Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooper's Hawk in the Library

This young Cooper's Hawk is jarringly out of place. Photo by m_barje
After hearing the news stories that a juvenile Cooper's Hawk somehow got trapped in the main reading room of the Library of Congress, my mom and I had this conversation:
Mom:   Did you hear about the Cooper's Hawk that's in the Library of Congress?
Me:      Yes, I did. I hope they get it out soon. It can't last long in there.
Mom:   Of course you're happy about that--you don't like Cooper's Hawks.
Me:      Yes, I do actually.
Mom:   They eat little birds don't they?
Me:      Well, a hawk's gotta eat something.
Mom:   Anne, I'm surprised at you. I thought you liked little birds!
Me:      I do.
Mom:   Well, can't he learn to eat something else?
Me:      I don't think so.
Mom:   He learned enough to go to the library.
Me:      Yes, he did.
Mom:   And he picked a good library.
Me:      Yes he did.
Mom:   I tell you, there's a children's book in it if he lives.
Me:      Hmmm…at least a blog post.

Searching through Flickr, I found the above photo of another juvenile Cooper's that blundered into a building. Fortunately, this one eventually followed the cat out the same door it entered. I noticed that well-known blogger Birdchick left a comment on the Library Congress's first blog post about the hawk. She mentions that when she worked with a raptor center, she once rescued a Cooper's from a batting cage.
I'm not a bird rehabber, but I had a similar experience. I was just out for a walk with my best buddy, Rosie, in the campus of a nearby college. We took the path past the track and ball field, when I saw a Cooper's Hawk frantically trying to get out of the nylon-net batting cage. I hurried home and put Rosie inside, then headed back.
More than once I'd freed Mourning Doves from these batting cages, and I figured I could help the hawk, though his size would make it more of a challenge. I lifted the netting as high as I could, but it was surprisingly heavy and hard to lift over my head for very long. The panicked hawk would come nowhere near the opening with me there. There was a woman running the track at the time, so I trotted over to ask for her help. Two of us could hold up the net from the corners, leaving a wide open space, I explained. She was afraid of birds, she said, and left immediately.
Finally I found two chairs left by baseball fans and used them to prop the net up creating a low but wide opening. The hawk was frantically trying to get out of the top of the net so I withdrew. When I checked an hour later, the hawk was gone.
Dome of the Main Reading Room of the Library of
Congress, where the hawk is trapped. Photo by Photo Phiend

As I post this, the Cooper's Hawk has now been in the LOC for almost 7 days, hanging out just below the "Mural of Human Understanding," seen on the left in a photo by Photo Phiend. We bloggers have had some fun with this story, but the bird's situation is serious. She-- they determined that she's a female--managed to steal some food from the trap set by the Virginia Raptor Conservancy team, but didn't spring the mechanism. Check the latest tweets about the LOC's hawk here.


  1. Only a few hours after my post went up, the hawk was captured in good health by a bird bander! He used a pair of caged Starlings to get the hawk's attention. (The Starlings survived too.) After some time in "raptor rehab," she'll be released to the wild. Read the news from the LOC's blog.

  2. What a fascinating story. Don't think I've heard of a similar story here in the UK. Glad the bird got out safe and well.

    We've got a birdcount running this weekend so I'm hoping the Sparrowhawk doesn't make an appearance here as it spooks the birds and my stats aren't as accurate as they could be.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Enjoy the rest of your weekend

  3. Enjoy the birdcount Shirl, and here's hoping the Sparrowhawk will hunt in someone else's neighborhood! Thanks for the comment.

  4. I guess this bird is much more educated, now that she spent a week in one of the world's great libraries. No wonder she outsmarted everyone! And I'm glad to find your blog again! I always learn a lot from your site!