On an overcast Monday last month, Mother Nature dealt a cruel blow to one of the three young red-tails born this Spring near the Art Museum. East Falls local Carolyn Sutton swooped in for a dramatic rescue & rehab in Roxborough. Our girl “Monday” is one lucky hawk!
First and foremost, there are hawk babies! And lots of them. While the mom and dad hawk had only two hawk babies last year, this year there are THREE! All that hawking and squawking went to some good. Most recently, however, things took a perilous turn — leave it to Carolyn to save the day…
One of the baby hawks was spotted on the ground, which immediately concerned Carolyn, who was pretty sure the birds had another week to go before they’d be able to fly. Her fears were confirmed as she watched the poor hawk wandering the Oval, hopping onto low shrubs and looking longingly up to her nest all afternoon.
As rush hour neared, the hawk seemed more frantic, and was getting closer to the road. Urban raptors are killed or injured in traffic all the time, and Carolyn wasn’t taking any chances. She pulled a sheet from her car, and — along with another hawk stalker — “collected” the confused and frightened bird, who they took to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education‘s wildlife clinic in nearby Roxborough.
Have you heard of this place? An incredible resource for local wildlife, and their Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab Center is one of the few locations on the East Coast that rescues and rehabilitates native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Their experts immediately diagnosed the baby hawk’s problem: she’d fledged too soon.
In layman’s terms, this means the baby hawk’s feathers hadn’t fully emerged. While gliding down from her nest was a piece of cake, our little girl couldn’t get enough lift to fly from the ground back up to her family. In nature, this not-terribly-uncommon occurrence usually isn’t a problem: most juveniles will be fine, taking cover on the ground for a few days until their feathers grow out.
In the city however, such a hawk is (pardon the expression) a sitting duck. Vehicles, humans, predators, power lines, disorienting lights and noise… Our world is a hazardous place for even the strongest, most experienced raptors — imagine the chance our girl would’ve had, if Carolyn hadn’t been there to save her?
Before you answer — how about some hawk history?
Our premature fledgling’s mom has been a successful provider for 20 offspring since she started nesting on the Ben Franklin Parkway in 2009. She’s been through three different mates — the first two dying suddenly and tragically. Some babies have also died and been injured in previous locations, but now “Mom” and her latest mate “T3” have found support and safety at the Oval, with the Hawk Stawkers watching over them.
So the baby hawk hung out at the SWRC for six days, and June 12 she was released back to her parents & siblings — who welcomed her with open arms, er, wings. Lately, a bigger crew of “Hawkarazzi” hangs out below, watching & documenting the young hawks as they grow, play, hunt, and hone the instincts they’ll need to carry them through adulthood.
Carolyn says they’ll stay as a family awhile longer, with the kids gradually moving out on their own to nearby hangouts — they won’t build nests, though, until they’re ready to breed (usually about three years). Carolyn’ll be looking out for them, year-round, in all kinds of weather.
And judging by some of the images showing up in Carolyn’s Facebook feed, young “Monday” (as she’s come to be called, the day of her adventure) seems to have a soft spot for her guardian angel.
PHOTO OPS throughout the day at Eakins Oval near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Email us for details.
(All photos in this post thanks to Carolyn Card Sutton, except for Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education images)
IF YOU SEE AN INJURED HAWK (or fox or deer or turtle…), consult SCEE’s “What Do I Do If..?” guide that includes species-specific instructions for a variety of wildlife emergency situations.