Nursery: Help Baby Raptors

Mikey is a Red-Shouldered Hawk

The story of a Red-shouldered Hawk named Mikey is a good example of how orphaned raptors are raised in our nursery:

Rescued. Mikey came to California Raptor Center as a downy little chick when he was only two days old. The wind had blown his nest out of the tree, and Mikey and his nestmate had fallen to the ground. Sadly, one tiny chick died from the fall, but the other was still alive when he was found by caring people who brought him to the CRC. As you can see from his baby picture, Mikey was so small that he fit in the palm of a hand.

Skipping the Incubator. Because Mikey was already hatched from his egg, he did not need to go into the incubator. If he had still been an egg, volunteers would have "candled" his egg (held it up to a special light) to see if the chick was alive inside the egg. If his egg had been "viable," he would have been placed in the electric incubator. This box keeps the eggs warm at a steady temperature and at the right level of humidity, acting like a mother bird sitting on eggs. The incubator gently turns the eggs at regular intervals in the same way the mother bird would turn the eggs in the nest. Turning the egg keeps the chick near the center of the egg so it can develop properly. Volunteers must constantly monitor the eggs to see how the chicks are developing, and they must regularly check the temperature and humidity levels, adjusting settings and adding water when necessary.

Into the Hatcher. Because he was only two days old when he arrived, Mikey went straight into the nursery's electric hatcher. This is a box with temperature and humidity controls, but it has no movement. Mikey lived in a tiny plastic bowl lined with soft paper for comfort and with soft rubber netting to eep his feet from splaying. He was joined by newly hatched birds and "pipped" eggs from the incubator. ("Pipping" is when baby birds break a hole in the egg shell with their beaks.) In the hatcher the chick finishes breaking out of its shell. The baby bird needs to struggle with this process cecause the activity helps it become strong. The nearly naked baby raptors are fed tiny bits of the choicest "mashed mouse" put into their beaks with tweezers. They stay in the hatcher until (1) their down grows thick enough to cover their bodies, (2) their necks get strong enough to hold up their heads, and (3) their wings and legs get strong enough to keep the chick from falling over. This happens fast.

Into the Tub. When Mikey was downy and strong enough to leave the hatcher, he was placed with Evita, the Swainson's Hawk, in the hope that she would care for him and feed him and that he would imprint on her, learning that he was a bird, not a human. However, Evita would not feed the little chick, so Mikey was placed in a small "brooder tub" (a plastic tub with high sides which is kept warm by an electric hot water bottle).

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