ON THE WING
By Jill Dinsmore
A wise old owl sat on an oak.
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard,
Why canít we be like that wise old bird!
Edward H. Richards
Several summers ago, we heard quite a commotion at the bottom of the garden. Down we go to find a gang of Blue Jays attacking a small fledgling. Lying defensively on its back at the base of a tree trunk with a sharp beak and jeopardous looking feet striking at anything which came close. With gloved hand, an American Kestrel was picked up. This bold and beautifully marked bird is also known as the Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparverius). We lined an old bushel basket with towels and after depositing the feisty little creature inside, we tied a burlap sack over the top. With the rescue accomplished what should we do now?
We called the local federally licensed bird rescue lady and got a message that she was out of town and would return Sunday evening. This was Friday! Panic began to set in as we realized we had to be the guardian and caretaker for two and a half days. Worms were dug and blended with milk, an eye dropper was bought and we tried to feed the poor thing.
No small feat when dealing with sharp talons and an even sharper and meaner beak. He was having no part of this experience and so went the week-end. Sunday evening the "bird lady" (Mrs. Diane Shaffer) returned our call and we took him to her "Resque Haus" facilities. By this time we had named him "Henry the Hawk". Diane met us with gloved hands and small chunks of meat. Carefully, she put her right hand into the basket behind "Henry" and he promptly stepped backward onto her gloved hand. At the same time she provided him pieces of raw meat with her other hand. I bet he was hungry!! So, we learned a valuable lesson from that experience, hawks donít eat worms! They eat other animals. The bird lady kept Henry in a flight cage with another female Kestrel. Since Henry was a young bird there were no problems. About a month later, Diane released both birds back to nature along White River between Anderson and Muncie.
In the past, the American Kestral has been called the Sparrow Hawk. You frequently can see American Kestrals perched on telephone or power lines most anywhere. They are about the size of a robin and fly like a swallow. They have blue-gray wings, black and white patterns on their face, and are the only small hawks to have a reddish back or tail. Their tail feathers are banded. They have been termed natureís helicopter because they can hover over their prey. Their unique ability to see ultraviolet rays allows them to track rodents as a result of the phosphors in the rodentís urine.
Many gardeners feed song birds and numerous other creatures who invite themselves to the feeders. Occasionally, we see a Coopers Hawk or a Sharp Shinned Hawk visit our feeders looking for a song bird meal. The Coopers Hawk is larger than the Sharp Shined Hawk and have rounded tail feathers, where as the Sharp Shined have a square shaped tail.
For the past two years a nest of hawks have been at the bottom of our garden, in the old oak trees. We have been privileged to see several youngsters flying around screeching. Hawk parents will stay close to the fledglings for several days once the have left the nest. During this period, the youngsters are defended by the adults and taught where to find food and how to hunt. Then the youngsters are driven out on their own to fend for themselves.
In an effort to assist with transition, we wait until the correct period and put our fresh meat, chicken legs or an occasional mouse. A 4x4 post 10 feet long has been erected. On top of the post a platform is attached to serve as a feeding station. We soon learned that birds of prey need materials which are rounded to accommodate their talons, so a sturdy branch was attached. In a short time the fledglings have taken on all the attributes of adults and we wait for the next years young.
The August 2005 edition of " BIRDS & BLOOM" includes an article which states that the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, which was once believed to be extinct, has been seen in eastern Arkansas. This bird is a larger relative to the Pileated Woodpecker and was thought to have vanished over 60 years ago. Good news to all of us who wish for such things.