Red-shouldered Hawk Nestling Kept on Leash

May 20, 2022

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is located and part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. We are open 365 days a year from 8am-8pm. Please call 239-262-2273 for any wildlife assistance. Our address is 1495 Smith Preserve Way in Naples, FL.

A red-shouldered hawk was among the 126 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include two burrowing owls, an ovenbird, a northern mockingbird, a Brazilian free-tailed bat and a Florida softshell turtle.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for assistance with a red-shouldered hawk in Immokalee. A woman had contacted FWC, but there was a language barrier. FWC reached out to staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital to see if we had any Spanish speaking staff members who could speak with the woman. 

A conversation with the woman, including texted photos, revealed the woman had found a red-shouldered hawk nestling.

The photos sent to hospital staff showed the hawk had a leash attached to its leg to keep control of it in the house.

The woman mentioned she had fed the hawk several ounces of raw chicken in an attempt to care for the bird herself.

Hospital staff relayed that information to FWC who then dispatched an officer to retrieve the hawk.

A photo texted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital shows a young red-shouldered hawk with a leash attached to its leg.

When the hawk arrived late in the evening, it was dull, had a slight increased respiratory effort, its mouth had a foul odor and the bird showed signs of discomfort when resting.

Hospital staff administered pain medications and placed the young bird on supplemental oxygen in a warmed animal intensive care unit to rest for the night.

The Following Morning

Staff checked the hawk the following morning and the hawk had regurgitated all of the chicken it had been fed, standing, vocal and its mouth no longer had the foul odor.

Staff provided Chinese herbs, a vitamin supplement, oral fluids and a mouse for the hawk to eat ad lib. Staff closely monitored the hawk throughout the day.

A recheck by our vet indicted a slight weakness in the hawk’s right leg; additional Chinese herbs, a probiotic and an antibiotic were added to the existing treatment plan. Each day the hawk’s behavior and condition improved.

By day seven at the hospital, the hawk was cleared to move to an outdoor flight recovery enclosure.

Never Attempt to Keep a Wild Animal

Attempting to keep any wild animal as a pet is never acceptable. The hawk’s health could have deteriorated further and the bird would have continued to suffer if the woman hadn’t finally grown tired of trying to keep it in her home. 

Please, if you find an orphaned animal, call the wildlife hospital before taking action (239-262-2273)– hospital staff can provide information that will ensure your safety and the safety of the animal.

It is illegal to possess injured, sick or orphaned wildlife without appropriate state and federal permits. These laws are in place to ensure wild animals receive care from professionals who understand their specific nutritional, medical and husbandry requirements. 

Luckily, in this case, we are happy to see that the hawk is recovering successfully and we are hopeful for its release back into the wild.

Recent Releases

A common grackle, two eastern screech owls, four blue jays, a common ground dove, three eastern cottontails, eight Virginia opossums, two mourning doves, three northern mockingbirds, a marsh rabbit a grey squirrel and a loggerhead shrike were released this past week.

Annual Wildlife Baby Shower

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is hosting our 7th annual Wildlife Baby Shower to raise awareness and support for the hospital’s youngest, most delicate patients, including this hawk. The virtual Wildlife Hospital Baby Shower is Saturday, June 4. Donate gifts online through the Conservancy’s Amazon Wish List from now until June 4th.

You can also donate to our Facebook Fundraiser or donate directly online.

Opportunities to Help

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

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