The Cooper's hawk that was rescued from the Library of Congress was taken into RCV care on January 26th and is doing great. The plan is to release it on Tuesday, February 8, at 11am (weather permitting). We will update this page periodically to keep everyone informed. Thanks for all the interest!
RCV staff responded to requests for aid from the Library of Congress and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday, January 20th. Having gained access to the dome of the Library of Congress to view the bird, it was determined to be a juvenile Cooper's hawk, and the area to set traps in was rather limited. The dome above the Main Reading room of the Library of Congress is about 40 feet across and around 160 feet of free fall between the narrow ledge and the floor of the Main Reading Room. Although there are windows at upper part of the dome, they had been permanently sealed 2 months earlier. Great care was taken to avoid spooking the hawk, which might fly into a window and fall to her death below. The bird was flying around the dome about 30 feet above the level of the ledge (the ledge is about 1 foot wide). She appeared to have eaten a big meal recently, and fortunately was rather calm about the predicament she was in. A trap with a pigeon was set, but the hawk completely ignored it. These traps contain live lures, but the lures are protected by a wire cage so the hawk cannot come in contact with the lurer. The traps must be monitored at all times in case the hawk gets caught. After a couple of hours the trap was removed and hope was high that the hawk would be hungry the following day.
Two traps with pigeons and one with mice were set. The hawk continued to show no interest in the lures and spent most of the time perched high in the dome. The pigeons and the mice soon fell asleep. After a number of hours, the traps were again removed and plans made to try something different for the following day. The first call for starlings went out, as they are a common prey species for Cooper's hawks. They also tend to be more active and concerned when a hawk is around than coop raised pigeons are. The movement of the lures helps to get the attention of the hawk. While waiting in the dome, RCV staff heard pigeons inside the outer cover of the dome. It is assumed the Cooper's hawk chased a pigeon inside through a hole in the dome, and instead of going back out the same way, she came into the dome through a ventilation shaft.
A trap with a pigeon and one with mice were set. Another pigeon was out on the ledge protected by a net and a harness. The hawk still showed no interest in the lures, although by the afternoon she was flying around more often. Staff from the Washington DC Humane Society stopped by to look over the situation and offer any assistance needed. In the late afternoon, RCV staff was relieved by Virginia falconers Eva and Andrew King, who brought some different traps, but who had been unable to locate starlings. They decided to spend the night there, which could not have been at all comfortable. During the night they managed to secure the hawk in the dome area by stretching a net over the space above the Main Reading Room which lies FAR below. This elliminated the worry of the hawk either swooping down on Library researchers or being injured if stunned, or weak and fell.
The Virginia falconers, Eva and Andrew King, also found the hawk was not interested in their live lures. They set a trap with a dead quail opened on it to see if the hawk would be interested in the sight of feathered meat. Indeed, that got her attention, however, she landed on the board and not the bait and managed to get a good meal without getting caught! Everyone felt better that she had eaten, even though that meant she would not be interested in the lures the following day.
Due to her good meal the day before and a full crop, no attempts to trap the hawk were made today. Craig Koppie from the US Fish and Wildlife Service offered his assistance and knew of a master bander who had starlings. Plans were made to meet Wednesday morning and use the starlings as lures.
We were all excluded from the building for security reasons as the President was due to hold a reception here after his State of the Union address. This only helped to increase the appetite of the hawk.
Linda Moore, Craig Koppie, and Kennon Smith, a raptor bander, met at the Library early in the morning. Frick and Frack, the starlings, were ready. After looking over the situation, Kennon and Craig got the starlings and trap in place. Then all 3 humans huddled behind a tarp watching the trap. For almost 30 minutes the starlings, aware that there was a hawk overhead, sat motionless. The hawk settled down as well and all was quiet. Then a truck went by outside and one of the starlings moved its head. That was all it took - the Cooper's hawk flew straight to the trap and was quickly entangled. Linda and Kennon removed her from the trap, then Craig weighed her. At 424 grams, she was far underweight and probably dehydrated. After a very brief update to the media waiting downstairs, Linda left Craig and Kennon to talk to the press while she took the hawk to RCV. The hawk was rehydrated and placed in a flight cage, where she settled down and began eating about an hour later. And what an appetite she had! She was definitely interested in making up for long term lack of food.
The Coopers hawk continues to do well. Her appetite has dropped back to normal now that she is back to her full weight (565 grams). She now stands a far better chance of surviving the rest of the Winter and going on to mate and raise a family. She is ready for release as soon as we get a few days of continuous good weather.
At 11am this morning, the Cooper's hawk was released back into the wild at Sky Meadow State Park by RCV Vice President Linda Moore. The hawk successfully returned to her full weight (565 grams) in her short stay with RCV, and appeared eager to return to the skies. She very quickly flew out of sight into the open air. We bid her a fond farewell. Click here to see video of the release (courtesy of Kathy Woodrell).