Bellatrix Red-tail Hawk We picked up a beautiful passage hawk 12 days ago. A falconer and his wife who live south of us had trapped her and put out an alert in the falconry community to see if anyone was looking for a Red-tailed Hawk. My husband was! He had been trapping all month (with help from my brother and I) and had a few close calls, but none would stay on the trap. So, needless to say, we were all very excited, relieved and thankful to hear that she was trapped and available as it was getting late in the season.

To capture a bit of history and chronicle the manning of a hawk, I’ll be keeping track of the daily progress that my husband makes with Bellatrix (Bell).

Day 1: Prepare room (drop cloths on the floor, plastic on the walls, dark curtains, comfy chair and table), giant hood (a crate for transporting hawks). We picked up the hawk, drove  home and he sat with her on his arm in the dark for 3 hours. He tried to feed her, but knew that she would not be comfortable enough to accept food yet.

Day 2-10: Wash, rinse, repeat – morning, afternoon and night. During this period, the hawk is not only reluctant to accept food, but will not bend down to eat it as they are vulnerable and unsure if you are trustworthy. Also, the prey is not alive, which could be different than what they’re used to. My H offered food from a stick close to her beak until she accepted it. It took a few days, but she finally ate the mice if it was placed right next to her beak.

Day 11: Today was the day – we had a breakthrough! This morning, Bell finally leaned over to eat a tiny rodent from my husband’s glove. This was a huge step in her progress and the result of 10 days of extreme patience to earn her trust.

Gracie Sleeping

Our Red-tailed Hawk is evidently a very deep sleeper.  Watch this video as my husband opens the giant hood (her crate) and tries to wake her up – slowly and carefully.  He doesn’t want to startle her – there’s nothing worse than a grumpy hawk!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpdsmZwACRo&fs=1&hl=en_US

After much prodding and poking, she finally wakes up and then glares at me – I didn’t do anything, I’m just the camera person!
reindeer-hat

If you have one of these hats, I apologize in advance for any offense to your sense of fun, style or Christmas spirit by this post.  This hat came into my possession recently and unexpectedly as a gift for my H to wear during the holidays. In addition to its obvious charm, it also plays, “Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”  It gets even better.  While belting out this novelty Christmas song, the hat’s antlers wave back and forth in rhythm to its country roots.  It’s truly a sight to behold, especially for a hawk.

If you were a predator, would this look like a tasty snack?

Gracie (enter hawk), was sitting on her perch in the living room the other evening. A few hours went by, the lights were down low, it was getting late and my H and the hawk were having a face-off.  Neither quite trusted the other to completely let their defenses down.  However, as I mentioned, it was getting late. In the duel between man and beast, beast was about to win.

The hat was sitting quietly on the arm of the couch between husband and hawk. It just happened to be placed there at an earlier date and time, and was one of those objects that you get used to seeing and then forget that it’s even there.

My H, sitting on that very couch had his peripheral vision glued to the hawk. As time passed, the eyelids on those green lookers started to droop lower and lower and then finally closed in exhaustion. Seconds ticked by.  Seconds turned into minutes, minutes turned into… an opportunity.  Then, the strike happened. It seemed to came out of nowhere as Gracie went for the hat… or was it the husband?

Being a hunter by nature, Gracie obviously had the upper hand in the waiting game.  She knows when a good meal is at stake.  My H didn’t have a chance.  We still don’t know til this day whether she was going for the hat or for his head. If it wasn’t for the short line connecting those long legs and sharp talons to her perch…

We later wondered, “Was she offended by the garish nature of the Christmas gag or was she waiting for the right moment to commit the perfect crime and off her captor?”

I don’t think we’ll ever know.

Hawk 1, Husband 0.

