As temperatures rise, baby Cooper's hawks fall

Published: Jun. 5, 2017 at 7:25 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 7, 2018 at 1:41 PM MST
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Alternate nest option. (Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department)
Alternate nest option. (Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As temperatures rise, you may see more baby Cooper's hawks falling to the ground across southern Arizona.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department said just because the hawk is out of its nest, it doesn't mean it's in trouble.

According to AZGFD, the annual "nest jumping" behavior is unique to young Cooper's hawks.

"The young hawks are not in the danger that people think," wildlife rehabilitator Kathie Schroder said. "They sometimes fall victim to bobcats, but are pretty safe from most everything except people and cars."

This process of the hawks going to the ground is called fledging and results in local wildlife rehabilitation centers being swamped with calls from concerned residents.

According to AZGFD, parents will continue to feed the young while they are on the ground and the birds will soon learn to fly. The young hawks are also able to use their talons to go from branch to branch to get back up the tree, if they choose.

Many of these young hawks are feathered but some may still have white down sticking out.

According to AZGFD if a young hawk has more white down than feathers and does not attempt to get away when approached, it may have been knocked out of its nest by the wind.

These young birds may be placed in an alternate nest.

An alternate nest may be built as follows:

  • Securely attach a container, such as a milk crate or laundry basket, to the tree where its nest is located. Place an old soft towel in the bottom.
  • Place the container about shoulder height.
  • Put the young hawk in the new nest. The parents will feed it where it is.

Adult Cooper's hawks are extremely protective of their young and before they leave the nest the adults may "dive bomb" humans or large animals that are just passing by the nest.

Once the young hawks are on the ground, this protective "dive bomb" behavior stops, giving the public the mistaken impression the young have been abandoned. However, parents will still be feeding the young and will encourage the young hawks to climb back up the tree or even try to fly.

Leaving the birds in place or providing an alternate nest is immensely preferable to taking them to a rehabber or a bird sanctuary.

"They need to be raised by their parents so they can learn how to catch prey," Schroder said. "People, even rehabbers, cannot teach them that. However, if one is actually injured, a rehabber can help."

A list of rehabbers may be found HERE.

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