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Villagers learn about raptors following rescue
Taken from the Hot Springs Village Voice
June 24, 2009

Our day began like most Saturdays. Typically, the phone rang early.

Atypically, Kay and Nelson Ford had found a large baby bird in one of their flower beds.

They wondered what kind of bird it was and whether Lu would be interested in taking a picture. An e-mail picture of the big little fellow followed.

We made our way to the Fords and, as Nelson and Kay had described, the bird of unknown origin and identity was hunkered down along the edge of their driveway.

He or she had the curved upper bill of a raptor; e.g., an eagle, hawk, owl, or falcon.

He didn't seem to be injured. His wings appeared to be normal but undeveloped.

His feathers were like goose down indicating immaturity. He was timid, all indicators that he was too young to be out of the nest - although physically he was as large as a mature robin.

The Fords reasoned that he had probably been blown out of the nest by the stormy winds the night before. Sounded reasonable to us.

What to do

As Lu took some pictures of the little guy, the Fords indicated that they were headed out and left two cardboard boxes for us to use if we decided to remove the bird.

We weren't sure what to do with him. We figured that he was a member of a protected species and hesitated taking him, but could and would his parents look after him? Feed him? Protect him? Maybe swoop down, grab him in their powerful talons, and fly him back to the nest?

Or would the first fox, cat, stray dog, or vulture devour him?

In addition to appearing young, innocent and helpless, he looked famished and dehydrated. Some Good Samaritan neighborhood dog walkers shared a partial bottle of water, and Nancy coaxed some water down his little throat, which seemed to revive him.

But what to do with him? Uneasily, we finally decided to leave him alone, to give his parents a couple of hours to reclaim him, if they had such interest; and we headed back home.

Two hours later we returned. Lu calculated our odds of finding the little guy at about 10 percent.

As we neared the site, Lu lowered his odds to 8 percent. Nancy was more optimistic.

We looked along Ford's driveway where we had left the bird. No sign of him. But neither was there any evidence of foul play.

Lu looked in the thickets below the bank thinking he may have fallen, tumbled, or rolled down the bank; and Nancy scoured an upper bank. No success.

About the time we were ready to call off the search, Lu decided to wade through a poison ivy patch to check another part of the upper bank.

As Nancy watched, she asked: "What's that on the log over to your side?"

It was the young bird, standing upright, watching us intently.

Nancy scurried back to the car to grab Lu's camera and a towel. Lu took more pictures - from as little a three feet away as shown here.

We had made the decision that if we found him on our return trip, we would try to retrieve him and turn him over to a rehab organization. But how to catch him?

Lu's plan was for Nancy to distract the bird from the side by pestering him with a twig. As he turned his head towards her, Lu grabbed the little body just above the wings and safely from his pointed beak.

Nancy wrapped the towel around him and held him as we headed home - his little heart pounding.

At a recent Audubon meeting in the Village, Nancy had heard Tommy Young speak about his work rehabbing injured birds at the Arkansas Native Plant and Center in Mena.

Nancy made some calls, and arrangements were made with the Center to take the bird. Later that afternoon, the big little bird was on his way to rehab.

What we learned

The next day we called Young at the Center to inquire of the little guy's condition.

We learned that he was healthy and perky but far too young to survive on his own. We had made the right decision. He would stay in rehab until September and then be released into the wild.

We learned that he was positively identified as an infant male Broad Winged Hawk.

We learned that the Fords' best guess, that the little guy had probably been blown out of his nest in a storm the night before, was probably true.

We learned that Broad Winged Hawks have a voracious appetite and double in size every four days. In rehab, the little guy was already feasting on mice.

We learned that Broad Winged Hawks don't need water, even if dehydrated. What they need is food, from which they extract sufficient liquids.

We learned that it is legal to rescue protected birds, legal to transport them to rehab, but illegal to keep them captive.

We learned that Broad Winged Hawks migrate in flocks of thousands to South America, and that their migration pattern crosses Lake Wilhelmina on Sept. 22. Nancy has been invited to release the rescued raptor on the that date this fall.

We learned that, when released, rehabbed hawks, following their instincts, have a tendency to return to the neighborhood where they were born.

We'll be watching for him.

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