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Connecting Continents: The Journey of Sabina, the Broad-winged Hawk

As a wildlife rescue center that specializes in birds of prey, we see a variety of raptor species come through our clinic doors, but that diversity always increases during migration.

Early September through mid-December brings more migratory species into our care, such as broad-winged hawks.

These secretive forest-dwelling hawks are rarely seen, except during their spectacular migration from their breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States to overwinter in southern Central America and South America. Most hawks are solitary, but during migration, broad-winged hawks gather by the thousands in flocks called “kettles.

Migrating birds encounter many risks on their long journey south, and the high amount of energy they expend leaves them vulnerable to dangers along the way. These dangers can include sudden severe weather changes, a lack of suitable food and stopover habitat, and negative encounters with humans. 

The latter is the case for a juvenile broad-winged hawk who was dropped off at our Release Site in early October. 

Sabina arrived in poor condition. Malnourished and unable to fly, he had a gaping hole in his right shoulder. The wound was old, and our staff was shocked by his ability to survive with such a devastating injury for so long.

Sabina likely hatched sometime between April and July of this year and was in the process of migrating when he found himself grounded in Costa Rica.

Somewhere along the way, likely not very far from where he was found in Sarapiquí, Costa Rica, Sabina was shot. X-rays confirmed a bullet from a pellet gun had ripped through his shoulder, shattering bone and tearing through muscle. After a quick procedure, the bullet was removed, and Sabina was stitched up, but his chances of ever flying again are slim.

Hawks have historically experienced great cruelty at the hands of humans. Shooting for sport, especially during peak migration times, has been a pastime of hunters across the Americas for hundreds of years, but this brutal practice serves no purpose other than to eradicate. Luckily, hawk shooting is now illegal in most countries along the flight path, but that doesn’t always prevent farmers and owners of small animals from taking their protective measures too far. 

Since surgery, Sabina has remained in stable condition. He has been active and maintained a healthy appetite throughout the entire healing process. His strength and composure have been inspiring, as most birds that go through such high-stress situations would likely not survive, but Sabina is a fighter. 

Seeing as Sabina cannot be rewilded, we are in the process of creating a suitable enclosure for him to live out his days here at TRR as an ambassador for his species. As much as we would like to see him back in the skies where he belongs, we will do everything we can to make the necessary accommodations to keep this special bird comfortable–he deserves it after all he has been through.

We are always up for the challenge of taking on new animals in need, but that often requires a lot of research and a trial period to see what works for each individual case. All of this requires funding. You can help us provide Sabina with the proper diet, enclosure, and enrichment by donating!

Help us give this bird the second chance at life he deserves!

About the writer: Laura Berry, from the United States, has joined the Marketing Team at Toucan Rescue Ranch as the Marketing and Communications Intern! She graduated from Millersville University with a Bachelor’s in Science Writing, and gained experience in wildlife nonprofits through a communications internship at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Through this internship, Laura hopes to learn more about fundraising, videography, and effective content creation for social media. 

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