By Susu Jeffrey
(Hawk Ridge, Duluth, Minnesota) She is three months old, with golden irises in her unblinking eyes. This female sharp-shinned hawk—“my” sharpshin, but I know better—is on her way to wintering in Central America. She was born in northern Minnesota or southern Canada, was just netted and banded and will be released in minutes.
It’s Tuesday and Equinox eve, I just drove 165-miles through early fall color. Lake Superior is three shades of blue and I can feel a heart beat in my right hand holding the warm, three-month-old, female, golden-eyed, sharp-shinned hawk.
She eats song birds (sparrows, robins, chickadees, even blue jays) and occasionally dragonflies a staffer says. She catches her prey in a lightning strike with her talons, then perches somewhere to pluck the feathers and eat.
There are three staff members, plus a bird banding team, plus four volunteers, and an hourly count of passing raptors. She is one of nine sharpshins released today—so far.