Jan 6, 2012

Nailed Hawk Update



Here's an update on the red-tailed hawk - the one that had been shot with a nail. One of our lead responders, Mark Russell, had an up-close and personal encounter with her on Friday.

On Friday Jan 6th I was walking through the San Francisco Arboretum, in the California natives section, when I saw a blurred shape fallout of the sky.  I heard a crash, and turned to see a large juvenile red-tailed hawk in a dead Manzanita bush 15feet away from me. 

I had asuspicion it might be the same hawk that had been found with a nail in its head. As I slowly approached I noticed a silver metal band on herright leg, unfortunately I could not get close enough to read thenumbers.  
The hawk showed very littleconcern for my presence as she was focused on finding the squirrel that wasquietly crouching under some branches. I was able to get within 6 feet of her as I strained to read thenumbers on her leg band.  Finally, the squirrel madea break for a nearby tree.  
Withher prey gone, she lost interest and decided to fly back to her nearbyperch.  I was so grateful to get achance to see her flying free two months after her release! She looks to be in excellent health, her plumage was in goodshape and she has good body condition.   
She has remained in the same area where she was originallycaptured and then released. Clearly, she is hunting successfully and has been able to fend off theaggressive red-tail pair, whose territory she seems to be in. I can onlyassume she is doing well, however, it was surprising how close she came to me in pursuit of the squirrel, and howmuch closer she allowed me to get.  This is concerning, as her comfort level with humans may put her infuture risk of injury.    
It is hard to say if she is so comfortable with peoplebecause she was raised in the park, where people tend to pose little threat, or ifshe is just a very mellow bird?  
Itstands to reason, that hawks and other birds that choose to live in urban areasare less stressed by the hustle and bustle of humanity, but whether this is dueto nature or nurture is impossible to know.  For this particular hawk, her fundamental behavior reflects her innate ability tolive free and thrive so long as humans respect her and give her the space sheneeds.  
It was an amazing experience, gazing into her eyes and seeing that she had no fear of me - no fear at all, as she gazed back.  I have never been so close to a healthy, free-living hawk that possessed such a strong, almost defiant character.  It was a moment in time that I hopeothers get a chance to observe and yet not take advantage of by trying to touchor harm her.  She is a greatambassador for letting the wild come into our city, amazing and inspiring us, while at the same time needing our protection and stewardship.  May she live long and free in SanFrancisco!