Posted: May 12, 2017 9:12 PM GST Updated: May 13, 2017 2:39 AM GST
By Kayla Cash
For the past 10 years, a red-shouldered hawk has served as a "surrogate" mom to abandoned baby birds taken in at the Pacific Wildlife Care.
This year, on Mother’s Day, the hawk is caring for two babies who were recently displaced from their nest when the tree they lived in was cut down near Los Angeles. Her name is Fiona.
Fiona is a non-releasable hawk who born with a deformity and has been with PWC since 2007.
Every year, Fiona lays two to three eggs, but they’re infertile since there is no male hawk with her. Fiona doesn’t realize they’re infertile and expects them to hatch.
That’s when the team at Pacific Wildlife Care decided to swap out the eggs with baby hawks without parents, according to Kelly Vandenheuvel, a rehabilitator and educator for Pacific Wildlife Care.
“What I do each year, when the babies are given to me, is slip them under Fiona just before it gets light in the morning,” she said. “I also take her eggs, and place baked egg shells under her so she thinks the babies hatched on their own once it is light, and she can see them.”
Hawks reproduce at about the same time every year.
Fiona affectionate to each baby bird that comes into her life, as if it were her own, which is precisely the point. Vandenheuvel says she becomes protective, a shelter to the babies, and is noticeably happy to be with her temporary offspring.
Then, when it’s time, she kicks them out… in a loving, motherly-way.
“(She’s) super protective but as soon as they get their feathers, she will teach them to hunt,” Vandenheuvel said. “But when the day comes, she’s finished, she’s over it.”
In 2016, a baby hawk never came. Vandenheuvel says Fiona was depressed when nothing happened to her eggs.
“Last year when no orphaned babies came, she sat on her two eggs diligently for three months before I finally had to remove them and take her off her nest,” Vandenheuvel said. “It was pretty sad.”