For the Birds Radio Program: Hawk Stories

Original Air Date: Sept. 13, 2002 Rerun Dates: Oct. 4, 2019

After one dramatic story involving a Red-tailed Hawk made national news, Wisconsin birders started swapping other stories about amazing encounters with hawks.

Duration: 3′51″


One of the stories that’s been in the national news lately is about a Washington woman whose pickup truck hit a Red-tailed Hawk. Its wing got stuck in the rearview mirror, and when she tried to free it, it struggled, ending up in the truck cab, where it bit her lip and sank its talons into her arm. She couldn’t get it off, so she drove to the nearest exit and called 911. Firefighters administered morphine for the pain, and she needed treatment for puncture wounds on her arm, hand and thumb. The hawk had to be euthanized because both its wings were so badly broken.

Sad as the story was, the sheer bizarreness of it made a lot of birders remember other weird encounters with hawks. Scott Diehl, the manager of the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Milwaukee recounted a story from the past week. He wrote:

We got a call from a person saying that a hawk had crashed through a window and was in her house. One of our volunteers was dispatched to check it out and indeed, there was an adult redtail standing on a stack of magazines in the living room. Our volunteer captured the bird and brought it in for an exam. The bird was just slightly stunned, and by the next day was ready for release.

Scott also told a story that happened several years ago. He wrote:

A person brought in a redtail that had its foot stuck in a knothole in a tree root. The person had come across the bird while hiking and saw its predicament. The person retrieved an axe and cut the tree root about a foot away from the hawk’s foot on either side. The hawk presumably was grabbing for prey inside the hole and then couldn’t get its foot out. The bird was treated for dehydration, fattened up a bit and ultimately released (minus the tree root).

Brian Boldt, another birder on the Wisconsin BirdNet wrote:

About a year ago a [falconer friend of mine] was footed by his Red-tail while feeding her, on the skin between thumb and index finger. After all else failed he was finally able to get her to let go by biting her leg!

Karl David, another Milwaukee birder, added:

OK, so long as we’re swapping raptor stories… here’s an incident from Saturday morning… I noticed the owl decoy on the nearby Blatz Brewery Building under siege by an immature Cooper’s Hawk (female, I think, by its great size and very long tail). For once, a bird was actually fooled by one of these plastic things! The hawk gackered loudly at the decoy, and made one swooping pass, but basically it nattered away from a respectful distance, sometimes flying from one side of the decoy to the other before having at it anew. I would imagine it wasn’t one of the resident Cooper’s (we do have them right in the heart of downtown, and would expect them to be wise to this), but a migrant surprised and angered by the effrontery of an owl that was totally indifferent to the fiercest front the hawk could put up.

If you have an interesting encounter with a bird, send me a note in care of this station or e-mail me.