On February 8, representatives from the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, led the rescue team which captured “Shirley.” The bird was taken to the Conservancy’s facility in Falls Church, Virginia, where she was nursed back to health. Upon her capture, “Shirley” weighed 424 grams, about 20% below the normal weight for a juvenile Cooper’s hawk. At the Conservancy, “Shirley” was fed a steady diet of birds and rodents and quickly regained her strength.
With her recovery complete, the search for a release point was on. The Raptor Conservancy contacted Sky Meadows State Park staff and asked if they could bring “Shirley” here. The Conservancy and the Park have a long-term relationship; Conservancy members have been presenting raptor programs at Sky Meadows for years and the park has been a release site for other rehabilitated birds in the past. With its great diversity in habitats (woodlands, forest edge, open pastures, and wetlands); the abundance of prey species (particularly European Starlings) for the hawk; and its distance from Washington, D.C., (approximately 60 miles), Sky Meadows was the perfect place to release “Shirley.”
On Tuesday morning, park staff, Raptor Conservancy volunteers, and Library of Congress representatives were joined by local media and a few area bird enthusiasts to witness the hawk’s release. Linda gently removed “Shirley” from her crate and held her for a minute to let everyone marvel at her beauty. Then, with a few rapid beats of her wings, “Shirley” took flight and was free. She came to rest for a short time at the top of a red oak and then took to the skies. Hopes are high that she will like the clean air and the abundant prey at Sky Meadows and make her home here.