Monday, July 15, 2013

Scarlett The Red-shouldered Hawk


During WBS’s zoo show season, when we present educational bird shows at zoos around the nation, I always try to like all the birds equally, but it is inevitable that I end up liking a few more than the others.  It’s true the other way around also, with some of the birds ending up liking other trainers more than me.  I find that for me it is usually the corvids (crows and ravens) I end up liking the most, probably because of their high level of intelligence, social behavior and problem solving skills. 


However, this year (at least so far) I was a little surprised to find out that the bird I am most drawn to is Scarlett, our new Red-shouldered Hawk.  I shouldn't be too terribly surprised that I like Scarlett so much.  After all, hawks are my favorite raptors.

Scarlett came to World Bird Sanctuary from the Cincinnati Zoo.  She is still young, only four years old, and it is her first time flying in front of audiences.  In fact, it’s not just HER first time in front of audiences, but as far as we know, the first time in the history of the entire United States of America that a Red-shouldered Hawk has been free flown in a bird show.  So I’m not just excited about her flying, but I am very proud of this whole Milwaukee County Zoo bird show crew (Leah Tyndall, Erica Fenske, Matt Levin and myself) for making history. 

Scarlett about to land on trainer Erica Fenske's glove

Red-shouldered Hawks generally live in forested areas where they can perch in the sub-canopy and look for food.  They have broad wings and usually soar with their tail fanned out.  It almost looks like they are “reaching” with their wings as they fly.  They also flap their wings vigorously during flight, much like an accipiter (for example, a Cooper’s Hawk is an accipiter).   Scarlett almost always flies with her feet hanging down while she vigorously flaps, going from trainer to trainer across the stage. 

Scarlett often makes distinctive calls throughout the day.  Anytime she sees one of the trainers, and sometimes just random people, she will make the “kee-rah” call for which her species is so well known.  Red-shouldered Hawks are known for being very territorial, so I imagine that she is letting us know we are invading her space. 


Much like Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks are opportunistic feeders.  This means that they will eat anything that they can catch.  This often includes rats, squirrels, moles and voles.  But they will eat things like snakes, frogs, lizards, small birds and toads if they catch them. 

With winters being milder lately, probably due to global warming, Red-shoulder hawks are making their territories further and further north.  In fact they can even be found up here in Wisconsin, while only twenty years ago you would barely even see them back home in Missouri. 

So all in all, I don't think it is just Scarlett that I am liking so much, but also her personal story, as well as Red-shouldered Hawks in general.

Photos and Text by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Assistant Supervisor, Milwaukee Zoo Show

1 comment:

Megan Fox said...

I am SO happy to hear this! I was one of her trainers at the Cincinnati Zoo, and we wanted to do so much more with her here but we weren't given the time to do so (not my decision unfortunately), so I am SO glad to see that you guys have given her a chance! I knew she was a great bird and by seeing what she and you have accomplished, this only proves my point. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you so much for working with her and giving her the attention she needed. Please continue to take good care of my favorite hawk! Great job!