Landing Safely – Wise County Messenger
A backyard in New Fairview has become a makeshift sanctuary for baby hawks.
On August 8, Brian Osborne walked into his backyard and came across a juvenile falcon in his birdbath.
“I went out on the porch with my dog that night, saw something move in the birdbath, and I was kinda scared because it was moving,” Osborne said. “It was a baby hawk. Two days later, her sister shows up.
What was initially a shocking spectacle has become a routine. Two young hawks have turned Osborne’s back porch into a summer retreat, spending the last few weeks on her back porch and in her birdbath.
The birds are Mississippi kites and are currently the size of large pigeons.
He named the male Cooper and the female Skye. He chronicled the once-in-a-lifetime experience, posting videos, photos and updates to his Facebook page for those captivated by the beautiful baby birds of prey that keep returning to Osborne’s back porch.
Since that first encounter, the birds have formed a bond with Osborne, letting him get close for photos and video, and even letting him safely carry the flightless juvenile male falcon back to his birth tree in proximity, away from predators. like wild cats.
“The hawk girl is the little female, and she can fly from tree to tree and doesn’t stay on the porch very long,” Osborne said. “The hawk boy, he’s a typical lazy teenager. He doesn’t want to fly, he likes to hang out by the pool all day. So at night I take a broomstick, he climbs on it and I put it on the tree branch.
Osborne said he’s seen hawks near his home before, but never like this.
“We saw hawks here and there, but never like living in my backyard,” he said. “We have a property that relies on an acreage with cattle. We saw wildlife, deer, bobcats and coyotes, but I never had a live hawk on my back porch. We have the impression of having been privileged to discover this corner of nature. And I feel like we helped them.
According to the Blackland Praire Raptor Center (BPRC) — a bird rehabilitation center located in Collin County — Mississippi Kite sightings are common this time of year.
It’s Mississippi kite season, and birds migrate from Argentina to the region each year in June and July, starting nests and laying eggs before returning. This summer, the combination of drought and environmental conditions will likely contribute to increased interactions with people.
“When the birds aren’t thriving, they come to us,” said BPRC director Hailey LeBaron.
The growing center in Lucas is handling twice as many Mississippi kites this year compared to 2021, receiving daily calls from people asking what they should do when they encounter the hawks.
Several factors could have driven the spike, but she speculated that drought and summer conditions contributed to the increased interactions.
“It seems random, but there’s always a reason you’ll have a lot of babies born in a year,” LeBaron said. “Suppose we have gone through the winter freeze and it kills a number of animals in an area, it opens the door for a species to take advantage of it, we will see an eruption that year. Right now, you can theorize that because of our drought, there is no water for the insects and snakes that are part of the food chain for these birds. For the adults, it’s survival of the fittest, so if it’s between the parents and the babies, they’re going to feed. It’s a whole cascade of possibilities that could make this influx. I can definitely say that we doubled the number of Mississippi kites this year.
Osborne, a trainer at Fit N Wise in Decatur, contacted the facility for advice after seeing the birds so close to home. He was encouraged to keep doing what he was doing and to keep replenishing the water source.
Shortly after the initial interaction, Osborne was relieved to discover that the baby hawks had not been abandoned by their parents. Cooper and Skye’s mother and father rush to feed the children after hearing their cries.
“The parents leave us alone,” he says. “I don’t know if they know we’re helping them or if they’re just not afraid of us. They feed them grasshoppers and cicadas, whatever they can find. They probably come 10-15 times a day, and even came to feed them right at my birdbath.
Turns out the juvenile birds weren’t abandoned. They just found a cool place to get water on Osborne’s porch. The birds’ nest is near a pond about 200 meters from their tree. But this pond has dried up.
“They’re looking for water,” Osborne said. “I’ve heard of people going out and finding these baby kites in their dog bowls.”
LeBaron said Osborne was doing the right thing. And if people encounter juvenile Mississippi kites, providing a water source, or even food, is helpful during the season. She also encouraged people to contact the center with around 80 volunteers, or their local wildlife rehabilitation center if they come across any birds they are concerned about.
For Osborne, he cherished his time with his new neighbors and watched them grow.
The baby hawks are starting to fly. Soon they will migrate again.
There will be mixed emotions once the birds take flight, Osborne said. In part, he knows he helped them weather the onslaught of extreme temperatures, but he will always miss them.
“But hey, maybe they’ll come back and raise their babies here,” he said. “Maybe in a year I’ll look out my back window and have a grown hawk sitting on it.