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Heat causing hawks to leave nest earlier this year

Published: Jun. 18, 2021 at 6:25 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 19, 2021 at 12:14 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Several records have been met or broken in Tucson and around the state as the summer heats up. It’s also spelling trouble for a lot of the wildlife in the desert.

Phones at the Tucson Wildlife Center have been ringing off the hooks with people concerned about animals in the heat. Most of the calls however are about the Cooper’s Hawk fledglings.

“I’ve been getting a few hundred calls a day at least,” said Alexis Lester, who helps run the front desk at the Tucson Wildlife Center. “It’s baby hawks just all day nonstop, and all day I have people bringing in baby hawks.”

Cooper’s Hawks typically leave the nest to escape the high temperatures during the summer. Their nests are built high in the trees, often with little shade. During the last week, worrisome high temperatures have sent many leaving the nest a little earlier than usual and staying on the ground longer as they learn to fly.

“(The heat) is pretty dangerous, especially for those Cooper’s Hawks, because they don’t have any coverage over their nest, which is why they abort the nest,” said Mariah Spicer, a veterinary technician. “They are just aborting the nest, and they shouldn’t be aborting this young, but a lot of them are because they’re just hot.”

The fledglings, which have mostly brown feathers and a few bits of fuzz, can fall around 40 feet from the top of their trees to the ground, she said. However, most make the fall just fine. Mom is usually close by, keeping an eye on them. The biggest concern would be a broken leg or wing, but if the fledgling is able to run and flap its wings, just not fly, it is probably okay and should be left alone, the Tucson Wildlife Center said.

“If they’re fledglings, they’re totally cool on the ground,” Spicer said. “If they are not standing, or they look sad or lethargic or anything, then we do need to see them.”

It’s just one example of the impact the heat has on wildlife. Arizona Game and Fish said there has been a large decrease in many chicks — especially quail due to the heat and drought.

“A lot of the animals we are seeing are dehydrated,” Spicer said.

The TWC said to not feed any wildlife. People can leave a small dish of water, but they said just to call them if you are concerned about any wildlife.

“Always call us first. Don’t touch it, leave it alone, give us a call and we’ll give you the right direction on what to do next,” said Spicer.

The TWC said in the last few days, they have averaged about 50 animals a day being brought to them for potential care, many that are turned back to those who brought them, to be placed where the animal was found.

They have more than 100 animals currently under their care.

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