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Harris hawk - cause of death?

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NetSquirrel | 15:52 Tue 15th Feb 2005 | Animals & Nature
8 Answers
Just this morning my brother found that his Harris hawk has died - apparently during the night.  To my shock, he has decided to get another one and I seriously doubt I will be able to talk him out of it.  All the exotic pets he's had over the years have died prematurely, it has to be said, so what I want to do is find out the most likely reason why the hawk died, and if it was my brother's fault, to somehow prevent him from getting anymore pets.  I know it's a horrible thing to do, but this is what it's come to. [Continued]


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The hawk (female Harris) has been spending most of her time in her small aviary (photo taken just after aviary was built: 0xp.jpg - there is a branch in there now to perch on but the floor and walls have not been cleaned in a long time so the mess has accumulated).  She hadn't been taken out to go flying since early January, because she was "underweight".  I don't know whether my brother had forgotten to feed her sometimes or if there is a hawk disease that causes weight loss or something.  It has been quite cold and windy for the last few days but I know now that this is unlikely to have been a danger to her in itself (see thread from 2 months ago: on84522.html).  More recently, my brother has bought a dog, and the hawk really did not seem to like this.  I wonder if this caused a lot of stress to the bird and that is why she died...but I'm no expert.  What do you think - was the hawk's death out of anyone's control or was she mistreated in some way?
I'm no animal expert, or particular lover of, but I would imagine a hawk to take some special looking after. More than your average budgie anyway! Providing any animal with a clean environment is of utmost importance, as is regular exercise. If you brother is neglecting these two primary needs, maybe he shouldn't be keeping such animals? Birds get stressed quite easily, especially if restricted in space, so the dog may well have contributed to the hawks demise, if as you say it was distressed by it...

I remember your previous concern well NetSquirrel.   I am no expert but seriously doubt your brother's ability to take care of his animals.  I have known other people like this and in fact have taken their neglected animals to look after (with their permission)  They seem to have no respect for the animals' welfare at all.  Can you get hold of the bird that died and have an analysis done of why she died?  Talk this over with your brother, tell him of your concern and advise him that if he gets another exotic pet or bird you will have no option but to advise the RSPCA of his past failures.

What a difficult position you are in.  But I honestly believe your loyalty should be with his animals and not to him. 

Best wishes

I'd have to agree with FP.  If it were my brother and I couldn't persuade him, yet held the same concerns you do, I think I'd inform the RSPCA.   At least they may be able to advise him on how best to treat his animals....and maybe keep a check on him.  He doesn't sound able to properly look after the animals, despite his best intentions, so I do think you have to step in before any more die or suffer needlessly.

I would take the bird, if possible, to a vet for a post mortem to determine cause of death.  Even if you don't have the bird, by speaking to a specialist you may be able to determine what went wrong!

How old was the hawk? And where was it obtained from?  It may have been infected with something before your brother got it.

However, the main cause of death in exotic animals in this country is simply poor husbandry - people just not knowing how to properly take care of the animal involved, be it a reptile, bird or otherwise! 

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Thank you for your kind advice, it is touching that you all care so much.  I think I will try to talk my brother out of getting a new hawk.  It will take a long time, but if I can get my dad and my brother's friends in on this as well, and get rid of all the hawk equipment and frozen food, then I think it will be easier for him to move on and focus more on his dog and other pets.  The RSPCA needn't get involved unless it seems he is going to ignore us and get another hawk.  Anyway, whoever sold him the first hawk may be able to identify the cause of death and give advice accordingly.

As for an autopsy (or equivalent), it is a good idea, but the trouble will be in trying to persuade my brother to let me take his bird to the vet.  If he won't allow it, I can at least weigh the hawk before we bury her, to see if she was too far under her healthy flying weight of approx. 2lbs.  Thanks again.  I would never get around to doing anything without your support.

-- answer removed --

NetSquirrel - You are the one with the compassion as well as the commonsense and I truly feel that this whole business has put an unnecessary burden on you. It's so easy to say 'I told you so' but all the signs were there from the previous post.

This is in no way directed at you but at your brother. In my link from your first post 'Keeping a hawk over winter' I found a very good site especially for falconers with all the information and help your brother would need. If he refuses to ask for help or thinks he doesn't need it, then your only option would be to contact the RSPCA - but do speak to him and  your parents first telling them of your intentions. I'm so sorry this has fallen on you - please let us know the outcome, won't you?

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