Good Monday morning everyone! We admitted a new patient over the weekend; a Rough-legged Hawk. This is the first Rough-legged Hawk we have had in our clinic this season. "Roughies," as we and fellow bird lovers refer to them, are magnificent birds of the north. They spend summers, along with Snowy Owls, in the Arctic rearing their young. We are lucky in the United States because these majestic birds will spend the winter here. Unlike Snowies, Roughies can be seen in Wisconsin every winter, not just when food sources become low up north.
Photo above: This Rough-legged Hawk was found west of Medford, WI unable to fly. He has an injury in his left wing which has been taped to allow it to heal. Thank you to the volunteer who made the 2 hour trip to get him here safely.
For an inexperienced bird watcher, a Roughie can be mistaken for a more common type of hawk around here; Red-tailed Hawks. There are a couple of characteristics which can help you tell which one you're looking at. Roughies have a dark patch of feathers at the "wrist" joint which can be seen from below when they are in flight. These hawks have a wide variety of color morphs which can range from very light with a lot of streaking, like the individual above, to dark, chocolaty brown overall. They frequently have a dark "bib" of feathers on their chest which may be more or less visible depending on the color morph of the individual. If you're very close, you may be able to get a look at their feet. Roughies have relatively small feet which are perfect for catching the small mammals they feed on as well as help to limit body heat lost through their skin. The characteristic from which they get their name are their "rough legs." They have feathers all the way down to their feet, much farther than most other hawks, which keep them warm gives them the appearance of having rough legs.
Our other patients are doing well and improving each day. We are very pleased with the progress we see in the Snowy Owl.
Photo above: The Snowy Owl continues to receive a liquid diet administered through a tube several times per day. The Trichomonas (trich) infection is improving and the caseous (cheesy) material in her throat is beginning to loosen. Licensed Rehabilitator, Katie Farvour, and Assistant Rehabilitator, Stacie Wild, are shown here tube-feeding the Snowy.
Photo above: Have you ever wondered why Snowy Owls look like they have big, wonderful walrus mustaches? The "mustache" is composed of stiff, bristly feathers which help to warm the air that they breathe; an important adaptation for arctic living. As they exhale, the feathers trap some of the warm moist air which then warms up the cooler air as they inhale. Those feathers also provide a barrier to dust and snow, keeping their nares (nostrils) free of debris.
I'd like to update you on the patients we've recently told you about. Sadly, the little Red-breasted Nuthatch passed away. We would like to thank the folks who brought him to us. He was given the best chance of survival through their quick action, but unfortunately his head injury was too much for him.
A bit of positive news... Bald Eagles #012 and #008 are well enough to begin regaining their flight muscles! They have been moved to our huge flight building where they can stretch their wings and fly. Yeah!
Thank you everyone!