Saturday, July 05, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk Update: Hous Gets Help, Plus The Cathedral Lead Fledge

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Hous hides in the opening above the grate at the bottom of the pool


An update from long searching Jules Corkery--

Hi All,

Wanted to update you guys on Houston, the baby hawk at Astoria Park. Seems right to just name him Houston to honor his family history and the amazing story of a neighborhood that dared to bring this young family under its wing.

Well, to make a long story short, Houston was taken by Cathy Horvath to get medical attention for his definite case of frounce. Peter arrived at the pool at about 6:30 and saw that both babies were at the diving platform waiting for breakfast. I got there a little after 7. Houston was still very sick.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
All of a sudden he glided down to the bottom of the pool and stepped into the shallow drain. (There is just a little bit of rain water at the bottom of the pool.) The drain is a long rectangular recess about a foot deep that conceals the filter/water supply/drain system for the high diving pool. There are two or more pipes that are not capped - one from which he was drinking. He was practically invisible to us as he was perfectly camouflaged in the brown/rusty recess! If we had not been looking at the moment he glided off the diving platform, we might not have seen where he had gone!

This is possibly where he was hiding yesterday and why we couldn't find him! It also explains why is chest was covered in a "rusty" color - it must be from the rusty water and muck at the bottom of the drain. Poor little guy! It was a sad sight and epitomized how he must be suffering - sitting in a muddy gutter in the rain.

Francois arrived and Adam was on his way so we got in touch with the urban rangers. Cathy Horvath had the net, carrying case, and the baby in the van and was on the way. We hoped Houston would stay in the drain until the rescue was ready to be enacted. Cathy was stuck in traffic but was on the phone with Howard the supervisor for the Urban Rangers and encouraged them to go in and get him as soon as possible as she knew that he was very sick and that he could lose a lot of body heat.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Things got a little dicey when parks started to ask questions (which is their job of course!) but we all quickly realized that we all wanted the same thing - to get the bird some medical attention. The rangers and Vinnie Ceroni were able to get Houston into a carrying case very quickly and Cathy arrived shortly after that.

Good luck Cathy and Bobby! We know that Houston will be well taken care of and that he won't suffer unnecessarily.


Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Adam relayed the information that Trib stood on the ground less than five metres away from Houston when the latter was captured. The Triborough Nest fledgling is very lively, begs constantly, and jumps around a lot.
And Francois reported that both foster parents were in the pool area as well.

Cathy (Those look like Cathy's hands to me anyway.) opens Hous's beak and shows the frounce lesions in his mouth. Also note how gray the front half of his tongue is.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
Note that Houston is being held without gloves. I find that bare hands are better when it comes to sick birds, if safe for the caretaker, and if they aren't suffering from a zoonotic disease. Skin is warmer and more comforting even if, in this case, it is human skin. The caretaker also has far more manual dexterity when it comes to giving gentlest care possible.
Photograph by Francois Portmann
Poor Houston goes into the carrier for transport to rehab. This is a very very sick hawk. He is lying in much the same position that the Houston tiercel took when he was placed in the carrier--on his side and flattened.
Adam Welz who works with Fish Eagles for part of each year said about Houston's condition, "You could smell the canker from metres away... Cathy thinks he has a broken jaw (the protozoan can weaken bones, apparently). I would be very surprised if he made it."
Off Houston went with Cathy and baby Sadie for an IV to push fluids, food, and medication. And Houston 2 is there waiting, still holding his own.

Many thanks to Jules, Peter, Adam, Francois, Nabil, the Urban Rangers,
the Astoria Park Staff , the Horvaths, the construction workers who pointed the sick Hous out to Nabil, and those who sent prayers and positive wishes. Truly a thank you to everyone. It took a team.
The Cathedral bird is strong , eats well and at times stands on the bad foot "normally" but it is infrequent. We are also treating her as well for frounce to be on the safe side.

Several readers have asked if there is a vaccine or prophylactic that could be given to young birds so they wouldn't contract this disease.
Bobby and I talked about this. There is some trepidation about giving vaccines to young birds as there isn't an understanding as to whether it might impact their immune systems so it isn't normally recommended as a rule of thumb. But these rules of thumb are general.
Urban hawks and falcons who eat far far more pigeons than their country cousins also contract frounce far more often. It tends to kill eyasses, fledglings and young adults, therefore it would have to be given to young birds even though some are concerned about immune system impact. But an unknown possible immune system impact might well be preferable to frounce. Which truly is a dreadful way to die.
Bobby is thinking seriously of going ahead regardless of the rule of thumb and attempting to protect all young birds that come into his care who might consume pigeon.
I also asked Bobby why Lola and Pale Male had never shown signs of frounce though they have had eyasses die of it? The answer is that it is suspected that older birds get frounce more rarely because they have developed some immune system resistance to the protozoa.

And that is how it all currently stands to the best of my knowledge.
Donegal Browne


Eleanor, NYC said...

Wonderful report!

A huge thank you to all who have been involved in the rescue of Hous.

Sally said...

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to share with the rest of us! Though this is not the happiest story, at least Hous is now getting treatment and won't just suffer and starve, whatever the outcome. If frounce is a disease that tends to affect younger hawks, and the Houston tiercel was a pale-eyed, thus younger, adult, what about the female? Has anyone seen her? I can't recall if she is also a young adult.
I enjoy all of your pictures and amusing stories. Thanks again.

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Sally,

The last few days most of the watchers that I'm in contact with from the Lower East Side have been in Astoria Park looking for Houston so they haven't been spending many daylight hours in the Houston and Avenue D territory. The last word was she looked fine but I'll see what I can find out about her now. If it was only one pigeon that infected the rest of the family than she may well have been on a break from the nest when the infected bird was eaten and therefore didn't eat any At least that is what I am hoping.

I'll let you know what I find out.