Sad News About Red-tailed Hawk Chick K2

Red-tailed Hawk chick “K2” was observed with in injury to its right cheek and bill.

June 25 Update: We have sad news to share about K2, the injured nestling from the Cornell Hawks nest that was transported to the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Hospital on June 22. There, K2 received emergency care and advanced diagnostics to assess the nature and extent of injuries and determine treatment. Unfortunately, X-rays and other testing revealed severe and irrecoverable injuries that would have prevented K2’s survival in the wild or quality of life in captivity. Because of this, and the chronic pain associated with this condition, the wildlife veterinarians made the difficult but compassionate decision to euthanize K2.

We are grateful to the team at the Wildlife Hospital for providing K2 with supportive care and treatment. Advanced diagnostic testing revealed extensive injuries that were not outwardly visible, including a large abscess under K2’s right eye above the bill and a deep infection in the facial bones leading to irreversible structural damage, impairing K2’s ability to see, breathe, and eat. After full assessment and the extent of damage and prognosis for continued suffering became clear, K2 was euthanized out of compassion on June 24.

We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to the Wildlife Hospital for their care of K2 and their expertise and availability to help our local wildlife in distress every day of the year. We’d like to thank everyone who provided guidance or supported the efforts to help K2 receive care for its injuries, including Cornell veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, and facilities staff, as well as the birders on the ground and cam moderators. Finally, we’d like to thank the cam community for their love and support of K2.


Q: Why did K2 have such a bad abscess?

A: The original cause is unknown, although infections can sometimes occur after injury to the mouth from a sharp object such as a bone.

Q: Could K2’s infection have been healed with antibiotics?

A: The bone infection was very deep, and although it is possible that the infection could have been healed with prolonged use of antibiotics, clearing it would not have repaired the extensive loss of bone structure resulting from the initial infection, and K2 would have continued suffering from those injuries along with the possibility of recurring infections.

Q: How can I help the Wildlife Hospital continue to offer care to injured wildlife?

A: You can support the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Hospital’s efforts by making a gift online.

Q: Why did it take a few days to provide any information about K2’s condition?

A: It was important for the wildlife veterinarians to prioritize providing care and complete diagnostic testing for K2 and many other animals in need. We are grateful for the time they took to discuss K2’s condition with us so that we could update the Bird Cams community as soon as possible.

June 22 Update: Over the past week, it has been difficult watching K2 slowly decline in activity due to an unknown injury to its eye and bill as its siblings prepared for fledging.

In consultation with wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators at Cornell University, it became clear that K2’s chances of survival without intervention was unlikely. So, on the morning of June 22, Cornell Lab staff made the decision to retrieve K2 from its nest so it could receive treatment for its injuries.

With the help of Cornell Facilities staff, Dr. Rolfe Radcliffe from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (CUVM) and Ben Walters from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology successfully retrieved K2 from the nesting platform and delivered the chick into the expert care of the veterinarians at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center. While we hope for a full recovery, the chick’s survival is not guaranteed. We trust the treatment decisions and expert care provided by the wildlife veterinarians in regards to K2’s condition.

We are very grateful to the staff at Cornell Facilities, veterinarians at CUVM and Wildlife Health Center, wildlife rehabilitators, birders on the ground, and the hawk cam community for their support.

We will continue to provide updates once we hear more about K2’s treatment. 

Watch K2’s retrieval from the Red-tailed Hawk nest.

June 17 Update: During the week of June 14th, our team of moderators and camera operators began to notice that the middle-hatched nestling named K2 appeared to be acting lethargic. Over the next couple days it became apparent that there was some type of natural injury causing swelling on K2’s right cheek and bill, and at that time we reached out to Cornell’s Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center for their thoughts on the apparent injury and to make them aware that we were monitoring the nestling’s health. 

Up until now, K2 is still eating and we are still hopeful that K2 will overcome this injury naturally and fledge with its nestmates. However, if its condition deteriorates significantly to become life-threatening, we have been reaching out to campus facilities, local wildlife rehabilitators, and the Wildlife Health Center to investigate whether an intervention could be possible that would increase the likelihood of K2 surviving.

Given how close all of the nestlings are to fledging, it’s important that we allow all healthy nestlings to fledge naturally, because if a human goes up to the nest now, it could cause nestlings to jump prematurely and possibly injure themselves in the process. Therefore, any potential assistance given to K2 would need to happen after K1 and K3 fledge. 

We share the concern and the hope of the community that K2 (along with its nestmates) bounces back and fledges naturally, and we will continue to monitor the situation and seek input from experts when making any decisions about intervention. Thank you for caring so much about the hawks, and for your understanding as we make progress through this difficult stage of watching our young hawks grow.

Bird Cams is a free resource

providing a virtual window into the natural world
of birds and funded by donors like you