Happy Holidays!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO4PAhndFO8&fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b

Well, it’s official. Until now, Gracie had been a bit of a mystery to our dogs and myself, but now it’s a whole new level of real.  Most of the time she’s been in a dimly lit room with my H, just he, she and ESPN spending some good quality bonding time together. We’ve had glimpses here and there, a few furtive photo ops and daylight sightings.  However, last night, my H set up a place in our living room just for Gracie.  It’s the next step in her training and socialization, getting familiar with new sights, situations and sounds. Her new special area is composed of a metal perch, AstroTurf, a tarp, towels, a dog gate and a sheet against the living room wall… a vision of loveliness :)

AstroTurf is used by falconers for their hawk's perches

Moving past the obvious decor issues, it was her first introduction to the entire family inside the house and it was a great success!  Our Lab and Golden obeyed perfectly as commanded and curiously lay on the carpet with eyes alert and quivering noses pointed directly towards her.  After a while, they abandoned any real hope of investigating this new visitor in our home and dozed off.

We all watched Boardwalk Empire with the volume down low and Gracie was perfectly at ease. She even rested comfortably on one leg, stretching it out every so often as if this was the norm. I think she’ll be disappointed that next week is the season finale.

Received txt msg from H at 7:12 a.m.:
She got the carpet, slice.
If u have can u bring
carpet clnr? Pls LU

Since Gracie graced our home, I’ve only just peeked in the doorway of the “hawk” room, not wanting to startle her.  But this morning, my H invited me to come all the way in the room to see her.  I cautiously crept in, edging around the outside of the room, trying to make myself look as small as possible and then slid down along the wall to the floor.  Her wings and shoulders arched up hunchback-esque to make herself look badder than me… and she was.  I kept on telling myself, “Don’t look her in the eyes,”  but it was like trying to avoid Medusa.  Where’s Perseus when you need him?

After my drama moment passed and my peripheral vision began to work again, I started to relax.  It only seemed to take a moment or two for her to let down her guard as we all sat in silence together.  The rule is: she can stare, we can’t.  A silent truce had just been made.

As I began to look around the room, I noticed a few spots on the towels that covered the carpet (and the one that had missed). Could this be what I had heard so many rumors about?  Is it slice? I asked my H and he said it was, and began to educate me about the intricacies of hawk poo.  Let me convey my limited understanding to the curious reader:

To Slice (verb) is the act of pooing at an angle by a hawk.  The speed of the slice (sph) depends on the type of raptor (i.e. if it’s a Velociraptor, watch out).

Mute (noun) describes a falcon or hawks poo, particularly the more solid ones that fall down (again, watch out). 

Mute (verb) The act of pooing. (also means to be silent, which is probably what I should have been on this subject)

Chalk/Whitewash (noun) white pee-like substance. (gag)

I invite any whose knowledge and expertise surpasses mine (the bar is set really low here) to further elucidate my readers on this fascinating topic.

P.S.
My H hasn’t had to use our “safe” word yet (in case something goes terribly wrong), which is “meatloaf”
He forgot what it was yesterday and thought it was “watermelon” which would have been really bad, because I would have ran to the grocery store while he was being wing-slapped by a wild hawk.

As the next few weeks are a critical time of bonding and introducing Gracie to the world of man, my H spent almost the entire day with her.  She seems to be relaxing more and more in his presence, but she is still a wild animal.  He said it takes time and patience to create a mutual bond of trust and respect and he wants to expose her to new things in a careful and controlled manner.

P.S.
I’ve heard rumors about when they poo – it’s officially called slicing – ugh!
Ruining pie for me.
Happy to say that after day 1, the whole topic is still a mystery.
No visual violations occured.
Some things just can’t be unseen.

Husband and hawk survived their first evening together.  They sat in a darkened room with just a sliver of light to see eachother with.  She was perched on his arm for about 4 hours.  He fed her two little white mice that were at the end of a skewer and said it was a good sign that she was relaxed enough to eat near him and even better that she bent over a little to eat the other one. The mice are frozen and boiling water was added to warm them up (not my idea of a culinary delight).   Luckily, our cousin, and proud owner of the other new hawk (named Scout), came over to lend a hand with the icy denizens in our freezer.

P.S.
There are no prerequisites for being a falconer’s wife other than love, appreciation and support.
You don’t have to skewer dead mice unless you’re really into it.