juvenile coopers hawk in the grass The Saga
Rufous and Henrietta Hawk

Chapter 14

A Period of Rapid Growth

June 6: Dark Feathers

The hawk chicks will not be in the nest very long. They are three weeks old now, and their juvenile plumage has already begun to show. Active, playful, and curious, they flap around in the nest and look about to see the great world around them.

As hatchlings, they were covered with short white down, faintly tinged with a cream color. This natal down has been replaced by a second coat of long, woolly, pure-white down. And now, dark feathers are appearing, first on their wings and tails, then spreading to cover other parts of their bodies. At this stage of their development, the wing feathers (remiges) are about one-third grown and the tail feathers (rectrices) are less than one-quarter grown. The feathers are still partly covered in sheaths that the young birds will soon preen away. In this photo, as Jack leans down to peer at the ground below, dark feathers are apparent on his head.

Dark Feathers

And here is a photo of Matey, as she finally pops up (on the left) from the nest bottom to say hello. Jack remains in the middle, eyeing us through the sticks.


June 7: Standing Up Straight

This afternoon, Jay announced that both Rufous and Henrietta were on the edge of the nest. Of course, I grabbed my camera and rushed outside. When I got set up, there was no sign of the adult hawks, but my jaw dropped when I saw some very good-sized baby hawks up on the edge of the nest. They look like they have grown up overnight, when in fact, they are standing up straight on their legs.

Baby birds move around on their tarsi (sort of like walking on their ankles) until their legs get strong enough to support their weight. Being able to stand up straight is a major milestone in a raptorís development. And it appears that Jack, Matey, and Will have all mastered the art of standing.

Jack in the Sun Standing on the Side of the Nest

Continue to Chapter 15: Out of the Nest