Red-tailed hawk hitches a train ride into North Station

The Animal Rescue League’s Mike Brammer with the hawk
The Animal Rescue League’s Mike Brammer with the hawkCredit: Dianne Begonis/Animal Rescue League of Boston

A red-tailed hawk is recuperating today after it apparently hitched a ride on a Newburyport Line commuter train’s exterior into North Station.

The Animal Rescue League delivered the hawk, common to Massachusetts, to the wildlife clinic at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine just before noon today. It will be X-rayed there and kept through the weekend as it recovers.

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. crew saw a hawk clinging to the outside of the Newburyport inbound train, which arrived at North Station at 2:15 p.m. Thursday.

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The bird tried to fly away, but fell onto the tracks and perched on one of the rails of Track 3, said commuter rail spokeswoman Rhiannon D’Angelo, prompting officials to contact the Animal Rescue League.

Rescue Services Manager Brian O’Connor was sent to rescue the injured hawk. Commuter rail officials shut down service on the line as O’Connor and his partner worked to catch the hawk in a net.

“We could see the wing was a little bit droopy. It didn’t fly away on approach, which is what they normally do if they can fly, so it’s clear he couldn’t fly,” O’Connor said. “He just puffed himself up.”

O’Connor is not sure what was preventing the bird from flying. He said he did not observe any obvious breaks or fractures. The bird also had some blood on its beak. No further information was immediately available on the hawk’s condition.

After working with the Rescue League for the last 13 years, O’Connor is familiar with these kinds of rescues, though it is not often that a bird rides a train.

“We get a lot of hawks in urban situations,” he said. “We’re used to seeing wildlife in and around Boston, with the injuries that come with being around trains and cars and tall buildings.”

The red-tailed hawk is common throughout North America and is often known as the “chickenhawk.”

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