Baby hawk snatched, then adopted by bald eagles on Gabriola Island

Baby hawk snatched, then adopted by bald eagles on Gabriola Island
Courtesy Christian Sasse
A baby red-tailed hawk, right, is seen with an eaglet in a nest on Gabriola Island.

Another unusual case of the food chain being flipped on its head has taken place just off Vancouver Island.

A baby red-tailed hawk has been adopted by a pair of nesting bald eagles on Gabriola Island, an unusual turn of events for birds that are generally considered prey and predator to one another, say experts.

In fact, a webcam set up by Growls, a wildlife rescue society on Gabriola Island, caught the exact moment that one of the adult eagles dropped the snatched hawk into its nest on June 4.

“You actually get the moment where the parent eagle brings in the hawklet. We’ve never had this before on camera. Within one or two hours later, it completely adopts the hawk,” said Christian Sasse, a nature photographer who also documented a similar situation in Sidney in 2017.

In that hawk-snatching, it was also a red-tailed hawk that was initially picked up as food, but later adopted by a pair of Bald Eagles in a tree above Roberts Bay.

Experts say the phenomenon likely occurs when a baby hawk’s cries override the nesting eagles’ instinct to kill and eat it, and they start treating it like their other newly hatched eaglets.

The last time this happened in Sidney, it made international headlines and brought thousands of viewers to a livestream of the mixed bird family’s nest.

The Growls webcam has attracted similar interest from bird-watchers interested in seeing the saga unfold again.

Sasse said the hawklet is expected to fledge, once its feathers are developed, in about 10 days.

While the situation is rare, it’s likely the public is only seeing it more because of webcams, he said.

“I think these things probably occur more frequently than we know. With the advent of cameras and webcams, we’re seeing nature we’ve never witnessed before.”

Volunteers with Growls have dubbed the little hawk “Malala,” after the famous Nobel Peace Prize winner, to indicate that it is a survivor.

Get a live look at the hawk in the eagle’s nest here.

The exact location of the nest is not being released, because the nearby residents do not want visitors to the site.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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