A red-tailed hawk in Oregon has been given a second chance at life in the wild after being struck by a car earlier this month. The bird's top and lower beak tips were severed during the accident, but thanks to some quick thinking, a blob of glue and a bottle of baby powder, he's expected to make a full recovery!

Image: Cascades Raptor Center

The lucky bird is being rehabilitated by the team at Cascades Raptor Center, a non-profit wildlife hospital that specialises in birds of prey.

In case you were wondering, this animal does have eyes. What you're seeing in the photograph is the feathered lower eyelid. In hawks, it's the lower lid that is the larger of the two (unlike our mammalian eye-covers), and it comes up rather than down over the eye during sleep. To avoid any distress, the young male was anaesthetised during his beak-fixing procedure.

"This bird came to us on April 4th," says CRC director Louise Shimmel. "He had the broken beak tip and a number of puncture wounds on his legs. Those healed fine, but he could not rip up food on his own, which is why we opted to create the 'beak extension'."

We've seen similar operations before – most notably with Grecia, a toucan who lost half his beak when teenagers attacked him with sticks. Grecia's prosthetic was 3D-printed, and the design took months to complete. But because the hawk's injury was less extensive, the CRC team was able to form their extension from familiar products: superglue and talcum (or "baby") powder. 

Image: Cascades Raptor Center
Images: Cascades Raptor Center

After the beak was filed to the appropriate size, curve and point, a quick colour match was done using a permanent marker. It might be a simple solution, but the repair is working wonders so far. 

The team is keeping a close eye on feedings for now, but the plan is to release the bird as soon as possible. Because beaks are made of keratin, the same protein as our fingernails (or a rhino's horn), the hawk's original beak will eventually grow out. The addition of the talcum powder will help the extension erode naturally.

"We are testing him for a while here in care but are hoping not to have to keep him until the beak grows all the way out," says Shimmel. "It takes time, and we hate to keep him locked up if we don't have to. He's looking quite handsome!" 

Image: Cascades Raptor Center 
Image: Cascades Raptor Center


Top header image: Lee Jaffe/Flickr