Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to make (this) bird happy...

The peregrine (who I sometimes call Bella II after an older bird of the same breeding I once had, who moved to Utah ended up killing five- pound sage grouse though she only weighed about what this one does, 23 ounces) is pretty well trained now. She even has good manners. She never screams or "mantles" over her lure, which she responds to quickly. She happily steps off it for a tidbit.

What she is not is particularly friendly. She rarely 'tips' or tilts her head in a hawk's gesture of friendship to me (sometimes to the dogs especially Taik, sometimes to Lib; THEY don't ask her to do anything!) She hoods well but with her peculiarities; I tell people after she eats: "She'll bate [jump] once, then squawk at the sight of the hood, then accept it, though she'll bite my finger before I tighten it". She amuses all but me by never disappointing.

The one thing she absolutely loves, though, is her shower. I started soaking her with a spray bottle when she was in her first training to cool her down, still hooded-- a common enough ploy. But when she got the ease to stand around without wearing her hood for a while (she still 'needs' it more than I like because, unfed, she is more restless than most hawks who have lived with us in her situation) she fell completely in love with the experience.

Look at these photos-- ecstasy! She spreads her wings, bows, trembles, covers her eyes with her clear eyelids, drinks, rubs her beak on the perch, repeats, soliciting again and again until she is drenched. In an hour she would do it again,and even a third time if there were enough hours in a winter's day.

Eventually she should probably move on, as we have no proper game close by and cannot afford to feed "pets". She is the potential duck hawk her anatum half (the other is Barbary) implies, if ever there was one, needing only consistent pigeon work. But hunting ducks would mean a 40 mile drive each way; with three narcoleptic periods a day from meds plus an arthritic hip driving that much is not high on my list right now.

I need close- to- home birds that neeed little or no driving-- a gos or Harris male, a little tiercel longwing brought up to our quirks and with our dogs (our Barb- Teita, now in capable hands, had the right size and upbringing, but when I gave her away I couldn't walk 100 yards and thought I might never; now I can hunt hard for two consecutive days without hurting more than my back!) Nor is she entirely happy living in the intimacy our 'lifestyle' demands, though most US falconers wouldn't even notice (newer readers see last two older pix for why).

So if you think you might have ducks for a water- loving bird: you know where to find us.


Kitty Carroll said...

Steve, please contact me regarding this bird. I think she may have a good home in our family of educational, and abatement raptors.

Email me at:


Stingray said...

That suddenly puts this picture into more context.

It won't stop me from laughing at it every time I see it, but still.

Steve Bodio said...

Makes sense to me.

The expression is better!

Anonymous said...

My maternal grandmother, who passed away at the age of 90, over 40 years ago, would not have been at all surprised by "water loving birds."

She was an inveterate bird-lover, keeper and watcher, up to and including a large flock of Barred Rock Hens ... "Grandma" as I called her, taught me many things about bird keeping, including the fact that they would all appreciate a litter shower from time to time. Even Bing, the kitchen Canary, who received his daily toiletries from the laundry sprinkling bottle.

Black Dog Lady