During the hawk’s initial exam, Audubon veterinarian Deb Sheaffer discovered that the bird had lead poisoning. She began treating the hawk with chelation therapy – he received regular injections of a substance that binds with lead and then bundles it into a form the body can safely pass out.
This January, Audubon launched a study of lead’s impact on local raptors, and this research led to the young bird’s diagnosis: For every raptor the care center admits, staff members draw a blood sample, running it through a state-of-the-art machine that tests for lead, and recording the results in a growing database to track the extent of exposure in local raptor populations.
Portland Audubon conservation director Bob Sallinger suspects the hawk was fed a pigeon or rat by its parents that had been exposed to peeling lead paint, lead pipes, or other possible lead sources in the downtown area.
After six days of treatment, the youngster had recovered and was ready to head back into the world. Audubon staff set him free on the roof of the Courthouse around 12:30 p.m. He took a quick look around, ran about 20 feet along the rooftop and then leaped through the railing and into the air. He flew about two city blocks before landing on another rooftop. Soon after, one of his parents cruised by, and staff could see him visibly responding to the parent.
The hawk will remain in the area for the next few months as he perfects his hunting and flying skills.