Stories from the field.
March 7, 2014
The California Raptor Center Takes Golden Eagle Sullivan on the Road
On February 22, the California Raptor Center took part in the Duck Days Festival, an annual event organized by the Yolo Basin Foundation to celebrate the glorious wetlands around Davis, California. Among this year’s many highlights, the star turn of the day was the Raptor Center’s Golden Eagle, Sullivan, who made his off-site debut in a special presentation. Training Golden Eagles, who weigh from 8 – 17 pounds (Sully weighs in at the low end), can be a special challenge, particularly getting them prepared for travel and crowds in strange places. CRC Volunteer Brenton Pierce, Sullivan’s main trainer/handler, who has shown Sully at the Center for more than a year, worked with him for weeks to get him ready for the road. Sully arrived hooded and in a dark carrier. Brenton took him out of the carrier and carried him like a football into the roped-off area inside and unhooded him. Then Sullivan was jessed and made ready to show off. Brenton’s assistant for the event was Volunteer Racine Barton, who is also on the Outreach Team.
Brenton tells crowds about Sullivan, who is non-releasable owing to a wing injury, and explains that this wild eagle is not his friend – “I’m just Sullivan’s branch,” he says.
Also participating in the CRC Duck Days display were volunteers Julia Cotton, Adilla Fauzi, Sallie Reynolds, Liz Williamson; aided by Education Raptors Grasshopper the Swainson’s Hawk, Jack the Red-tailed Hawk, Spar the American Kestrel, and Sophie the Saw-whet Owl, who has since died. She was always a great favorite with audiences, and we will miss her.
For a complete write-up of the event, watch the California Raptor Center webpage and the California Raptor Center Volunteers’ Forum on facebook.
Cooper’s Hawk – February 4, 2014
One warm day in February, a Good Samaritan brought an adult Cooper’s Hawk to the Raptor Center in Davis, California – adult because of the feather coloring and the beautiful, fierce red eye. She – the females are much heavier than males in Accipiters – had hit a window in Sacramento, undoubtedly in a high-speed, twisting chase through yards and woods as she zeroed in on a songbird.
Adult Cooper’s Hawk, above, top; juvenile Cooper’s Hawk above, bottom
Aside from being dazed, she seemed to have no injuries. She was in excellent muscle and feather. The manager at the Raptor Center put her in a flight cage to monitor her flight and condition, and in a few days, decided to release her back to the wild.
Accipiters (Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned, and Goshawks in the US) generally hunt birds and have the typical slender, long toes of the bird killer – powerful nonetheless and armed with razor-sharp talons. These are the agility champs of the avian world, weaving between and among branches and bushes in a chase. (Google: Goshawk Flies Through Tiny Spaces in Slo Mo to see a video of a Gos in dramatic action!) They are so intent on their prey and their maneuvers that they sometimes fail to see the glass of a picture window, and while the songbird may duck away, the hawk often crashes into the barrier.
At the time of release, volunteers caught our lady in a net, put a stockinette over her head (not being able to see calms diurnal birds), banded her, and took her to the levy road by Putah Creek near the Raptor Center – a few miles from her home territory but not far enough that she wouldn’t find her way home. Volunteer Liz Williamson took off the stockinette and Volunteer Jessica Schlarbaum launched her into the wind.
And she flew, she flew with strength and perfection. She circled away from us, lit briefly in a tree to look around, took off again, a wider circle this time, perched once more, and was gone. A small regiment of crows accompanied her for a bit, but turned back at the highway a mile behind the Center.
Bon Voyage, fierce lady!