Yesterday, we released a young Cooper’s hawk at The Nature Institute in Godfrey.  The hawk was one of this year’s orphans, raised at TreeHouse until it was old enough to hunt for itself in the wild.  This hawk came from Bond County, where it was found grounded and in need of help.  It has been in a flight training cage at our Brighton facility for the past few days, building up its flight muscles and practicing hunting.

Adele get the Cooper’s hawk set for release at The Nature Institute.

We are currently experiencing a bit of a pinch with our flight training for young birds ready for release, since we do not yet have the full funding required to build our new flight cage at Dow, but the old flight cages in Brighton are nearly unusable, as weasels and mink can get in through many of the cracks and gaps.  Despite their small size, weasels are formidable predators, and they are able to kill large adult owls with ease.  Great horned owls, barred owls, Cooper’s hawks, waterfowl—not to mention tiny screech owls and kestrels—all can fall prey to weasels when young or in a confined space.  For this reason we are presently cutting the time our birds spend in the flight training cages to a minimum—as soon as we establish that they are able to hunt, the birds are released.

Fortunately, Cooper’s hawks are among those, based on Adele’s 30+ years of rehab experience, that pick up the skill of hunting the fastest.  Cooper’s hawks are accipiters, a genus of raptors that have broad, rounded wings, very long tails, and relatively delicate feet and talons.  Accipiters are extraordinarily fast, maneuverable flyers, and their primary prey consists of other birds, which they are adept at catching while in flight.  The most common cause for admission of Cooper’s hawks at TreeHouse is collisions with windows—they fly so fast that when they hit something, they hit it hard.  They are extremely high-energy birds, and they are usually high-strung in captivity, constantly bouncing off the walls—literally.  All they want to do is fly.

The young hawk we released yesterday proved that it was more than delighted to be out in the open as it pelted toward tree-line.  After weeks or months of caring for an animal in rehab, releases, while always both exciting and gratifying, can sometimes be a bit anti-climactic.  Mammals, especially, have a tendency to be pretty wary of leaving their box.  This Cooper’s hawk, however, did not disappoint.  A brief video clip of the release can be found on our YouTube page.  Even though the hawk was gone in a flash, it put on a brief but spectacular show of accipiter flying prowess as it wheeled over the treetops and out of sight, presumably in search of a flock of little birds to hunt.

You can find information about donating to our cage-building fund here or by calling TreeHouse at (618)466-2990.

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