During the second week of December, a Pennsylvania Game Commission Conservation Officer had recovered a large raptor in a field near Milford, PA. This bird was sitting on the ground and unable to fly. The officer turned the bird over the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (DVRC), where it was evaluated by Bill Streeter, co-director of the center.
This raptor turned out to be the northern goshawk, the largest accipiter in North America. Goshawks are tenacious, aggressive hawks that prefer mature forest; they will chase prey down by weaving through trees at full speed, and if you get too close to a goshawk nest in the spring, they will attack. Our region is near the southern limit of their breeding range.
This goshawk, a three-year-old female, was found to have suffered a major concussion, with some blood visible in one eye. In addition, the hapless hawk was found to be infested with hippoboscid flies, blood sucking ectoparasites that use raptors and other birds as hosts; as she did not suffer any additional stress during her recovery, she was dusted for these pests. On a positive note, no fractures or major bruising was found.
The following day, she was still on the ground, but she was eating. Six days after the goshawk was taken in, she was observed perching normally and flying around her six-by-six-foot enclosure. A week later, she was transferred to a large flight enclosure. By this time, the blood that was in the injured eye was resorbed and she had no vision impairment; if she fully recovered her flight ability, then she could be released.
On a cloudy January 2, she was taken up to the field where she was found and released by Streeter. She went for the tree line to the familiar forest she knows and perched 25 yards deep. A minute later, she flew off her perch with purpose and went deeper into the trees till she disappeared.