Recently a group of RARE field team members gathered for an exciting occasion: RARE's first creance flight of a juvenile red-tailed hawk. Creance flying is a an alternative form of exercise used in raptor rehabilitation when a flight cage is not available and allows the bird to rebuild the muscle and strength required for its eventual release back into the wild. This method of rehabilitation conditioning involves placing leather straps, or jesses, around the bird’s legs and then attaching the jesses to a long leash or tether. The bird is then able to fly on its own while still in a controlled environment, enabling rehabbers to observe the bird in flight in order to assess its progress and ability. In the photo below, a RARE field team member demonstrates the proper way to fit the leather straps, or jesses, on the hawk's legs. Jesses are removable and are designed to comfortably fit each individual raptor species. The tether can be up to 300 feet long - the one used by RARE on this occasion was 100 feet - and enables the rehabber to gently draw an in-flight bird back toward him- or herself should it come close to reaching the full length of the line.
A juvenile red-tailed hawk can be identified by its white chest, lack of red tail feathers, and yellow (as opposed to brown) eyes. The adult characteristics of a red-tail begin to appear in the hawk's second year of life.
Wearing proper safety gear, RARE executive director Luke prepares for the hawk's first creance flight.
Following treatment and recovery at the RARE clinic for a couple of months, this hawk was ready for some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.
The RARE field team gave the hawk plenty of time and space to get acclimated to wearing the jesses and creance.
And we have lift-off! With a little help from Luke, the hawk took to flight.