Eagles adopt bird of a different feather

Red hawk being fed and cared for it

SIDNEY, B.C. — An usual story of adoption and survival is unfolding in a bald eagle’s nest in Sidney, on Vancouver Island.

An eagle is raising several of its own young but has also hatched an egg left by a red hawk and is feeding and caring for it.

How the hawk egg got into the nest is a mystery, but bird experts suspect the mother laid it before being scared off or killed by the larger raptor.

David Bird with the Hancock Wildlife Foundation in Sidney says there are few examples of eagles adopting other birds.

He says, in this case, the adult eagle’s hormonal drive to kill and eat the baby hawk was overridden by the hormonal drive to feed and raise it.

But Bird says the hawk is half the age and one quarter the size of its adopted siblings and must survive another two weeks before it can fly away from nest mates that are likely to devour it if they get hungry.

“They’re going to look at this little hawk and say ‘I’m bigger than you and you are weaker than me and I’m just going to squeeze the life out of you and start eating you,’” says Bird.

So far, everyone seems to be getting along and Bird says in the 10 years the eagles have been using this nest in suburban Victoria, no one has seen the parents exhibiting adoptive behaviour.


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