WHISTLER: Swainson's hawk
Whistler came to the Center on June 19, 2015, at about four weeks of age. She had been rescued and kept for more than a week before she was brought to us, and fed steak. Fortunately she did not develop the bone and muscle problems typical of a young bird fed a low-calcium diet.
Whistler was otherwise in good health and after feeding her properly and observing her for a time, we put her in a hack box outside. Hack boxes are enclosed wooden boxes where we place young hawks who are ready for flight. We feed them in the box for a week or two and then open the door so the young birds can fly out. We continue offering food on top of the enclosure until the young birds are acclimated to the wild and successfully feeding themselves. Most disperse from the area within a week or so.
The other birds with Whistler flew out in the normal way. But Whistler refused to leave the area. We recaptured her, since it was clear that she was too imprinted on humans to release.
We then fitted her with anklets and jesses and introduced her to the taming process, and in a very short time, she had learned to sit quietly on her handler's fist and remain calm in front of an audience. She has become one of the California Raptor Center's most solid education ambassadors, resulting in her being very popular with both volunteers and visitors.
Whistler is a dark morph Swainson's hawk, and because these darker birds are usually female and because she is heavier than most males of her species, we believe she is a female. We named her Whistler because she is so talkative, making soft tuneful noises when she is on the fist.