Free Flight: Cooper’s Hawks
It’s been another summer of mass quantities of Cooper’s Hawks coming in, many with West Nile virus. Once they recover, they can start to gain strength. After 40 plus birds, we were starting to wind down to just a few left. I had just moved two Hawks to the round corn crib to give them exercise experience where they can go up high, bank and fly in circles; this prepares them for a life of navigating through trees to catch their main prey; other birds. The day after I moved them, I went into the cage to drop off their afternoon snack. One Coop dropped to the ground, did an end run around me, and escaped before I could close the door. “Swell,” I thought. “This one will never survive.”
For the next two days, there was no sign of the Loose Coop. on day 3 she was at the birdbath in the yard, but left quickly . Later, she was on a post outside her old cage, and again left quickly. But I put a quail on that post. On day 4 she was on the post, and the quail was gone. By day 5 she was waiting for me. I think the fact that were 2 other Coops in the cage she had occupied helped to attract her back.
The daily ritual of am and pm feeding continued; I was afraid this hawk was going to make the rehabilitation center her home, something that would not bode well for the resident American Kestrels, and other birds. But she did get stronger and more agile every day.
One hot day, the Coop failed to come to the station. I continued to leave food for a few more days, but still no Coop. The bird had either left on its own, or had been taken by a larger hawk or owl. Such is Nature. About two weeks after Little Loose Coop released herself, she was spotted a half mile west of the rehbilitation center, flying across the road.
One lesson I learned is that young Cooper’s Hawks are social, and like to hang out in groups before they disperse. That means we can actually release juveniles within known territories, where they can pick up hunting strategies from the adult Hawks. I also learned you can successfully hack them out: trying to live train Coops on flight end birds is not possible here.
Regretfully, she was not banded, so we will never know her fate; but this Little Loose Coop proved her determination to not only survive, but thrive. She went from an emaciated, twitchy West Nile virus patient to full freedom.
– Betsy Finch, Manager of Raptor Rehabilitation