Champion to Rocky

A veterinarian determined that Champion was blind in one eye, and was unable to safely fly or capture prey for food, and therefore, could never be released.

It was a typical day June 23 at Wings Recue Center, Rockport (WRC). Volunteers were busy caring for rescued birds, feeding them, cleaning their cages, and treating their ills, and injuries.

But that all changed when a call came in to rescue a fledgling hawk near Victoria. Photographers, seeking the perfect shot, caused a little Red-Shouldered Hawk to fall from its nest. Having a serious eye injury, the baby bird was brought to WRC for treatment.

After two weeks at WRC, Champion, as it was called then, was transferred to the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) for long-term care and rehabilitation. WRC’s volunteers hoped they would witness Champion’s release someday, as they had with so many other young birds in their care.

But, after four months of rehabilitation, the veterinarian concluded Champion was blind in one eye, was unable to safely fly or capture prey for food, and therefore, could never be released.

Unless a permanent home could be found, Champion would be euthanized.

At about the same time that news was received, WRC got a second rescue call. And just as with WRC’s other permanent residents - a goose named Jerry, and two pelicans (Patches and Willy), Champion had a forever home.

WRC volunteers Greg Simmons (a falconer) and wife Sally brought the bird in. Sally asked if the WRC had given Champion a name while in its care. Kay Adams, WRC founder and president, said its name was Champion.

Sally said, “I think his name should be Rocky. You know, Rocky was a Champion.”

Rocky’s new life started that afternoon.

WRC’s fulltime caregiver, Dana Rhodes, began the hours upon hours of gentle one-on-one interaction to help the bird feel at ease in its new surroundings. Within a week, the time spent yielded the desired results. Rocky’s growing confidence was evident when the hawk took food from her hand. Rocky was on its way to becoming WRC’s first Education-Ambassador Bird.

It has been Adam’s goal to see the WRC expand its services to the community through the development of an educational center. She feels certain the WRC will be well on its way to achieving this goal in 2022.

Once that dream is realized, children, as well as adults, will be able to watch (online and on site) eggs hatch and volunteers care for hatchlings, as well as ill and injured birds.

Visitors will come to know Rocky, Patches and Willy, as well as the other wild birds of the Coastal Bend.

WRC is a state and federal permitted bird rescue rehabilitation center serving Aransas County and surrounding counties. It is the only facility in South Texas that takes in abandoned eggs and baby birds. Through COVID, the February freeze, and spring floods, the WRC’s phones have not stopped ringing with requests for wildlife rescues. More than 900 birds were rescued in 2020 and more than 800 since January of this year.

With the community’s generous support, WRC volunteers continue to work tirelessly to give birds a second chance at life in the wild.

For more information about WRC, or to make a donation, contact Adams at (512) 784-8223, or email rfwingsrescue@yahoo.com

WRC is located at 324 W. Third St. (corner of Third and S. Kossuth streets). Its mailing address is P.O. Box 1912, Rockport, TX 78381. WRC’s website is www.wingsrescuecenter.org.

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