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(Buteo swainsoni). Patient Number 23-1424.
Date of admission: Aug 19, 2023.
Reason for admission: Left femur fracture.
Did you know that a Swainson’s hawk will travel up to 20,000 kilometers on its migratory journey to and from Argentina? These hawks are very gregarious and will migrate in kettles (flocks) numbering into the thousands!
These hawks are a common ‘buteo’ in the prairie region, meaning they have broad wings and a relatively short tail. Their colouring can be quite varied but usually, they are light-bellied with a dark or reddish-brown chest and brown or grey upper parts. Their wings are lined with white - a stark contrast to the blackish flight feathers. Most males have grey heads and females tend to generally have brown heads. The Swainson's hawks shown above are juveniles. This means that they have brownish plumage with streaks and markings that help them blend into their surroundings. Swainsons are born with a different plumage coloration than their adult counterparts. This juvenile plumage is seen during their first year of life.
Swainson’s hawks hunt from the air and sometimes from a perch. Their diet during the breeding season includes mice, voles, small birds, jackrabbits, and ground squirrels – with snakes thrown in the mix, too. They will even chase insects on the ground – insects make up the majority of their diet outside the breeding season – grasshoppers being a favorite food of choice. They also like dragonflies.
This Swainson's Hawk was discovered in the middle of Highway 566, outside of Calgary, AB. Upon intake, they exhibited abnormal flexion and extension of both legs, with crepitus (a crackling or popping sound) felt in the left hip joint, accompanied by bruising. Radiographs confirmed a distal left femur fracture. Surgery was performed to address the femoral fracture, and during the procedure, two cross pins were placed. Post-surgery, this Swainson’s hawk has shown remarkable improvement and is now weight-bearing on both legs, as well as good leg extension. Flight testing is planned for rehabilitation, with ongoing monitoring for a potential release when fully recovered.
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