no matter how well your bird is trained, you can never completely control them when they are off the leash hunting on their own.  On this occasion, I had forgotten about the electrical lines in this particular area and was blinded by the plentiful abundance of rabbits in the underbrush.   Subsequent hunts at this *particular* location have been quite fruitful, however I still arrange hunting differently when coming near the wires.


Left Foot


Right Foot

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Left Turn on the Falconry Journey

January 4th, 2012

Left Turn on the Falconry Journey


Sable's Hawk Feet


Sometimes the journey takes an turn when you least expect it.  While this sideline delay isn’t completely unexpected, it is most certainly unwelcome as it takes away from the Hunting Season and all the Hunting activities.  Being sidelined for hunting injuries is bound to happen, it’s just a matter of time and luck. Sable is now laid up for about three-four weeks as we intensely care for her feet which are marred up by an encounter with an angry squirrel and an opossum.  Each time out hunting has it’s own potential for hazards and the holiday break gave us extra hunting opportunities which in turn gave extra opportunities for danger.  While late December isn’t exactly ‘the-middle-of-winter’, it is supposed to be a time when the weather is cold and the hibernating animals are, well, hibernating.  Opossums normally hibernate and are tucked away in a den or a tree-trunk somewhere sleeping away the cold winter days.  In this case, Christmas Day wasn’t exactly a cold winter day and the weather for the previous couple of weeks hadn’t been solidly cold.  In any event, an unlucky young opossum met it’s fate when it wandered off into the sticks in search of a meal and Sable was perched high in a tree overlooking those sticks.  We’ll be caring for these feet for a few weeks while we let them heal up.


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Raptor Health Evaluation

October 3rd, 2011

Raptor Health Evaluation

*First, the Disclaimer:  This article is not a substitute for experienced medical advice in avian Biology, it is more of a qualified opinion based on biological study, common sense, research conducted through reading, personal experience, interviews with veterinarians, and by talking through raptor health situations with other experienced falconers. If you require medical care or treatment for your raptor, please consult this list of qualified avian veterinarians in the State of Michigan or google to find one near you.

Fecal Evaluation

After careful examination of your raptor immediately after trapping, you will have only a little insight into the bird’s overall health picture.  Physical examination of the feet, keel, and feathers will give you only half the picture of the health conditions of your freshly trapped raptor.  After you decide to keep your raptor, it is a good idea to get a fecal examination performed by your local veterinary clinic soon after capture.  They will look for microorganisms that are present and identify them as good / bad  and which ones require treatment.  Most raptors will pick up a normal flora / fauna from being in the wild and eating the little critters that carry around these microorganisms in small quantities. When transferred to another host, the little nasties can possibly cause havoc with the raptor’s system.  Fortunately there are some veterinary meds that will take care of them quickly.

In order to collect a fresh fecal sample, it’s easy to place some tin-foil or wax paper in the bottom of the giant hood for a day or two to catch the mutes before taking them to the vet.  Fold up the paper in plastic bag, label it and seal it.  Dried out mutes are difficult to get good readings from so make sure your sample hasn’t dried out.  If your bird is in the mews, identify a common ‘target’ area on the floor and tape your tin-foil / wax paper to the floor of the mews (if you can do such  thing).  If the substrate of your mews is sand, gravel, or other earthly composition, you may consider the giant hood in order to collect your sample.

Common Parasites:

  • Alaria (flatworms)
  • Candidiasis
  • Capillaria
  • Coccidocsis
  • Frounce or ‘Avian Trichomoniasis’
  • Mallophaga (chewing lice)
  • Ascaria (round worms)
  • Tapeworms

Health / Risk Assessment

Upon proper identification of a pathogenic microorganism, it’s important to assess the impact to your bird.  Observation of key symptoms in your raptor like diarrhea, weight loss, odd behavior, mute discoloration, or glossed over eyes.  You may not be able to identify ‘behavior’ issues in your newly trapped raptor if you are unfamiliar with it’s normal habits.  These are the first things you should look to when assessing health and condition of your raptor that could indicate a health issue.


The treatment for the specific type of microorganism will be prescribed by your veterinary doctor.  It’s important to make note of the correct dosage.  Dosage for avian subjects can be quite specialized depending upon the treatment.  Not only are birds usually smaller that your common mammalian visitors to the Vet clinic (dogs, cats, bunnies, etc.) the tolerances of avian systems (respiratory, gastronomic, etc.) are much different as well. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions very carefully and exactly as prescribed.

Bottom Line

Most falconers I know personally take special care of their raptors.  It’s like being a champion race-horse owner; many will spare no expense when it comes to caring and maintaining the health of your raptor. Regular maintenance and care are essential for a happy, healthy raptor in your mews.  Fecal exams should be performed twice a year; once at the beginning of the Hunting season, and one at the end of the Hunting season.  This way, you assess any parasites when you capture your hawk from the wild and deal with treatment before it causes health issues.  A second check at the end of the season ensures that the bird did not contract anything from eating game it caught during the season.  Opinions on treatment for your raptor depend on health conditions, severity of infection, and personal experience and preference.  I’d prefer to be on the safe side of health issues when it pertains to my hunting partners.

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