Creature Feature: Misha the Red-tailed Hawk

March 13, 2008 | Marilyn Johnson

You may have seen a recent post about Birdapalooza, an event held here a few weeks ago. The day-long event included programs that discussed different species of birds, including raptors. Keeper Jill took the opportuntiy to do a program with our red-tailed hawk, Misha. Misha was born in the wild, but in November 1991 he was brought to the Carolina Raptor Center in Charlotte, N.C. with an eye injury.The staff there rehabilitated him and taught him to sit on a glove so he could be used for programs. The Raptor Center entrusted Misha to us in February 1993.

Misha was shot in his left eye with a beebee that left him blind on that side. Unfortunately, this meant he was not releasable into the wild after rehabilitation at the center. Raptors rely heavily on their keen binocular vision and depth perception to catch their food. Being blind in one eye meant that he no longer had these advantages, and would also be prone to running into objects on the left side while in flight.

We are not sure how old Misha is since he was born in the wild. Red-tailed hawks don’t get their red tail plumage until their second year, and Misha had them when he arrived at the Raptor Center. This meant he was already an adult, at least 1.5 years old. Based on that, Misha would now be around 18 years or older.

For many years we were also not sure what sex he was. Male and female red-tailed hawks share the same basic plumage and they also overlap in regards to size, so there was no way of knowing unless we ran further tests. Just recently we sent his blood for DNA testing and it was determined that he was, in fact, a male.

Misha is currently one of the longest standing residents in the animal department. According to 12-year veteran Keeper Kent, he has barely shown any signs of aging in all his time here. Below is a picture of his beautiful red tail plumage, which is the best way to identify this species of hawk in the wild. The plumage of red-tailed hawks can vary between individuals, so Misha’s colors and patterns will not be exactly the same as others.Please visit the web site of Carolina Raptor Center at www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/ for more information on red-tailed hawks and other raptors.

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