Golf course ‘birdie’ back in a nestOn July 10, Bristol Ridge Golf Course employees found a baby raptor in the bushes near hole five. The bird has been taken in by an adoptive hawk family and is doing well.
By: Gretta Stark, New Richmond News
On July 10, Bristol Ridge Golf Course employees found a baby raptor in the bushes near hole five. The golf course employees, following instructions from wildlife specialist Teresa Stevens, took the bird inside, put it in a cardboard box in a dark room and waited for Stevens to pick the bird up.
The bird was mistakenly identified as a baby American Bald Eagle and was reportedly taken to Wildwoods Rehabilitation Center in Duluth. However, the bird is actually a young broad-winged hawk and it was taken to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center in the Twin Cities.
Dr. Julia Ponder, executive director of the U of M Raptor Center, said the bird was at the branching stage — it was beginning to get some flight feathers, but not enough to allow it to fly yet. This is the stage where young birds are just starting to leave the nest.
“This brancher happened to find himself on the ground,” Ponder said.
Ponder said it is common for branchers to end up on the ground, but that the parents are generally watching, and will continue to care for the baby bird on the ground. However, Ponder said concerned people often want to help the bird, and do not realize the parents are watching over the chick.
Ponder said the bird was in good health, so it was fostered. Like human children that go into foster care, the baby hawk was placed with a hawk family that had space to care for it. It was placed in a nest with other branching broad-winged hawks, and was accepted by the hawk parents.
“It should be doing just fine,” Ponder said. “I’m sure it’s growing. The first year in a raptor’s life can be very tough, but it’s doing it the way Mother Nature raises chicks best.”
Ponder said the reason young raptors like the broad-winged hawk found at Bristol Ridge Golf Course are fostered to hawk families whenever possible is because imprinting on humans can cause maladaptive behaviors in young birds.
Ponder added that the raptor center has never turned away a bird due to low funding.
Harvey Halvorsen, area wildlife supervisor for the bureau of Wildlife management in the Baldwin office of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the mix-up with identifying the branching broad-winged hawk’s species was an easy mistake to make. Halvorsen said it is very difficult to identify young birds.
“They do not exhibit the adult plumage,” said Halvorsen. Most raptors change plumage from their first year to their second or third year, so it can be difficult to determine the type of bird.
The baby hawk does have a white head and chest, but bald eagles do not develop the distinctive white head and chest until they are three or four.
Halvorsen said he was surprised that the hawk was found on the golf course because broad-winged hawks aren’t common in this area.
“I think it’s a good educational opportunity, too,” Halvorsen said.
Both Halvorsen and Ponder said it is important not to touch a raptor if it is found on the ground. If a person finds an injured raptor, or wild animal that might be injured, Halvorsen said they should call the DNR first at 608-266-2621 any time of the day. Or, for injured raptors, people can call the Raptor Center at 612-624-4745.
Meanwhile, Ponder said the actions of the Bristol Ridge Golf Course showed their concern for wildlife.
“It is very very good that we have so many people out there that are so dedicated to helping these animals,” Ponder said. “That shows a lot about our residents of Wisconsin and Minnesota and this area.”