“A baby hawk is being raised by an eagle. Probably brought into the nest as a food source and then adopted and raised.”
A bald eagle raising its own offspring has taken another species under its wing and the mixed family has left bird experts baffled.
The rare wildlife drama plays out with a baby red-tailed hawk appearing to live in harmony with a male and female bald eagle and three eaglets.
Eagles are known to eat smaller, weaker birds like hawks; that’s why the eagle’s nest in a Sidney neighbourhood is drawing a lot of attention from birdwatchers.
“This rates as the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in the world of birds of prey,” biologist David Bird said.
Bird is a retired university professor and board member for the Hancock Wildlife Foundation. He happens to live near the eagle’s nest in question.
“These parents essentially adopted this little guy and as they kept feeding him with lots of food, he’s grown up a little bit now and he’ll be leaving the nest in about a week and a half,” Bird said.
How this happened remains a mystery. Similar occurrences have been recorded but only a handful of times, according to Bird.
“It would require either the eagle to bring them to the nest or the alternative was the hawk somehow laid her eggs in the nest when he was absent,” independent biologist Kerry Fisher said.
The most common theory among biologists is that the mother eagle ‘kidnapped’ the hawk to feed it to her eaglets, according to Bird.
“Because hormones are driving these birds to do what they do it, the hormonal urge to mother it and feed it overtook its urge to kill it and feed it to the other eaglets,” Bird said.
Now the nest is generating a lot of questions.
Perhaps the biggest question, he says, is whether the eaglets can continue to see a hawk as a brother and not breakfast.