Not many physicians can say they worked a full shift at the hospital, then went downstairs, captured a frightened baby hawk, and reunited it with its worried parents.
But Marc Blumberg, MD, chief of pediatric hospital medicine at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, has mad skills. Not only is he an experienced clinician and administrator, he knows his birds of prey.
“I love to be able to interact with wildlife and this was a great opportunity to do that,” said Dr. Blumberg, who was part of a rescue of not 1 but 2 baby red-tailed hawks over successive weeks that became trapped in the hospital’s 4-story atrium.
The hawks, just beginning to fly and hunt from their nest in Mosswood Park across the street from the hospital, likely followed smaller prey into the atrium. But the young raptors didn’t have the strength to lift up and out, said Dr. Blumberg, who has been catching, banding, and tracking migrating wild birds, including raptors, for 25 years.
He had been watching the hawks’ parents fly around the hospital from his office on the 12th floor for about 3 years.
When employees Karen Quintal and Marciel Goard noticed the first baby hawk in the atrium, bumping into the glass and trying to get out, they notified hospital security manager Michael Maykin, who quickly blocked access to the area.
“One day in June I got a call from one of my colleagues, because they know I’m really into birds and birds of prey, and they said there is a hawk sitting on a bench in the atrium,” said Dr. Blumberg. “They had also called a friend of mine, Craig Nikitas of Bay Raptor Rescue, who specializes in capturing raptors in buildings.”
Nikitas captured the first hawk and took it to Wild Care for a checkup, where it stayed for about a week.
“Almost exactly a week later I get a call from a colleague saying there is another bird in the atrium,” said Dr. Blumberg. “I came downstairs, called Craig and Anne Ardillo, who is an expert at reuniting raptors with their parents. They also brought the hawk from the previous week. We all met, and used a net to trap the second bird, took measurements, and brought both up to the roof of the hospital.”
When released, they flew straight over to Mosswood Park.
“A few seconds after they took flight, one of the adult hawks blasted by carrying food for them, and the 2 were very quickly back as baby birds in the wild with their parents,” said Dr. Blumberg.
“This is pretty much what I spend my free time doing, catching birds,” added Dr. Blumberg. “It’s really nice to have that opportunity to watch the cycle of life and nature take place in an otherwise urban setting. And we were able to step in and help when that urban environment got in the way.”