Audubon's veterinarian, Deb Sheaffer reports that the injured hawk is making good progress. His prognosis is still guarded but he is much more alert today and the eye shows reduced uveitus (swelling and irritation to the middle layer of the eye). It will be sometime before we are able to determine to what degree the eye has been permanently impaired.
Hawks can see up to eight times better than humans. This is what allows them to be such effective hunters. Their eyes are tremendous in proportion to the size of their skulls when compared to humans---if human eyes were as large as hawks relative to our skulls they would be close to the size of tennis balls.
Besides a high level of visual acuteness, hawks also have some other neat adaptations. There is a bony shelf that runs above the eyes called the superciliary ridge. Biologists believe that this bony structure serves to shade the eye from sun glare and also serves a protective function. Hawks also have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane. This membrane is transparent and serves to clean and moisten the eye almost like a windshield wiper while the hawk is in flight.
Many folks have wondered what will happen to the red-tail if in fact it turns out to not be releasable. Right now our only focus is on release. We don't even contemplate other scenarios until all release options have been exhausted. Our rehab center treats about 3000 wild animals each year, including 200-300 birds of prey, with the objective of setting them free back in the wild. If birds are not releasable we do have some permanent non-releasable educational birds at our facility. We also place non-releasable birds at other facilities, zoos, nature centers, etc. There is an extensive process that we go through to make sure that the bird is adaptable to life in captivity and that an appropriate facility is available. However we will cross that bridge when we come to it...Personally I hate seeing wild birds in cages. Hopefully we will put this one back in the sky.