Horatio — one of the Conservancy’s feathered wildlife ambassadors

June 30, 2021

Over the past few years, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been redesigning and rebuilding its wildlife rehabilitation area, a part of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital facilities. Behind the main hospital, new flight and recovery cages for birds of prey have been built as well as a new, modern aviary and a shallow pool built for wading and shore birds.

A few birds are permanent residents and serve as wildlife ambassadors. They came to the Conservancy badly hurt, wings or eyes damaged, and cannot be released into the wild. Other than the impairment from their original injuries, they are healthy now.

One wildlife ambassador is a red-tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis, named Horatio. Red-tails are among the most common hawks in North America, often seen in trees along roadsides. He has a reddish tail that contrasts with his overall brown plumage, and sports large, razor-sharp talons. Horatio, incidentally, may not be a male — birds that do not exhibit sexual dimorphism (males and females having differing plumage and colors) can only be told apart by an internal exam or blood test.

He came to the Conservancy in 2004 with a broken wing, after a fall from his nest. Horatio is large, and looks bulky, but he weighs only 2.5 lbs. Birds’ bones are hollow, keeping their weight down to permit flight. Horatio’s right humerus (wing bone) was broken from his fall, and while it mended, he is unable to fly well enough to be released into the wild. While red-tails can live 12–15 years in the wild, in human care they can live as long as 25–30 years.