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Sparky — SOS wonder bird

On September 2, 2011 a Red Shouldered Hawk was brought to the hospital at Save Our Seabirds (SOS) after being severely singed by a methane gas burner.  The burners emit flames to periodically burn off the gas at the local landfill.  Upon arrival, the staff assessed the bird and found it to be a young male (approximately 1 year-old) with severe burns to his beak and feet along feathers that were completely burnt off to the melted shafts.

This threat to birds is not a new phenomenon, but rehabilitators have recently become more cognizant of the issue as casualties come into centers such as SOS.

Raptors are burned when they land on or fly over burners installed that flare off methane gas that accumulates inside sanitary landfills.  Currently, there are no national statistics available to estimate the number of birds killed. Injury takes place at landfills because the sites serve as excellent hunting grounds for birds of prey.  Solid waste at landfills includes food items and attracts rodents.  Furthermore, birds of prey may use the rising hot air from trash decomposition to help them soar.

By October of 2011 the young male hawk was consistently showing signs of recovery.  The burnt portion of his beak began pealing away revealing new tissue (The outer surface of the beak consists a thin horny sheath of keratin called the rhamphotheca) and the burnt leg skin also began pealing away. The severely burnt feather shafts had been pushed out by new shafts which appeared to be growing normally.

The hospital staff nicknamed him “Sparky” and became hopeful he would eventually make a full recovery and return to the wild.  Sparky remained in the hospital until the beginning of November to assure that he was eating properly and his wounds stayed clean.

Between November, 2011 and  August 30, 2012, Sparky was put with another adult red shouldered hawk to give her a little encouragement and competition to eat live prey to be up on her hunting skills for her eventual release. She, along with all the other wild birds at theCenter, weathered hurricane Isaac with no more than a prolonged shower. Feathers looking great she is ready for release. She was released on Sept. 5 in a volunteer’s back yard that backs up to a wildlife preserve. Sparky went from a 5-6 month-old to a mature well-built adult female red shouldered hawk. She is feisty, alert and aggressive.

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