Two days after the Cooper’s hawk was rescued from the Library of Congress, she’s on her way to a full recovery. “She’s in basic good condition, but well down in weight,” says Kent Knowles, director of the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, which is rehabilitating the bird. Low weight likely won’t be a problem for much longer. “She’s eating like a horse,” says Knowles. “She’s eating absolutely everything we put in front of her.”
The hawk is being held in a flight cage at the RCV’s facility in Falls Church, Virginia. She’s being given a buffet of frozen farm-raised Japanese quail and warmed-up mice to choose from. “She’s eating it all,” says Knowles. “Typically, half of a quail is a meal for one falcon, and she’s eating the whole thing.”
The juvenile female raptor spent a week trapped in the Library of Congress Main Reading Room. The best guess is that she followed a pigeon in through a small open window. Despite various attempts to trap her, it wasn’t until Wednesday that a three-person rescue team captured her, luring her down from the dome with two starlings in a cage.
“We couldn’t have gotten her out earlier,” says Knowles. “For a Coop to come down it has to be reasonably comfortable with the environment, and it has to be hungry. She came in full, she’d just eaten and probably had enough food for three, four, five days.”
On Wednesday the conditions were just right. The bird had stolen a few bits of frozen quail on Sunday, but otherwise hadn’t eaten. And the Reading Room was fairly quiet at 8 am. “She was hungry, in good condition, and she saw the motion of the lure and she came right down. It took about 25 minutes and it was done.”
Knowles isn’t surprised that it was a Cooper’s hawk that got stuck. “They are the most likely suspect when we have any building case,” he says, explaining that in pursuit of prey—a mourning dove, starling, or most often pigeon—they’ll follow the fleeing creature right inside. “Coops are notoriously stupid about finding their way out again.”
Luckily for this one, she was captured in time. She came in weighing 425 grams and will have to top 500 grams before she’s set free. Once she’s put on enough weight, she’ll be banded and released somewhere far from the Library of Congress. “A successful releases take approximately three seconds,” says Knowles. “They take flight immediately, and they don’t look back.”