Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Hawk Molting Diaries 1

As I explained in my last post, crow-hawking season ended in mid-February. We have to wait until August 1st for crow and magpie season to open again, and Kaya gets to molt in peace and have her meals served to her instead of having to catch them herself.

But just like an athlete on break doesn't just suddenly quit exercising, we eased her into her life of leisure. We still took her out for training, which is flying between M and me for tidbits, sometimes landing in a tree between us before continuing on. Our cue for her to find a tree branch is when we leave our gloved arm at our side rather than holding it up with a treat. Sometimes she skips the tree hoping we'll change our mind, and when we don't she lands on the ground nearby. When we hold the glove up she flies to it, often first running on foot toward us. That is completely adorable, but we haven't caught it on camera yet.

After training she gets the rest of her meal in her mew. We always work it out that this food "magically appears" before she gets brought into the mew, though she has clearly learned what to expect. The important thing is that she doesn't see us provide the food, since we are trying to get her to stop squawking. One of the ways to encourage her to quit that is to make sure she doesn't see us as food providers. So while one of us distracts her with a short walk or just leaves her in her travel box, the other puts the food on her Futterbrett (feeding platform). Then one of us brings her into her mew and sets her free, she sees the food on the platform and attacks it, mantles over it while giving us the side-eye, and tucks in as soon as we back away. This is supposed to give her the impression that she "caught" her lunch. Whether she's fooled or not, you'll have to ask her.

The day she lost her first primary feather, I felt like a proud mom whose child just lost her first tooth! Although there's no feather fairy, she did get an extra thawed mouse that day. The feather was one of those that had broken, was repaired, and then the tip broke off as well near the end of the hawking season, so it didn't make for the best photo. 

This is her 2nd molted tail feather,
also a repaired* one!

*Repairing a broken feather is called schiften in German and "imping" in English. In the above photo you can see where it was repaired because just at the moment when we slid the new part into the still-attached bit, she flopped, creating that gap. The black thing attached to the base of the feather is the mount for her telemetry sender, which she wears when she flies free.

Since then she's lost two more tail feathers and seven wing feathers, plus hundreds of little ones, most of which I'm saving because...well, I don't know! The tail and wing feathers get saved in case we need to repair any broken feathers during the next hawking season, but there's not much reason to save the little ones other than because they're pretty.

The feathers on her back that are growing back are darker than her baby brown. That's easier to see in person than with a photo, although the one below does show it - the darkest feathers are the new ones. This is indeed her back; her head is turned around because she's looking at a pigeon that flew past behind us.

Molting is hard work hormonally, and it must also be very itchy. She spends a lot of time preening and scratching, especially when she's on her perch in our sun room and knows she doesn't have to keep an eye out for marauders like foxes, martens, and neighborhood cats. The fact that it's hard work is one reason why she gets ALL the food now - as much as she wants. There have even been days when she jumped onto her meal and just sort of sat there before tucking in because she wasn't all that hungry, whereas she never hesitated for an instant during hunting season.

She is showing a whole new side of her personality since starting the molt in earnest, and that is the stuff of future blog posts.

Until next time...


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