Peregrine falcon found in grill of car

November 23, 2022

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is located and part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance.

A peregrine falcon and a double-crested cormorant were among the fifty-eight animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest this past week. Other admissions include a common barn owl, a barred owl, a northern cardinal, a great egret, a great blue heron, an evening bat and a Florida red-bellied turtle.

Peregrine Falcon

A man called the von Arx Hospital in need of assistance after traveling from Mississippi. The man hit a bird in northern Florida, didn’t think anything of it and kept driving.

The man took his car to a repair shop after arriving in Immokalee and found out that the bird he had hit approximately ten hours earlier was a peregrine falcon. The falcon was still alive and stuck in the grill of his car. 

The man was unable to transport the injured bird to our facility because his car was at the repair shop. Conservancy staff contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission who had an officer in the Immokalee area who was able to transport the falcon to our facility. 

Peregrine falcon in hospital care

A physical exam revealed the falcon had sustained extensive trauma when hit and suffered spinal damage that left the bird paralyzed. The only treatment option was humane euthanasia.

It is common for birds to be struck by vehicles, become struck in the grill yet survive the impact. Please if you strike a bird or any animal, pull over and assess the situation. If the animal is alive, seek help immediately; hospital staff has extensive experience dealing with difficult rescue situations. 

Joanna Fitzgerald, Director of Von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Double-Crested Cormorant

The double-crested cormorant was admitted after being rescued from the Jolley Bridge.

Brittany Piersma, Field Biologist for Audubon of the Western Everglades, was able to pull over and contain the bird without incident. The cormorant was suffering from toxicosis (condition associated with poisoning) due to red tide.

Two other cormorants were admitted last week exhibiting similar symptoms – the birds were disoriented, stumbling and struggling to keep their balance – almost as if they were drunk. When admitted, physical exams showed the birds were slightly dehydrated and underweight.

Treatment for toxicosis involves administering electrolytes as well as vitamins and Chinese herbal supplements that support liver function. Typically, once rehydrated, cormorants will eagerly begin eating solid fish when offered. Staff must limit the amount of fish offered initially until it is determined the bird is able to fully process solid food.

Cormorants are often seen struggling on the beach, but the toxic effects of red tide can cause birds to fall ill at any time meaning they can be found in need of help far away from any beach. Cormorants disorientated by neurotoxins have been known to wander into roads and be struck by cars, have been found stumbling on golf courses and have been rescued from the parking lot at Coastland Mall. If you see a bird in distress, please take the time to offer assistance.

Along with double-crested cormorants, gulls are also common victims of the toxic effects of red tide. 

Rescue techniques are similar no matter the species you are dealing with – wear eye protection (sunglasses, reading glasses) to keep yourself safe. Use a towel or t-shirt to cover the bird’s head and body. Once the bird’s head is covered, it is easier to handle because the bird can’t see what is going on and the darkness helps keep the bird calm. Place the bird in a secure, yet ventilated container and transport it to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for assistance.

Carrying a towel with you when you walk the beach and keeping a box in your car will ensure you are prepared in the event that you encounter an animal in need of assistance. If you need further advice, call the wildlife hospital for detailed information and rescue instructions. We do not have a large staff at the hospital, so we rely heavily on help from the public and volunteers to rescue and transport animals in need of care.

Recent Releases

An evening bat, a Swainson’s thrush, a peninsula cooter, a marsh rabbit, a Florida red-bellied turtle, five grey squirrels, four red-shouldered hawks, a great blue heron, three eastern cottontails and a Florida softshell turtle were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239-262-2273 or see