07/16/09 — Family finds abandoned baby hawk

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Family finds abandoned baby hawk

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 16, 2009 1:46 PM

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Rick Roberts holds the young Cooper's hawk, nicknamed "Lucky," that he and his mother, Claudia Roberts, rescued Tuesday from angry mockingbirds. Lucky is now in the care of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Rick Roberts wasn't sure what kind of bird his mother, Claudia Roberts, found Tuesday clinging to the chain link fence in their back yard, but he realized the small, fluffy bundle of feathers was in trouble.

Roberts was playing his guitar when Mrs. Roberts called him outside to see what she had found. The brown bird's hooked beak tipped them off that it wasn't a typical visitor, and its puffed appearance and small size made it clear it was still young.

And the local wildlife wasn't happy about its presence.

"A couple of those mockingbirds, we call them catbirds, were trying to kill it, trying to knock it off the fence," Roberts said.

When Roberts touched the bird and encouraged it to climb onto his hand, the mockingbirds started dive-bombing him, too.

The fledgling was about 7inches tall, and there was no telling how long it had been sitting on the fence in the July sun being harassed by the territorial mockingbirds.

"I could tell he was extremely overheated," Roberts said.

The bird was distressed, its wings mantled to its sides and mouth gaping open, he said. The Robertses offered the bird some water, and it actually drank, a good sign that it was still strong enough to survive.

Neighbor John Grant was able to give them a clue about its identity, and put them on the trail to finding someone who could help.

"He said, 'Hey man, that's definitely a hawk,'" Roberts said, which led to another problem.

"I didn't want to let it die, but I didn't know how to take care of it."

And he was worried that the other birds would kill the baby if he simply set it free again.

Grant called his niece, Tara Humphries, public information officer at Wayne Community College. Birds sometimes hit the windows of the college, and Ms. Humphries was able to locate the same wildlife rehabilitator who has previously taken in injured birds from the WCC grounds.

The rehabber, Marti Brinson, is "a friend of a friend," she said.

Ms. Brinson, of the Downeast Wildlife Rehabili-tation Center in Grifton, identified the bird as a young Cooper's hawk. The Cooper's hawk is a mid-sized species of avian predator common in North America, although not as familiar to people in North Carolina as the Red-tailed hawk, another bird of prey native to the area.

The bird was taken to the rehab center where, if possible, it will be raised to adulthood and set free once it's strong and well enough to fly on its own. Ms. Brinson has state and federal licensure to care for injured wildlife and has worked with many kinds of animals for more than 30 years.

It was the first time that Roberts had ever interacted so closely with a bird of prey, let alone rescued one.

"This is definitely the first, it'll probably be the last time, it was a once-in-a-lifetime ordeal," he said.

They nicknamed the bird Lucky -- he was lucky that Mrs. Roberts found him, Roberts said.

"People need to be aware of those kinds of things instead of letting them die by the wayside," he said. "That's definitely God's creature, one of God's creations."