A Unique Wildlife Rehabilitation Patient

The Rehabilitation of a Mississippi Kite

By Kathryn Dudeck, Wildlife Director
August 24, 2020

The Wildlife Department received a call on July 12th from a Senoia resident who had come across an injured raptor on his property. We agreed to accept it for rehab, and that’s when he said that it was the most unusual hawk he had ever seen. Imagine our surprise when he opened his car door in our parking lot and there, sitting in a cage was an adult female Mississippi Kite!

While both Mississippi Kites and their Swallow-tailed Kite relatives are often seen this time of year in the southern half of Georgia, it isn’t terribly common to see them north of Macon. Of the approximately 2500 raptors we have received for rehab over the last decade, fewer than ten were Mississippi or Swallow-tailed Kites.

This small raptor had an obvious injury to her right wing and x-rays confirmed she had fractures to her ulna and radius. Because of the positioning of the bone pieces, we knew she would need surgery to have any chance of recovery.

We reached out to our orthopedic surgical veterinarian and she was operated on 24 hours later. Pins were placed in the broken bones and an external fixator was installed to keep the pieces aligned as they fused. Four weeks later, new x-rays were taken and because the bones had mended, the hardware was all removed.

She is now in a small indoor enclosure to start stretching and strengthening the wing. We plan to move her to an outside enclosure over the next few weeks for additional exercise.

Because this species is migratory and the main diet is insects caught in midair, it is imperative that she heals 100% for release. Kites are only in the southeastern US during breeding season, flying back to Mexico and Central and South America every fall.

In these photos, the patient has a body wrap to ensure the wing and surgical items stay secure. Now that the pins have been removed, she is no longer wrapped.

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