You may be familiar with our all-star Naturalist Kevin Mack, who is responsible not only for the amazing photos of wildlife he provides us with, but also for making sure that the wild patients in our care return to a wild, natural life. Below is a tale by Mack illustating one of the unexpected challenges we are sometimes presented with at PAWS.
Two weeks ago we had a visitor at PAWS that caused a bit of stress for some of our songbird patients. A young Cooper’s Hawk spotted the swallows and robins in our aviary cages and must have thought they looked like an easy meal. When he flew in to capture his meal though, he was puzzled by the wire that prevented him from reaching the seemingly vulnerable birds.
The hawk looked to be a juvenile that hatched earlier this year. He behaved like a naïve bird that was still learning the ropes. He was so fixated on the songbirds in our aviaries that it was difficult to convince him to get off of the cage. When I attempted to frighten him, he simply stared at me at first.
Eventually the hawk flew up into the nearby trees, but he kept an eye on the aviaries. Whenever we turned our backs, the hawk flew back to the top of the aviary cage. We repeatedly chased him away but he would not be deterred.
This continued for some time. Under the constant, watchful attention of the hawk our songbird patients were beginning to become very stressed. The hawk was simply puzzled by, and possibly annoyed with the humans that kept trying to frighten him away.
It was clear that no amount of arm waving or other intimidation was going to dissuade the persistent hawk. He actually seemed to become more tolerant of our scare attempts as time passed.
After a while the hawk was so relaxed with me standing right under him that he began to stretch. But even in mid-stretch he kept looking in the direction of the aviary cages.
Despite the conditions under which the encounter occurred, it was quite a treat to see such a gorgeous bird up close outside of a cage.
We eventually ended the standoff with the hawk by covering the top of our aviaries with a tarp. Once the hawk could no longer see the birds from above, he decided to search for prey elsewhere.