A New Zealand falcon, or kārearea, injured after flying into a window and encountering an overeager Jack Russell Terrier has taken to the Taranaki skies again after surgery and rehabilitation.
The kārearea was rescued by Ōkato woman Sandra Morgan in February when it struck a window at her sister's house before being snapped up by the family's pet dog Mushroom.
Mrs Morgan, who was on hand for the bird's release at Pukeiti on the boundary of Egmont National Park today said she initially she got a bit of a shock when she saw the bird on the living room carpet.
"I was pretty blown out actually. I'd never see anything like that so close and it looked worried, but it was breathing and there was no blood. That was what I was happy about."
Mrs Morgan said she shooed the dog away, threw a towel over the bird and went and got her sister Diane.
"She got its claw out of the carpet and we wrapped it up as best we could, put it in a box and put it onto the back of the ute and then we rang a friend who said 'ring DoC' [Department of Conservation]."
DoC assessed the falcon, which was transferred to Wildbase Hospital at Massey University and cared for by a team of vets.
Veterinarian Aditi Sriram said that when the bird arrived at Wildbase it had been in a bad way.
"We gave him a thorough look over and gave him an X-ray and noticed he had a broken right thigh bone - so, the right femur - and our surgeons at Massey did a great job of fixing the bone."
Ms Sriram said it was not unusual for birds to have broken legs pinned.
"We fix a lot of fractures at Wildbase and each injury is quite different so we always have to assess the patient assess the injury and make a decision to go ahead base on whether we can get a good outcome with this case."
A month after surgery the falcon, which had not been named, had the pins removed under general anaesthetic and a week later began its rehabilitation in a temporary aviary which provided it with a variety of perches and allowed him to practice his flying and strengthen his muscles without overdoing it.
Ms Sriram said she was confident the falcon was ready to be returned to the wild.
"We really hope we've given him the best shot at doing that. We've checked that he's fit enough to be released and we're happy he's able to use his legs and wings really well.
"And so we just hope that he has some good luck out there and does his best."
Mrs Morgan was thrilled to be invited along to the release.
"I was hoping to hear about the bird so I was pleased to be invited to come along today."
And the magic moment when the falcon took to the air did not disappoint.
"Well, I sort of got a bit of a fright but it was just great to see it fly. It was amazing and now it's back in the wild where it needs to be."
Kārearea, which feature on the $20 banknote, are considered a threatened species, with a population of about 8000.
Flying, they can reach up to speeds of 100km/h and catch prey including insects as well as mammals larger than themselves.
The biggest threat to New Zealand falcons are rats and stoats which take advantage of the fact the birds nest on the ground.
Window strike is another problem because the birds do not see the glass and often hit windows at speed.