Endangered ‘Io Released After Recovering From Severe Wing Injury

An endangered ʻIo, Hawaiian hawk, has been returned to the wild after six months of extensive rehabilitation following a severe wing injury back in January. The ʻIo, a young female, was found with a fractured wing by a concerned citizen. The bird’s rescuer contacted the Division of Forestry and Wildlife who then sought out a local veterinary clinic to provide emergency care to stabilize the injured bird. Once stabilized, the ʻIo was transferred to the care of the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center in Kapaʻau in the hopes that she could be rehabilitated for a second chance at life in the wild.

“Initially we were concerned about the location of the fracture and questioned the likelihood of her regaining the ability to fly and survive in the wild,” said Samantha Christie, Wildlife Rehabiltation Manager at the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center. Fortunately, the ʻIo demonstrated a tenacious fighting spirit and overcame all obstacles between her and a triumphant return to the skies of Hawai‘i island. In total, the ʻIo spent six months in captivity as professional rehabilitators and veterinarians examined her case and prepared her for release.

The ʻIo was housed in large raptor aviary at HWC which allowed her to stretch her newly healed wing and exercise. “We were able to monitor her activity thanks to a remote camera in the enclosure. This way, we could minimize her contact with humans and still observe her progress,” said Christie. It seems the techniques were successful as the ʻIo exhibited a healthy fear and distrust of her caretakers throughout her captivity. “While I’m sure she appreciates the free mouse dinner, there’s no question of us being friends. This is a wild animal and she resists human contact and handling with all of her strength.”

Radiographs showed a severe fracture near the ‘Io’s shoulder.

The ʻIo was provided with a varied diet of mice, rats, and birds, but she took it upon herself to supplement her menu with something a bit more exciting. “Each raptor that we treat is presented with live prey before they are released to ensure that they have retained the ability to hunt. Not only did this ʻIo pass mouse prey-testing with flying colors, she was also seen on camera catching and eating large centipedes on several occasions,” said Alexis Wessels, Wildlife Rehabilitation Technician at HWC.

HWC consulted with experts regarding the timing and location of the ʻIo’s release. Her flight, hunting skills, body condition, feathers, and bloodwork were each evaluated to ensure that the young hunter was adequately prepared to return to a life in the wild. She was also banded by Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife before her release. The tenacious ʻIo flew quickly and easily upon release outside the HWC facility in Kapaʻau. She came to rest in a nearby tree, seemily taking in her new surroundings and showing great interest in the small birds arriving to investigate the newcomer. Then, with surprising stealth and confidence, she took off to resume the mysterious life of a wild bird. Six months of hard work, collaboration, and dedication lead to this moment—a hard-fought success for an endangered species and a victory for Hawaiʻi’s native wildlife.  

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