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Hawk Tastes Freedom, but Comes Down for Steak

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Harris' hawk Paige - COURTESY OF VERMONT INSTITUTE OF NATURAL SCIENCE
  • Courtesy Of Vermont Institute Of Natural Science
  • Harris' hawk Paige

After 20 days on the loose, 2-year-old Harris' hawk Paige is back in her enclosure at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee.

Paige was bred by a falconer in Texas and arrived at VINS in 2019. She was being trained to free fly so she could be part of the avian rehabilitation center's live raptor program, lead environmental educator Anna Morris said.

During a July 13 training session, Paige — who Morris said has an "anxious personality" — got spooked and fluttered high into the trees.

Staffers were unable to lure her back, but she was still on the nature center's campus the next day. That afternoon, Paige flew across Route 4 onto state park land. The bird was wearing a telemetry device on her leg that tracked her location, but it stopped working on day three.

"At that point, it became all hands on deck, all eyes out looking," Morris said, noting that Paige could have been anywhere.

VINS posted about the bird on the local Front Porch Forum. The Valley News wrote an article about the missing reddish-brown raptor.

Nearly three weeks later, on August 2, a Quechee woman contacted the nature center. She'd been preparing to grill a steak on her back porch when a hungry hawk, attracted by the raw meat, swooped down. Upon seeing a photo of the bird, VINS staff knew it was Paige.

They sent a handler, armed with half a quail as enticement, and the hawk hopped right onto her glove.

Paige had lost a lot of weight in the weeks she was gone, so the center has been careful not to overfeed her, Morris said. But they are spoiling her by giving her all her favorite toys, plus lots of newspaper to shred. She'll resume her free-flight training in about a month. Staff plan a stricter and more cautious approach.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Home to Roost"

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