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This page will tell you how to help a bird of prey, like a hawk or an owl.

If the bird you’ve found is not a bird of prey, click here to go back to the species selection page.

Signs that a bird of prey is sick or injured

If you think the bird might be a baby, click here to check the difference. If the bird is an adult, the following signs indicate that it needs medical attention:

  • There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
  • It looks fluffy or sleepy and lets you walk right up to it
  • It cannot fly
  • One or more of its wings, legs, or head look like they’re pointing in the wrong direction
  • The bird limps or favours a leg when walking
  • There are string, fishing line, or fish hooks/lures on some part of the bird’s body

If you’ve determined that the bird needs help, the next step is getting it safe and secure until you can find help for it. If you already have it contained, click here for help finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

Containing a bird of prey is not that different from containing a small one – you just need to know what to look out for.

Be careful with birds of prey

When containing a bird of prey, keep in mind these safety considerations:

  • Their most dangerous weapon is their feet. Some birds of prey will even flip onto their back and wave their legs around when they feel threatened. Keep an eye on where the feet are and avoid contact when containing a bird of prey.
  • Some birds of prey are very large, and have strong wings. Be careful to keep the wings tucked in when transferring them into a container.

Remember – human safety first! If at any point you feel afraid or uncomfortable, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. They can give you species-based tips and tricks, or talk you through a tricky rescue.

They’re not as big as they look! Feathers can make a bird appear much larger than it is. Even a large red-tailed hawk only weighs about 2kg!

How to contain a bird of prey

The “spider” method

Have you ever caught a spider to put it outside by putting a cup over it and sliding a piece of paper underneath? You can contain a bird of prey the same way, on a larger scale. It’s the safest way to do it, if circumstances allow. You will need:

  • A sturdy container, such as a cardboard box, a plastic tote, or a recycling bin; if the container is made of plastic, make sure it has air holes beforehand
  • A stiff piece of cardboard, plastic, or wood to slide underneath
  • A towel or blanket (optional)

Approach the bird calmly and quietly. Once you’re close enough, place the container right over top of the bird, trapping it inside. This might be easier to do if you toss a towel over the bird first, especially covering its head and eyes. If the bird is still able to walk or hop, use the towel to corral it into a corner against a wall or fence to get close enough to contain it.

Slide a stiff piece of cardboard, wood, or plastic under the container. Use rope, bungee cords, or duct tape to secure the bottom to the container.

The blanket method

Since many birds of prey will lie on their back and claw at anything that comes close to protect themselves, you can use that to your advantage when trying to catch them. Use a thick towel or a blanket. Throw it over the bird, and let the bird grab onto the blanket with its feet. Keeping an eye on those feet, you should be able to scoop the whole bundle up and place it in a box. It’s a good idea to wear heavy gloves with this method, just in case.

If the bird is still able to fly but you’re sure it needs help, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.  They can give you species-based tips and tricks, or talk you through a tricky rescue.

Temporary care

While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the animal contained in a dark, quiet place. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. Further temporary care instructions can be found here.