Cooper’s Hawk Training

DSC01064Last week I was lucky enough to get the chance to man a young female Cooper’s hawk for the first time.

This little lady was just a fluffy black and white baby in a screened-in tent when I first came to the centre to do my apprenticeship back in August. I was intrigued by them then, they looked so curious, picking at bits of meat, bobbing up and down in their water basin and hiding out in their little dog kennel.

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Young Harris hawk on the left, two young Coopers on the right

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Now this bird is a lightning-fast, reptilian killing machine. She’s basically a cobra with feathers. Ironically she sounds more like a squeaky dog toy…

DSC01050For at least twenty minutes after I took her out of her aviary she was very tense, holding out her wings as you see in the above photo, screeching, bating and panting. Sticking a camera in her face didn’t exactly help, but it’s good to get her used to things like this while she’s on the glove. I kept my movements slow and gentle to minimize her stress.

Eventually she calmed down and I was able to jump her to a nice piece of raw quail she could  focus her attention on. She plucked her quail extensively, showering my lap with tiny feathers. Eating quickly and efficiently on the glove, that’s good.

She’s very light, and she has very good coordination. She’s not sloppy with her feet like some birds can be. Looking into her cool blue eyes, it’s hard to imagine that as an adult they will turn to blood red.

I’m really lucky to be able to follow these fractious and intense little accipiters along their training as they mature. I wouldn’t want to be a small woodland creature staring up at this face:

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