One of my many blessings is that my children love the outdoors and wildlife as much as I do. They’re always up for wading in a creek, tramping through the woods or driving to some distant unpopulated region for a gander at local fauna. Yesterday, I was rewarded once again for their willingness to abide by their dad’s need to get outside.
While trying to make the best of a wet afternoon we took a drive through rural farmland 15 miles north of home. Along one stretch of rural countryside we saw a red-tailed hawk go hopping across the road. A vehicle came slowly in the other direction and the bird of prey, rather than flying away, bounded off the road and into a ditch.
As the other vehicle passed, I pulled my car over and told my girls to take pictures of the hawk, which was about 15 feet away. I then got out of the car and slowly moved toward it. I could tell something wasn’t right, but I expected it to burrow into the nearby hedgerow and thereby elude me.
Instead, it stayed where it was, eyeing me warily. I got within about three feet and had one of my daughters bring me a sweatshirt. Given the size of the raptor’s beak and talons, I very carefully tried to wrap the sweatshirt around it. The hawk fell back at first, but didn’t put up too much of a fight.
I was able to carefully pick it up and show it to my girls, who, being 15, 14 and 12, were all “oohs” and “ahs.”
The hawk was wet and cold. We decided that given the weather – cold and rainy with more of the same expected for the foreseeable future – we would take it to a wildlife rescue shelter about 20 miles away.
One of my girls brought me another sweatshirt, this one pink, so we could make sure his talons were wrapped up and dad didn’t end up with deep lacerations about his body, and I slowly lowered myself into the car holding the hawk. Gently clutching our new companion with my left hand, I started the car and pulled forward, steering with my right hand.
My daughters were transfixed by the bird. Although most of the cinnamon-colored hawk was wrapped up, they could easily see its sharp beak and proud eyes, which gave it a fierce visage.
It was, like most birds, incredibly light for its size, weighing no more than 3 or 4 pounds. But it was two feet tall from head to talons, and its wingspan would likely have been at least four feet, had it had an opportunity to show off its plumage.
Not surprising given the car’s occupants, it was quickly given a series of names: Cooper (we initially thought it was a Cooper’s Hawk); Cosmo and Xenon (being a noble-looking bird, Daughter No. 4 thought it should be named for one of the noble gases and helium, neon, krypton and radon weren’t cutting it.) Ultimately, it ended up with three different names – one from each daughter – none of which, of course, the bird showed any interest in responding to.
A good portion of the trip was on an Interstate, and while I was busy keeping my eyes either on the road or the bird, hoping it wouldn’t decide to crane its neck around and take a nip at my neck or face, I can only image what fellow drivers thought as they passed our car and caught a glimpse of a middle-aged man driving down the road with a fierce-looking raptor sitting on his lap.
We eventually made our way to the Carolina Wildlife Center with neither man nor hawk suffering injury or embarrassment.
As I carried the bird of prey into the center I noticed the other rescued animals on hand, including a baby possum, a squirrel and a blue jay. I somehow resisted the urge to thump my chest, swagger around and crow about how my beast could not only best all the others, but eat each one, as well.
Instead, we filled out an information card, thanked them for taking our hawk and went on our way.
19 thoughts on “An unintended foray into falconry proves fulfilling”
Wow! What a great story! And what a wonderful bird. I wonder what was wrong with him. Imagining you driving with this raptor on your lap made me smile. It could’ve gotten very messy…
Yes, I was fortunate that the bird decidedly to accept its ride placidly. I’d imagine it must have had a problem with its wing. I can’t figure why else it wouldn’t have flown away.
Awesome, CBC! What a great story! Hope your hawk recuperates well.
Thanks, Cole. It was pretty neat to hold such a majestic bird, and to be able to retain all my digits. My gals had a blast, which was the most important thing. A hand’s-on lesson beats anything from a book.
Very cool. And cool that the kids have your respect for nature. Blessings on you.
Thank you, Paul. The world, especially nature, is an amazing gift. It’s my privilege to enjoy it with my kids.
Ooh and aaaah, indeed! Great story!
Thank you kindly. I was a great adventure.
What a superb adventure for you and your girls….a magnificent bird.
The nearest we came was picking up kestrel chicks which kept falling out of a nest in the wall of the barn in France….they seemed to be all beak and talon with fluff in between. The parent – luckily – made no attempt to attack us as we put on welding gloves and returned the chicks to base up a distinctly dodgy ladder.
Did you find out what was the matter with the bird?
I haven’t found out yet. I plan to call the rescue center and check up on the bird in the next couple of days.
Now trying to rescue fledgling kestrels while the parent bird is nearby – that takes a bit of nerve. Hopefully things worked out.
The babies all survived.
Do let us know about the bird…such a beautiful creature.
I called the rescue center today and they said the hawk was a young female, perhaps a year old. It would appear that she was what they call a “failed hunter,” meaning she hadn’t gotten the hang of capturing prey, and, as a result, was thin and weak. The rescue center has sent her to the Carolina Raptor Center (http://www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/home) where they will help her hone her hunting abilities.
Then she fell on her talons when you came across her…so pleased with the outcome and you must be too.
Thanks for passing on the news.
Indeed, it’s always good to help out one of God’s creatures. Thanks for the kind words.
Such a good thing to do – and BRAVE too! What a wonderful memory for you and your children.
Thank you for the kind words. I don’t know about brave – we like catching things and don’t always think about the potential repercussions until afterward. But it will be a great memory.
Well, what a wonderful post to read upon my brief visit back to WP! Congratulations on an exciting experience and rewarding rescue! What a wonderful memory for you and your girls : )
I’m really glad you shared it with us–and it was nice to get to “know” you a little better through your mentions of them, and via your hawkie/selfie.
Thanks, OB. I appreciate your kinds words. My girls are lights in my life and any adventure I share with them is that much more special. No matter what else I may do in my life, my greatest happiness comes from being their – and my son’s – father.
A son, too : ) What great holidays you will have. Enjoy!