JOHNSTON, RI- A red–tailed hawk is recovering after being burned at the central landfill in Johnston. It apparently landed on a lit methane burner at the site. The adult male is now being nursed back to health.
Birds are no strangers at the Rhode Island central landfill, but it came as a shock when maintenance supervisor, Lou Vergato found the hawk jumping around, unable to fly.
The hawk appears to be burned by a methane burner, which can suddenly flare once a bird lands on it. The Johnston landfill has six of those burners.
"However, there are flares located around the landfill so because the bird was found by an employee after the fact, no one saw what had happened," said Krystal Noiseux.
Noiseux is the recycling program manager and the coordinator for the Wildlife Habitat Council that partners with the landfill. She says the hawk could have been burned at a nearby plant that also has flares.
Noiseux adds, "We do know that this has occurred at other landfills across the country and it has occurred at the flares that are by the landfills."
Unlike most flares that have a visible flame, some of them are invisible, which is why birds tend to perch on them, unaware of the danger.
The landfill is using a Massachusetts expert to help research and implement techniques to keep other birds safe.
The issue with perching will be left up to Broadrock Renewable Energy, which owns the flares.
"There are anti–perching devices that have been designed. The expert that's coming here designed them and they can be built and retrofitted onto flares," said Noiseux.
Broadrock's president, Doug Wilson said they too are looking at options to address the issue.
It will take at least 6 months for the hawk to grow new feathers.