Since Saturday, Tucson Wildlife Center has been inundated with calls about young Cooper’s hawks found on the ground after having jumped from their nests to escape direct sunlight and the extreme heat in recent days.
Tucson Wildlife Center has been averaging 550 calls a day. More than 200 young Cooper’s hawks have been triaged at the center’s hospital. Some have been released, but many are being treated for injuries associated with jumping out of their nests or heat-related ailments.
June is naturally the month young Cooper’s hawks begin leaving their nests. They are developing their ability to fly and typically spend a week on the ground learning. During this time, the parent hawks are perched nearby, prepared to attack potential threats to their young – whether they be humans or other animals. However, the extreme heat in recent days has caused many young Cooper’s hawks to abandon the nest early.
“In the heat of the day, tortoises will be underground, most desert animals will be underground or seek out shade,” said Lisa Bates, founder of Tucson Wildlife Center. “A bird’s body temperature is 106 degrees, so they can take more heat than we can, but not much. Try to imagine yourself in the canopy of a tree that has no shade. Try to imagine yourself sitting in the blazing sun all day long with no breeze. It’s miserable for all animals.”
Most of the young raptors will survive without human intervention, however, because so many people have found fledgling Cooper’s hawks on the ground in the last few days, Bates and her volunteers at the non-profit Tucson Wildlife Center on East Speedway Boulevard, are offering advice to the 2,000-plus callers.
If the fledglings have mostly brown feathers, are walking well and appear healthy with no crusting around the beak or eyes, and if they have found shade, Bates advises people to leave them alone. The parent hawks likely are monitoring them from a nearby perch. If a bird appears to be heat stressed, a shallow bowl of water could help. Bates said, they should not be fed and pets should be kept indoors away from the fledglings.
If the young birds are mostly white with downy feathers and appear healthy they can be placed in a makeshift nest. A shallow, open-top box or a basket lined with leaves and tied to the shady part of a tree near where the hawk was found will keep it safe from ground predators and allow the adult hawks to continue caring for the young hawk.
A Cooper’s hawk is a medium-sized hawk native to North America. It is found from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico.
For more information, or if you see wildlife in need of help, call Tucson Wildlife Center at 520-290-WILD (9453).