This is Buddy. He is a beautiful Red Tailed Hawk that came into the center when he was very young. When he came into the center, he was in very poor shape. Though we don’t know for sure what happened to Buddy, it is possible that he was hit by a car, or maybe even attacked by another hawk. Either way, he had to have his right eye removed by the vet due to the damage, and it became clear that this hawk would never be able to be released into the wild again. Without his second eye, hunting is more difficult, and it creates a blind spot that makes him vulnerable to attack from other birds.
In the cases when an animal cannot be re-released, but the animal is young enough to be socialized, we apply for a license to keep the animal as an educational animal. (In other cases we will give them to a zoo or organization who can legally keep the animal.) We were lucky enough to be granted this permission, and now Buddy travels from fairs to schools to festivals to show people his beautiful red tail feathers and his majestic stature.
Buddy lives in a 25 foot flight at the home of his handler, Terry Cook. Terry has been handling raptors since he was 11, and he says that it took him 3 months to gain Buddy’s trust enough to handle him. He would go in at night and talk to him while gently caressing his feathers with another feather. Eventually he could go visit with low candle light, and caress Buddy with his hands.
After more than 2 years with Buddy, Terry now goes into the flight each morning to greet him. Buddy will crane his neck upside down and “talk.” Terry will approach Buddy and place his head at Buddy’s feet, and then Buddy will start to clean or “preen” Terry’s hair for him. The bond they have is very special, as red tailed hawks are not very social animals. They often will mate for life, showing complete devotion to only one other bird. For this reason, seeing the interaction between man and bird is that much more special.
From the way Terry holds Buddy at eye level, showing complete trust in the bird, to the way he rubs his feathers and calms him down. Every so often, Buddy will get stressed by something near him and try to fly off, so Terry will calm him with his soothing “Come now.” It’s truly special, and if you haven’t seen it, make sure to catch this educational duo at one of our events. And if you do, make sure to ask Terry plenty of questions about his passion for birds, because he is a storybook of adventures.
For a schedule of our coming events, visit our website.