Category Archives: Rescue

Raptors in Harm’s Way

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

Late in the day on Monday we were driving on the Georgia Tech campus and a Cooper’s Hawk flew low right in front of the car, barely missing us.  A split second prior to seeing the bird, a squirrel raced across the street in a straight-line hurry.   He was not doing the indecisive squirrel thing that they do in the middle of the road, but running full out.  Clearly the squirrel was in the hawk’s sights.

How often does this happen?  A little homework revealed that it happens much more often than  you might think.  Here’s what we’ve learned.

Urban raptors that we see here are mainly hawks (Cooper’s, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered) and owls (Screech-, Barred and Great Horned).  Hawks are daytime hunters while owls hunt at night, but both may be seen in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn.

Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus

Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus

Cooper’s Hawks and owls look for prey from a perch and then move quickly to pounce on a prey animal (‘perch-and-pounce’).  During a chase, these birds are laser focused on their prey, and because their eyes are fixed to the front they often miss objects coming from the side.

Cooper’s Hawks will fly fast and low to the ground, then up and over an obstruction to surprise prey on the other side. [1]

The side of a highway or a city street is an ideal spot for urban perch-and-pounce raptors.  This time of year, the leaves are off the trees and rodents and squirrels have less tall grass and ground cover in which to hide.

Wildlife rescue organizations say that winter brings an uptick in raptor collisions with vehicles.  Speculation is that the increase is attributed to two groups: young first-year birds who don’t yet know the ropes and migrants.  Both groups would be unfamiliar with the territory and the roads. [2]

Although raptors are fast and agile, they are no match for fast-moving vehicles.

Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii

So, when driving in town, especially in urban neighborhoods with lots of trees and good hunting spots, slow down.  If you see a squirrel, chipmunk or small rodent racing across the street, hit the brakes.  Not just to save the squirrel, but because a raptor may be close behind.  Drive like your children and wildlife live here.

If you hit a raptor and it is still alive, try to get it to an animal rescue facility quickly.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Cornell – All About Birds:  Cooper’s Hawk
[2]  Audubon Society of Portland:  Winter Raptors
[3]  HawkWatch:  Risks to Raptors
[4]  City Wildlife:  Raptors in Our City

Rescue Adventure

Late Thursday afternoon, February 24, Melanie Furr with Atlanta Audubon put out a call for help on GABO’s  (Georgia Birders Online) list serve:

Pied-billed Grebe

A Pied-billed Grebe hampered by a dog toy – Melanie Furr

There is a grebe on the lake at Murphy Candler Park (DeKalb Co) with a ring around its neck (appears to be a dog toy?). The bird does not appear to be able to dive or fly. A canoe will probably be needed to get to the bird. If there’s anything that anyone can do to help, please get in touch with me.

“A canoe will probably be needed…”.  That was a key phrase.  Jack Wissner (aka KyakJak), our friend here in Peachtree Park, responded immediately with an offer to help with his canoe.  Perfect team for the job – Melanie with her long experience rescuing animals and Jack with his formidable skills in a canoe.  I went along as observer and unskilled labor.

Murphey Candler Park, Atlanta, GA - February 25, 2016

Melanie and Jack – Grebe Rescue at Murphey Candler Park

The next morning Melanie went early to the lake and called Jack to say the bird was still there and still in trouble.  So we loaded the canoe on Jack’s car and went to Murphey Candler.

Murphey Candler Park, Atlanta, GA - February 25, 2016

Melanie and Jack – Grebe Rescue at Murphey Candler Park

Jack and Melanie paddled the lake from one end to the other several times but were unable to locate the bird.  After a couple of hours, two additional resources from Atlanta Audubon came to help with the search.  No luck.

Then finally the Grebe was spotted on the far side of the lake and to everybody’s relief it had managed to free itself from the constraining plastic.

Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps Murphey Candler Park, Atlanta, GA - February 25, 2016

Pied-billed Grebe free of constraining plastic toy

Great adventure, and in the process we learned a lot about animal rescue and met some talented, dedicated individuals.

Melanie is the author of an outstanding blog “My Eco-centric Life” which we really liked.  Check out her post titled “You Might Be A Wildlife Rehabilitator If…

All of this prompted us to do some homework on wildlife rescue, the results of which are included on our page “Learn About Wildlife Rescue“.

Thanks to Melanie, Jack and the folks at Atlanta Audubon for this most excellent urban wildlife adventure!