The hawk that has been ruffling feathers at the Library of Congress will be calling Falls Church home for the next few weeks.
A juvenile female Cooper’s Hawk was noticed Jan. 19 by a library-goer, and the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia was called in by the library and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to safely remove the bird.
According to Kent Knowles, president of the Falls Church-based Raptor Conservancy, the bird escaped capture for many days because it was not interested in eating.
“It came in having eaten a very large meal,” Knowles said. “Its crop was absolutely jammed full, so it was not hungry for the first few days.” The bird’s lack of appetite posed a problem because birds are typically lured into traps by the promise of a meal, but the bird, unhindered by a desire to eat, was free to explore the library.
On the Sunday after her arrival, when she was finally enticed by the frozen quail that had been used to bait one trap, the bird was able to eat what she wanted of the quail while avoiding the nooses on the trap that should have grabbed her.
Vice President of the Raptor Conservancy Linda Moore and Craig Koppie and Kennon Smith of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were finally able to trap the bird last Wednesday using starlings as bait. The starlings froze upon seeing the bird of prey, but once they began moving and making noise, the hawk swooped down and was captured by the nooses attached to the trap. The starlings weren’t injured during the trapping, Knowles said.
When captured, the bird weighed about 425 grams, and Knowles estimates that she should weigh about 525 grams. The hawk will be kept at the conservancy until she weighs what she should, and Knowles said this should happen within a couple of weeks.
“We want to get her in good condition so she can survive the winter and get on with the rest of her life,” Knowles said. “It just depends on how fast the bird puts on a reasonable amount of weight. Then we’ll take her somewhere away from the Library of Congress area and send her off to a happy future, we hope.”
The Raptor Conservancy began its work rehabilitating birds of prey and educating the public about these birds 15 years ago.
“We take in native species that are injured or orphaned and try to get them well,” Knowles said. “We do whatever surgery is necessary, recondition them, give them medication, and just do whatever is necessary. Then we band them and release them.”
According to Knowles, the group treats around 240 birds a year, mainly from around Northern Virginia, but occasionally from Washington, D.C.
The group also cares for a small group of owls, hawks and falcons that cannot be released, which they use as part of their outreach efforts, working with nature centers, scouting groups, and schools to offer educational programming.
“We have a lot of outreach through the public to try to get an environmental message out there,” Knowles said.
The non-profit organization is funded by public donation, and does not receive local, state, or federal money to fund its operations. The conservancy is staffed by unpaid volunteers.
“Even our longsuffering vet, who has been doing raptor surgeries now for years, does not get paid,” Knowles said.
Thanks to the donations of those who support the conservancy – sometimes through the Combined Federal Campaign – the hawk that took up residence in the Library of Congress will be nursed back to health and returned to the wild.
Officials are still uncertain as to how the bird made its way into the library, but Knowles said she must have made her way in through a hole of some sort.
“She didn’t ring the doorbell,” Knowles said, adding that he advises the library to “find the hole and close it so we don’t have episode two.”