Escaped desert hawk recovered after 3 weeks, thinner, hungry

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 5:25 AM EDT
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QUECHEE, Vt. (WCAX) - One of the prized hawks at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science is back in her enclosure after she flew the coop three weeks ago.

The bird came back hungry. The Harris’s hawk named Paige went with little to no food for 20 days after flying away from her handlers during a training exercise.

“She had been doing really well, so I want to take this step. It was a bit too far of a step because she went into a tree and was a bit too anxious to come down out of the tree,” said Anna Morris of VINS.

The desert hawk, which is known for its distinct black and white tail feathers, was bred in captivity. Hunting is something the 2-year-old never had to do.

“I was keeping up some hope you know. She is not equipped to survive out in the wild,” Morris said.

To make matters worse, Paige pulled off the antenna to her tracking device. But on Monday evening, employees at VINS got an unexpected call from a Quechee resident down the road. Paige showed up as an uninvited guest to their barbecue.

“They were grilling a steak apparently and she was like, ‘Ahhh meat,’” Morris said.

The raptor was dirty, had lost a significant amount of weight and was bug-bitten, but she was soon back home. Her prognosis is good.

“Extreme relief,” Morris said. “Just like this whole unburdening of worry.”

VINS is known for its education programs where guests get close interactions with wild animals.

“Just the way they are and about their habitats and everything,” visitor Justus Labelle said.

“Know how birds live, how they get through stuff,” visitor Leah Labelle said.

I bumped into Justus and Leah Labelle as they were leaving the nature center. The Barre siblings were glad to learn of the happy ending to this hawk’s adventure.

“Keep it safe and feed it and do the programs with it and it can teach other kids,” Justus said.

Paige is grounded, if you will, for the next several weeks and will not be participating in any educational programs as she is nursed back to health.

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Flew the coop: Search for escaped desert hawk continues

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