A Merlin Hawk Rescue Story

I named her Merlin, because she was a Merlin Hawk, and I did not want to get attached. The goal was to release Merlin as soon as her flying feathers appeared, and so the name was not important.

This is where her story begins.

Setting: 20 some years ago.

Our daughter, M, is at a long-weekend baseball tournament on Vancouver Island. The team has pitched their tents at one of BC’s beautiful, rustic campsites.

The Story: At the end of a long day of games, M and her friends cooked up some burgers and settled in by a warm fire before hitting the sleeping bags.

Early next morning, M woke up to shrill, chattering sounds coming from bushes nearby. An answering chatter came from branches high above.

Since the urgent screechy noises continued, M decided to investigate. She discovered a baby hawk, not yet ready to fly, had fallen out of the nest. He did not appear to be injured, just hungry and frightened.

Fluffy little feathers stuck out of its cute head. Pleading eyes met hers. M’s heart melted.

Looking up she saw the nest, as well as mother hawk watching from her perch nearby. Knowing the chances Mother would come down and feed the little one, as well as try to keep it safe from predators until it had its flying feathers, M walked away.

Day 2. At the end of another long, exhausting day of heat and baseball, the cool evening quiet is interrupted by the constant chatters from the distraught baby hawk. The little creature is calling for its mother to rescue him. Why does mother hawk not respond?

Day 3. Baby hawk’s callings for help have weakened. A little chirp now and then, but mostly quiet. M deducted that although Mother is concerned and watching, there is too much commotion in the campsite for her to feel safe enough to feed her fallen baby.

M can not bear it any longer. She went over to where baby was nestled in amongst the bushes, and offered it mashed-up cooked egg. Hungrily, It gobbled up the egg with such gusto, M knew this little one still had plenty of fight left in it.

M had to make a decision. Should she leave baby hawk to its fate? It would be only a few days before the little bird would succumb to either hunger or a predator. She decided she could not walk away.

Baby Hawk Rescue:  Now, Daughter M (who lives on her own) drops by our house with her little package. She had made a nest for the hawk in her cooler, for safe transport on the ferry and back to the mainland.

M with baby hawk ©

“Mom, please keep and feed this bird until it can fly? I know it’s a hawk, but I don’t know what kind of hawk. It shouldn’t be too long before it gets its flying feathers. It’s almost there, mom. I just couldn’t leave it there to die.”

“Of course you couldn’t…” I responded.

Yet I resisted…this was the largest bird we had ever rescued, and over the years we had rescued several. How would we make this work?

“I am not going to be the one to feed it,” I responded firmly. You know how birds get attached to me and I do not want that to happen.”

My husband offered to be the “bird-feeder” (he was the one with the at-home office) and so I said, “OK, we can do this…but the moment this bird is ready to go, it goes.”

Merlin turned out to be a she and by looking through our bird books, we learned she was a Merlin hawk, the smallest of the falcon family. Often referred to as the lady’s falcon.

Merlin’s amazing true nature quickly began to reveal itself.

Some very remarkable things began to take place.

First: Merlin will not eat until I come home from work and I feed her. !

I was  stumped by that. (M was not around so perhaps Merlin substituted me for her?)

Her diet was mostly frozen deer and moose meat or raw beef. She loved it fresh out of the freezer, just slightly thawed. My husband would have it ready for me to feed her when I got home.

M feeding Merlin some raw meat. ©

Second: Merlin is absolutely happy to be with any one of our family, but neighbors and visitors are suspect and not so welcome. That’s good, because we don’t want her to be too trusting, One day soon she will be back out there in the wild.

Me and Merlin hanging out

At night Merlin slept in a large dog crate in our family/office. During the day she was free to hang out with us in the family/office area. We had three tall bookshelves in three corners of the office area. We put newspaper and wood pieces on top of the shelves so she could perch there during the day, look out the patio window and take in plenty of sunshine.

Soon she took her first short flight from one shelf to another. She was pretty pleased with herself as we were with her.

Third: Her hunting instincts show up.

Sitting in a cozy chair watching TV one evening, I saw her eyeing my toes from her high perch. I must have been moving them, so I wiggled them some more.  She did a straight dive down to my foot, did a little hop,  skip and jump, and landed on my toes.

Her claws and beak were strong, yet gentle and playful. Instinctively I knew she would not hurt me. The way she tore raw meat apart, she could hurt me a great deal, but she never drew blood with any of us.

Merlin was learning to hunt!

Fourth: The flying sock game.

Merlin didn’t stop there. One day she dive-bombed me, gently picking up a few hairs off the top of my head as she glided from shelf to shelf.

That gave me an idea. I took an old sock and tied it into a knot. I tossed the knotted sock into the air. Merlin, perched high up on one of the shelves, took the bait. She caught it mid-air, then landed with her catch at the far end of the room on top of one of the other tall bookselves.  She absolutely loved this game.

In no time at all, Merlin was flying throughout the house, and we knew she was ready to be introduced back into nature.

Despite my resolve, I was attached: I could not bear the thought of Merlin exiting our lives, but that was not important. The day came. Our daughter took on the responsibility and brought her to a wild-life sanctuary some distance away where they would introduce her to the wild.

Although our hearts cried knowing we would never see this precious creature again, we were also glad. Merlin was remarkable. She was strong and healthy and perfect, and we had been so blessed to be part of her rescue.

This was one of those so special incredible experiences life can bring.  Merlin was one of the precious gifts come into our lives for a short time, with so much to give.

Another of God’s incredible creatures.

Son and baby hawk – getting acquainted. ©

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