An eagle snatched a baby hawk for dinner, then ended up adopting it
Bald eagles near Nanaimo raise a red-tailed hawk alongside their own eaglet
🙂🙃🤧 A pair of bald eagles near Nanaimo, B.C., have adopted a baby red-tailed hawk and are raising it alongside their own eaglet.
🙂🙃🤧 But while the hawk is now part of the eagles' family, it could have just as easily been their dinner.
🙂🙃🤧 "This bird likely came from a red-tailed hawk nest that was preyed upon by the adult bald eagles," ornithologist David Bird, a professor emeritus of wildlife biology at Montreal's McGill University, told As It Happens guest host Tom Harrington.
🙂🙃🤧 Webcam footage of the eagles' nest on Gabriola Island captured the mamma bird dropping the little red-tailed hawk into its nest earlier this month — likely "to be torn apart," according to Bird.
🙂🙃🤧 "And the next thing you know, the little hawk bounces up and starts begging for food right away," Bird said. "That's what saved its life."
🙂🙃🤧 Watch: Bald eagle drops a baby hawk into its nest:
🙂🙃🤧 Pam McCartney, a volunteer with the wildlife organization Growls, was watching a livestream of the nest when she saw the mom drop the baby hawk.
🙂🙃🤧 She thought for sure it was a goner.
🙂🙃🤧 "Usually when I watch, like David Attenborough and his shows, I can close my eyes or fast forward or whatever, but this was live at the time, and I was just like, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh," McCartney said.
🙂🙃🤧 But to her welcome surprise, neither the mother nor the eaglet attacked the little hawk.
🙂🙃🤧 "She just kind of dropped it, you know, and it came alive. And [the] eaglet was just like, 'What the heck, Mom? What is this? Why is it moving?'"
🙂🙃🤧 At first, she says, the two baby birds kept to themselves on opposite sides of the nest, and the mother didn't pay much attention to the hawk.
🙂🙃🤧 But by nightfall, she says they'd become a real family, with the mother eagle feeding and fussing over both baby birds equally.
🙂🙃🤧 Growls operates a number of webcams on the island to monitor eagle nests. The group is keeping the exact location of the rare inter-species family a secret, so they don't get overwhelmed by birdwatchers.
🙂🙃🤧 McCartney says the eaglet's parents had lost one of their two chicks a few weeks ago, and she suspects the new hawk has taken its place.
🙂🙃🤧 "In my mind of growing up on Disney, I'm seeing this eaglet think like, 'Was this another little sibling?'" she said.
2nd time this has happened in B.C.
🙂🙃🤧 Bird says the rare phenomenon came about due to an incredible confluence of events.
🙂🙃🤧 First of all, he says it's "a miracle" that the hawk didn't die in the powerful clutch of the eagle's talons.
🙂🙃🤧 "I've had these on my fist. I know what that feels like," he said.
🙂🙃🤧 It's also amazing, he says, that the mother opted to feed the baby bird instead of kill it.
🙂🙃🤧 And finally, he says it's incredible odds that all of this happened in one of just a handful of nests on the island that are monitored by Growls' cameras.
🙂🙃🤧 "I don't think in my lifetime I would have believed I'd see that," Bird said. "It's quite a rare thing to see."
🙂🙃🤧 Watch: A livestream of the eagles raising a baby hawk:
🙂🙃🤧 Rare, but not unprecedented. In 2017, a pair of nesting bald eagles in Sidney, B.C., made headlines when they raised a red-tailed hawk as their own.
🙂🙃🤧 In that case, the hawk thrived in its new family, growing up strong and healthy and eventually leaving the nest. Bird says it did require a bit of extra help from scientists to get access to the proper food as it grew older, as hawks and eagles don't feed on the same kind of prey.
🙂🙃🤧 That success story, Bird says, bodes well for the Gabriola Island hawk.
🙂🙃🤧 "He's in very good health. And his sibling has seemed to have accepted him," he said.
🙂🙃🤧 McCartney, meanwhile, has been watching the mixed family obsessively.
🙂🙃🤧 "It's incredible to me, and I just find them to be, like, this happy family," she said. "They all get along [and] sometimes they give each other little, you know, eagle kisses or whatever — raptor kisses," she said.
🙂🙃🤧 Watching the birds bond reminds her of how much humans have in common with wildlife, she says.
🙂🙃🤧 "It's similar to us," she said. "We're not all conventional and we're not exactly how everybody thinks we should be or we're different — and we're beautiful, and it's beautiful."
🙂🙃🤧 Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with David Bird produced by Morgan Passi.