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Hondo and Deborah take flight over the UW Oshkosh campus

The good news: He’s seems to be on the mend.

The bad news: Hondo, the peregrine falcon whose family has annually roosted atop Gruenhagen Conference Center at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, was recently likely hit by a car. The accident happened near Highway 41 in Oshkosh in early July. Hondo was found and rescued by a good Samaritan.

“Right now I am cautiously optimistic about his return to the skies over our campus,” said Dawn Dettlaff, the UW Oshkosh custodial services supervisor who has been overseeing the safety of the peregrines on campus for the past two nesting seasons.

Hondo and his mate Deborah found their way to campus in 2011 and have since welcomed two sets of chicks into the world from their nesting box at Gruenhagen.

There’s no official explanation as to what happened to injure the bird, but it is thought that Hondo was hit by a car during one of his morning runs to collect food for his young. Hondo sustained injuries to his wing, leg and coracoid (similar to the collarbone in a human).

Hondo’s case is being managed by a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility out of Neenah. Because falcons are endangered species, he is being held and treated with the permission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Endangered Species Bureau.

“There is a long way to go before he will be able to flight test,” said Rebekah Weiss, licensed wildlife rehabilitator and executive director of the Neenah-based facility. “The first couple of weeks were rough. We’re beginning to see there is the potential for him to go into the wild and breed, which would be fantastic. He will remain on cage rest for the next two weeks in preparation for another set of x-rays.”

Falcons breed for life, which means Hondo’s mate, Deborah, is now raising her young – Thor and Thunder (as named by the UW Oshkosh community) – and teaching them to eat and hunt by herself. The falcons are no longer living in the Gruenhagen nesting box; it is normal for falcons to move out after their young are able to fly.

“From what I have observed over the past two seasons, Hondo has been an excellent mate and father,” Dettlaff said. “He and Deborah have shared in feeding duties of the eyases, and they can sometimes be seen both feeding simultaneously in the nest box. When Hondo sustained his injury, not only was I concerned for his welfare, but also the welfare of his mate and young as his absence would put an extra burden on Deborah to not only feed both young but also teach them how to hunt.”

Hondo will be checked by a veterinarian in the next couple of weeks for progress, Weiss said.

“His healing is entirely up to him,” she said. “Really we look at these creatures as a holistic case. You are basically assisting their body in the healing the process. At this stage, it’s up to him and what his body. We take a day a time.”

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