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Red-tailed Hawk Makes Home on Campus

BY HANNAH PARSELY

We all know that if you’re on Bethel’s campus, you’re bound to see a squirrel running around.  It’s just a given. It’s also a given that if we studied the nature on campus, we’d find a lot more wildlife.

For six years Bethel has been the home to a red-tailed hawk. I was curious to find out more about this bird, so I went to Stu Yager, dean of the school of education and faculty development.

You might be wondering, “Why Yager?” Step into his office and you’ll see his blatant interest in birds. Pictures, books and displays of birds fill the room. When learning more about Yager, I found that he also teaches baby birds of prey to hunt in his spare time, thus the obvious interest in this particular hawk. (Pictured is Yager and his goshawk, Maggie.)

In sitting down to talk to Yager, I found out that Bethel has become the home of one female red-tailed hawk who has made her nest near Shupe hall. Each spring, she finds a mate and has three to four babies. The babies are raised during the summer and then generally leave their mother’s hunting area to find their own land during August. Although they are named red-tailed hawks, the baby birds don’t live up to their name until about two years after their birth. When they are a year old, the hawks start to lose their feathers and the new feathers grow in red on their tail. The lack of red feathers in the first years of their life helps the hawks stay camouflaged as they learn to hunt.

Red-tailed hawks primarily eat pigeons, mice and the occasional squirrel. Of course, I wondered if Bethel’s squirrel population had anything to do with the hawk’s choosing of Bethel as her home. Yager assured us that although squirrels are on the menu for the red-tailed hawks, the threat to them isn’t too large. The babies are not quite quick enough to catch squirrels, and if the mother hawk eats one, she is normally content for up to a week without hunting again.

So next time you’re on Bethel’s campus, take time to pay attention to the wildlife. You never know, if you look up you may see the red-tailed hawk circling campus for prey or searching for a mate. I think it’s safe to say Bethel College is her permanent home year-round.