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Hawk-eye view

Photos courtesy of Todd Hawkins A red-shouldered hawk feeds her four hatchlings in a pine tree on Marietta College's campus this spring.

Though school is out for the summer, four young minds are still growing on Marietta College’s campus.

A family of hawks–including four babies– is nesting there, and now with a live stream, anyone can enjoy the view.

“They hatched about three weeks ago,” said Psychology Professor Alicia Doerflinger. “The male has been around too, he helps with nest and is often perching out on lookout on top of Harrison Hall.”

The family of hawks first took up residence outside Mills Hall last year, said Doerflinger.

“She had four babies leave the nest last year when it was on one of our air conditioners,” said the professor. “Then this year when she came back this spring she built the nest in the pine tree.”

Photo courtesy of Todd Hawkins

Marietta College recently set up a live video feed of the family on Youtube, a camera angle which had Master Falconer Mick Brown ecstatic Tuesday.

“Now that’s a nice clutch,” he exclaimed when he loaded the feed from home in Martins Ferry. “They take about seven to eight weeks to grow from hatching then a couple weeks after that they’ll stick around mom and dad before leaving the nest for good.”

Initially Brown thought the hawk family was a part of the accipiter family, thinking they were Cooper’s hawks.

“But then I saw her fly away and saw those red shoulders and just knew,” said Brown. “That coloration is distinct and the size of that female, too. The females in all birds of prey though are about one-third bigger than the males.”

And the couple has four mouths to feed, a task which Doerflinger said the mother takes seriously.

“She was on the eggs keeping them warm until that first warm day this year and then she took off to get food and let the sun keep them warm,” said the professor.

The diet of a red-shouldered hawk just about anything it can attack, said Brown.

“They’re in the buteos family, that’s a bigger bird, and they’re so fast,” he explained. “They’ll eat salamanders, other birds, small mammals, and amphibians, even squirrels aren’t an issue…they have terrible table manners, I’ll tell you, but that’s nature.”

Doerflinger said the staff in the building have noticed frog legs and even a snake brought back by mom for the four little ones to eat.

“I’m glad she’s there, it’s brought some beauty of nature to our windows,” she said. “They’re pretty high up there though… about five stories up.”

And the birds are protected, both by the state and federally, cautioned Brown.

“People always ask us if wild hawks can harm their small dogs, or farmers aren’t happy if they go after their animals, but you have to remember that once the juveniles leave the nest, they have no idea what sizes they can and cannot go after yet,” said Brown. “And it’s illegal to shoot them.”

Ryan Donnelly, Ohio Department of Natural Resources wildlife specialist for Washington County, said the best thing to do in any situation with wild animals is to leave them be.

“Mostly we see red-tailed hawks and the Cooper’s around here, not so much the red-shouldered, but the biggest thing I deal with this time of the year is people worried about babies left by themselves,” said Donnelly. “But it’s OK, mom and dad will come back to it. Please, you can watch them from a distance but let the parents, the best caretakers, do their job.”

Brown noted that the old wives’ tale of birds not returning if a hatchling has been touched by a human is not accurate.

“The only birds of prey that can smell are vultures, but still if a hatchling has fallen out of a tree mom and dad can probably still take care of them,” he said.

Donnelly added that if any wild animal does appear to be injured that one should call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

“There’s one in Zanesville and one in Athens County, they’re the experts in what they do,” he said.

How to watch:

• Marietta College has set up a live video stream of the hawk family on Youtube: https://youtu.be/ymuUGFyPtXM.

Source: Tom Perry.

About Red-Shouldered Hawks:

• A red-shouldered hawk(Buteo lineatus) could easily be considered Ohio’s most handsome resident buteo.

• This striking raptor has a red body, rusty shoulders, black and white barred back and narrow white bands on a dark bluish tail.

• They are very vocal birds and are often heard before seen.

• The distribution of the red-shouldered hawk is directly related to the availability of suitable wet woodland habitat.

• These hawks occupy mature lowland woods –such as wooded swamps and river corridors.

• They hunt for amphibians, reptiles, and birds in the summer, and birds and mammals in the winter.

• Kin or pairs of red-shouldered hawks will often use the same territory for years.

Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

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