A baby red-tailed hawk in Sidney, British Columbia, has captured the hearts of nature aficionados since it was discovered recently in a bald eagle nest, being nurtured as though it were an eaglet instead of prey.
This extraordinary union, which remains mysterious despite at least one plausible explanation, may or may not end well for the hawk: Its survival could depend on whether three larger bald eagle chicks will tolerate the outsider until it's strong enough to fledge. (The two species typically are not friendly toward one another.)
But so far, so good.
The accompanying video clips (footage via Christian Sasse) show the hawk accepting food from adult bald eagles. The hawk looks healthy, and if it remains in the eaglets' good graces, it could fledge within about a week.
"Fake it 'til you make it," reads a headline in one report about the hawk's precarious situation.
The unlikely adoption — rare, but not without precedent — involves bald eagles inhabiting a nest in a Douglas fir near the coast.
David Bird, a 40-year raptor scientist at McGill University in Montreal, told the Vancouver Sun that one of the bald eagle parents might have raided a nearby hawk nest and delivered one or more chicks to the nest as prey. This particular hawk was alive, though, and cried for food, as did the eaglets.
"My guess is that this little guy begged loud and hard for food — not even thinking about the danger," Bird said. "Food overrides everything in these birds. He begged away and mom and dad said, 'OK, here's an open, gaping beak. Let's put food in it.'"
Bird added, “The fact that it survived so long is absolutely amazing. [But] the big question is: Will it survive the next week to get out of the nest?"
David Hancock of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation at first suggested that a red-tailed hawk egg might have been carried to the eagle nest and subsequently hatched by the eagles. But Hancock now favors the explanation presented by Bird.
Hancock and Sasse have been conducting live YouTube broadcasts daily from the nest site. On Tuesday, the hawk failed to appear within view for more than 30 minutes, but when one of the adult eagles landed with food, it quickly emerged into view.
So now it's a race against time. It could be that the hawk continues to be treated as family and will soon leave to begin life on its own terms. Alternately, there's still time for the fast-growing eaglets to gang up and devour the smaller raptor.
Either way, it has been quite the spectacle for Kerry Finley, who owns the property on which stands the Douglas fir. "It's quite something to see the way it is treated," Finley told the Sun. "The parents are quite attentive. [But] the other birds are keeping their distance — they know it is something different."
More about bald eagles from GrindTV