Broad-Winged Hawk (Case #1)

Older nestling placed in nest basket in tree adjacent to original nest tree, with a sibling still in original nest.

Younger nestling fostered to nest basket a few days later In June of 2005, an older nestling Broad-winged Hawk was found in the middle of a rural road near Ragland, in St. Clair County.  Volunteer Gene Addor rescued the bird and brought it to the Wildlife Center.   Several days later, Gene and volunteer Greg Smith returned to the exact spot  where the juvenile was found, to attempt to reunite it with its parents.  Greg quickly spotted the nest high in a pine tree on the steep slope below the roadway.  The nest contained another juvenile whose white head could be seen bobbing around in the nest.  Since the original nest was inaccessible, and the two siblings were both well grown, the best alternative was to set up the substitute nest on the lower branches of an adjacent tree.  Greg and Gene used a ladder to secure the nest about 15 feet above the ground.  They used some freshly cut, leafy branches to provide extra cover around the basket, and then installed the young hawk with a supply of mice.  Greg and Gene played the game caller for awhile, hoping to catch sight of the parents, but the adult birds remained out of sight.  With a sibling still in the original nest, there was no question of the adult birds being present, so they soon left.

Gene and his wife Pat went back to check on the nestling in the basket two days later, and saw him perched on the edge of the basket.  There was no sign of the other nestling or the adults, but it was clear the reunited bird was being well cared for.

Three days later, Gene brought an injured hawk to the Center, and I seized the opportunity to send a slightly younger nestling Broad-wing to Ragland to be fostered to the parents of the Broad-wing in the nest basket.  Gene and Pat found the first nestling still perched on the edge of the nest basket, his feather development visibly progressing.  Dark feathers were coming in on both the head and the chest.

Gene placed the noisy extension ladder as quietly as possible against the tree, and slowly climbed up until his head was just below the rim of the basket.  Through the open mesh, he could see the young bird had retreated to the other side of the basket and was perched calmly on the rim.  Keeping his head down, Gene gently placed the younger nestling in the basket, along with a supply of freshly thawed mice.  Then he removed the ladder and retreated to a distance to observe the birds.  The older nestling had moved out on to a branch about 5 feet from the nest, but within a few minutes it joined the new nestling in the nest and ate one of the mice.  The two birds seemed perfectly at ease together in the nest basket.  Before they left, Gene and Pat heard the food-begging call of a hungry young Broad-wing, indicating that the other nestling was somewhere nearby, even though they could not see it in the original nest.  They also saw one of the adults in flight.

A few days later, Gene checked on the birds and saw one of the adults at the original nest, apparently feeding.  The reunited nestling, now a brancher, could be seen about 12 feet away from the nest basket, securely perched on a limb.  The youngest, fostered nestling could be seen still in the nest basket.  Two days later, on a final check, Gene saw all three of the young birds. The bird from the original nest had moved to a branch about 15 feet from the nest, while the reunited sibling was about the same distance from the nest basket.  The youngest sibling was standing up in the nest basket, its white head clearly visible over the rim of the nest.  Although we don’t usually foster a third bird to a nesting family, in this case the food supply was adequate for the adult birds to feed all three young.

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