Hilton Head man res­cues hawk from sea, takes ‘him’ on tour

The Island Packet - - Front Page - BY MANDY MATNEY mmat­[email protected]­land­packet.com Mandy Matney: @MandyMat­ney

Nic Beach is still “in shock” after a spe­cial guest joined him and his clients on a na­ture tour last Sun­day off the coast of Hilton Head Is­land.

Beach, a guide for Is­land Skiff Ad­ven­ture Tours, spot­ted a ju­ve­nile red-tailed hawk strug­gling to swim in the Cal­i­bogue Sound be­tween Hilton Head and Dau­fuskie is­lands.

“He was ob­vi­ously strug­gling, and I didn’t have the heart to leave him,” Beach said. “I didn’t have gloves on hand, so I just had to do with what I had.”

Beach said the large bird was try­ing to use its wings “like pad­dles” to stay afloat, but he didn’t think the hawk could make it much longer. He’s not sure how the bird was hurt, but guessed that it was in­jured some­how while div­ing for prey and strik­ing the wa­ter.

“I know a bit about birds, and I know hawks are land-based and aren’t meant to be swim­ming in the wa­ter like that,” he said.

So Beach care­fully ap­proached the float­ing hawk and plucked him out with his bare hands.

“He seemed pretty shocked, but he was so chill,” Beach said. “He just kind of froze and let me scratch his back and belly while he sat there next to me.”

Beach then con­tacted a S.C. Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources agent to alert them to the in­jured an­i­mal.

“It was go­ing to be an hour or so be­fore SCDNR could meet us at the ma­rina, and I didn’t want to stop the tour for my cus­tomers, so I con­tin­ued the tour with him,” Beach said.

“So we did the tour over to Har­bour Town, and he just chilled right next to me,” Beach said. “I’m still in shock after be­ing so close to a bird that big.”

Beach said the hawk, who they named Rick, was 2-feet-tall with a wing­span longer than 4 feet.

When the tour was over, Rick re­mained calm and “hung out” next to Beach while they waited for the SCDNR of­fi­cer to ar­rive at the ma­rina. Beach posted a video of Rick pa­tiently sit­ting next to him as they cruised through the Cal­i­bouge. In the video, Rick would oc­ca­sion­ally look at Beach, the way a dog looks at its owner.

“DNR was su­per help­ful, I felt bet­ter know­ing they were tak­ing him some­where for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion,” Beach said. “I’m al­ways in awe with birds and wildlife in our area, and to be that close with a bird of that size — it was a great day for sure.”

David Lu­cas, spokesper­son for SCDNR, con­firmed that the bird was taken to wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tor Nancy Owens in Beau­fort.

Once there, there was one more sur­prise.

Owens iden­ti­fied “Rick” as likely a young fe­male. She said the bird is ex­pected to make a full re­cov­ery, but “is thin and de­hy­drated, both of which can re­sult from not catch­ing enough food, as well as things like lead poi­son­ing, par­a­sites and dis­eases.”

Owens said the hawk is “alert, ag­gres­sive, with wings and talons work­ing well.”

But had Beach not spot­ted her in the wa­ter, she may have been head­ing to­ward hy­pother­mia and death.

When Beach heard about the con­di­tion of his new bird buddy (later re­named Rick­elle), he said it was “the best news ever.”

He posted a video to his Face­book that doc­u­mented the dra­matic res­cue.

“Amaz­ing save!” one com­menter said.

“Hawk whis­perer,” an­other said.

Red-tailed hawks are com­monly spot­ted in South Carolina dur­ing the win­ter and are one of many birds of prey pro­tected un­der state law, ac­cord­ing to SCDNR.


Screengrab from video by Nic Beach

Nic Beach res­cued a red-tailed hawk in the Cal­i­bogue Sound be­tween Hilton Head and Dau­fuskie is­lands. “He seemed pretty shocked, but he was so chill,” Beach said.


Red-tailed hawks can have a wing­span longer than 4 feet.

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