Vincent Robba, head of the GONHS Raptor Unit, yesterday released a male sparrow hawk that was found by the Sandy Bay pier last October.
The sparrow hawk, who was called Max after Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) as he had red on his chest, is four years old.
“We had a call [from the public] and he was found by the pier at Sandy Bay in the sea, we searched for it and found it within the rocks,” said Mr Robba.
“Most probably he had been mauled by gulls, he had cuts and bruises and also a wing injury. So we took care of him, cured all his injuries and got him going again,” he added.
His cuts were disinfected and left to heal as they were not that deep -more like grazes with the skin broken- and no stitches were necessary.
Once his injuries were healed Mr Robba and the team at the Raptor Unit gave him physiotherapy and trained him to fly properly again.
The reason Max was released at this time of the year and not as soon as he was well again, is due to migration. His fellow sparrow hawks are currently passing over Gibraltar on their way north to their breeding grounds for summer. Mr Robba hopes that Max will join them.
Max, who is at his top weight, was given a full feed the evening before his release but not yesterday as Mr Robba was concerned that the ringing process he was to take part in would be stressful and cause him to vomit.
Although Mr Robba does not know exactly what happened for Max to end up at Sandy Bay, experience had taught him that seagulls attacked the sparrow hawk.
“Seagulls have got the habit now of actually chasing them [the migrating birds] when they come in from across the Straits knocking them down to the water and actually feeding upon it,” he said.
A sparrow hawk is smaller than a pigeon and is no match to the size and strength of a seagull.