Friday, February 22, 2013

Rescuing an injured sparrowhawk

On Wednesday evening, I got a call from my neighbour Michael. He'd picked up an injured sparrowhawk on the side of the road in Co. Carlow. It was dozy and ruffled and sitting in a box in the footwell of the front passenger seat of his van, and he wasn't sure what to do with it.

Having no clue myself, I rang Jimi Conroy - our local Conservation Ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service - for a bit of advice. "Don't bother trying to feed him," I was told. Apparently, there is little nutritional value in raw meat. "He needs some roadkill, with a bit of fur or feathers. Put him in a box overnight, and bring him to the vet in the morning first thing." 

Michael (above), being a forester, had to be on the other side of the country by dawn, so I was entrusted with care of the bird overnight and transporting him to the vet in the morning. When he arrived, we took him out of the box and he sat on Michael's finger for a while, before spreading his wings and doing a lap of the kitchen. He seemed exceptionally tame. We weren't sure if this was because he was used to humans and had maybe escaped from a falconer, or if he was just stunned, or maybe poisoned. There were no obvious injuries on his body other than two damaged tail feathers, which fell out, and no markings or rings on his legs.

Once we'd had a good look at "Pigeon" (his name, chosen by Michael's son Liam, aged 5) and taken a heap of photos (no flash of course), we settled him into his accommodation for the night (below).

The next morning, I took him to the vet, where we were met by Jimi Conroy (below). After a brief inspection, Jimi concluded that he was in reasonably good health (to determine this, he felt for the breast bone with his finger. Either side of it there was a good muscle mass, indicating health. If he was weak, it would have felt bony). Jimi then took him off to a local falconer to be rehabilitated and released.

Here I am with "Pigeon" :)

Unfortunately, it's not all good news; yesterday Jimi received the following text from the falconer: "He hasn't eaten and he's sleeping a lot of the time, his balance isn't great so I'd say it's a head injury, but he's a lot better than he was. I have a pigeon in the freezer, if I can get him to eat that he might be ok. He's actually a big male. A bit of luck is all he needs now."

It wasn't what I'd been expecting to hear. He'd seemed so healthy! But it seems appearances can be deceptive with birds - the poor thing was in such shock that he might not recover. At least now he's in the best hands possible. And whatever the case, he has a far better chance of survival than if Michael hadn't picked him up off the side of the road. I'll keep the blog updated with news of his recovery. In the meantime, please send your best good vibes to Pigeon the Sparrowhawk - he needs them!

UPDATE: 26th February 2013 - Pigeon the sparrowhawk has made a great recovery and is being released into the wild today. Thanks to Michael, Jimi and the falconer (whose name I don't know) for their part in this success story!

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