ORONDO — Two red-tailed hawk parents circle above a nest that sits on a cliff face, screeching at three human trespassers.
A fledgling hawk being carried in an animal crate hears its parents and makes begging calls for food in response.
Two state Department of Fish and Wildlife employees and a Wenatchee World reporter returned the fledgling hawk Thursday to its nest near Orondo and Brays Landing Road.
The hawk was found by an orchard worker on a dirt road and appeared to have fallen out of its nest, said Devon Comstock, a Wenatchee-based wildlife biologist for Fish and Wildlife.
The orchard worker’s family brought the hawk to the agency and then later found its nest.
“There is also a good possibility that if it were just left alone last night it would already be back in the nest,” said Dan Collier, Fish and Wildlife customer service specialist. “I mean, it is ready to fly.”
Red-tailed hawks are not an endangered or even threatened species, Comstock said. The hawk is plentiful across the western United States.
Red-tailed hawks are a generalist species that can eat a lot of different kinds of creatures, including thousands of rodents a year.
“So the life or death of this one raptor is not a make-or-break situation,” she said. “But since it is perfectly healthy, if we can get it back to its nest, that’s what we want to do.”
The fledgling hawk was kind of in its teenage years, Comstock said.
At that age birds will start practicing flying and can end up outside of their nest. But bird parents will still take care of their young, even when they’ve flown the coop — or in this case, the cliff face.
“Wildlife parents don’t have babysitters or daycare, so they have to leave their young unattended,” she said. “The parents are still taking care of it even if it is out of the nest and not fully flighted yet. If the parents can still feed it they will.”
There is an old myth that birds won’t take care of their young after they’ve been picked up by humans. It isn’t true, Comstock said. The myth has led people to sometimes kidnap baby birds or other animals in order to save them.
“WDFW is not equipped to do rehab for wildlife and wildlife rehabbers are in very short supply in this area especially,” she said.
“Which is another reason why we encourage people to watch the situation first and make sure they’re not bird-napping or baby-napping, because there really is not a lot of options for them.”
The two employees and the reporter scrambled up the cliff face, pushing through the sagebrush, and got to about 10 feet away from the nest. It wasn’t safe to try to get the hawk back into the nest itself without climbing gear, Comstock said.
Instead they released the hawk nearby, opening up the door of the animal carrier to see if it would leave by itself. Sure enough, the juvenile hawk poked its head out, gave the humans a suspicious look, waddled out of the carrier and then escaped into the brush.
Correction: This story contained incorrect information. Devon Comstock is the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Wenatchee-based wildlife biologist.