Bald Eagle Adopts Baby Hawk In Northern California, Raises It As Its Own

June 28, 2023

A bald eagle in Northern California was spotted bringing a baby red-tailed hawk back to her nest, where her eaglet was waiting. While many assumed the baby hawk would be lunch for the hungry eaglet, it was instead tended to by the eagle as if it was its own.

Pictured below is Lola the eaglet (left) and Tuffy2 the hawklet (right).

Photographer Jann Nichols captured the incredible moment and began making weekly trips to the nest. Her captures show how the bald eagles appeared to be feeding and caring for the hawklet along with their own eaglet.

Nichols observed that the eaglet and hawklet seemed to be developing a sibling-type bond, she said, similar to that between baby eagles and their eaglet siblings.

British Columbia-based Eagle Biologist David Hancock has been examining the case closely.

He has documented three other occurrences of this type of phenomena: when an eagle mistakes prey for its own young—then nurtures and feeds it—instead of eating it.

But he says the sibling-type bond is unprecedented.

On June 17, another incredible shot was captured by Nichols, when she said the hawklet appeared to fall from the nest, but was rescued by the surrogate eagle mother.

On Tuesday, June 27, Nichols shared an update about some misinformation being spread about the eagle nest situation.

"There's misinformation in a lot of articles about this hawk in eagle nest and situation. The hawk isn't being abused by the mom eagle... The eagles weren’t confused when they started feeding a live hawk. They responded to their paternal instincts when they heard the begging call that sounds like their own. The eaglet Lola is not a bully or aggressive with the hawk. (I've seen eaglet sibling behavior and Tuffy2 is very lucky to share a nest with Lola).


She continued:

"Terri has explained perfectly from eagle biologist David Hancock that knows about these occurrences along with a video in the comments:

From the moment Tuffy2 landed in the eagle’s nest & began making a Begging Call that the adult eagles instinctively responded to (despite Tuffy2 being a hawklet instead of an eaglet) Tuffy2 was immediately & irrevocably accepted by both of the adult eagles & his eaglet sibling Lola as one of their own family members. And, as most people know Eagles DO NOT HARM OR KILL their own young. Tuffy2’s parents & Tuffy2’s sibling Lola are not capable of turning that 'acceptance switch' on & off. Once it's on it’s on for good!

So as much as we all know how much you love & care about Tuffy2, it would really help if you could accept this premise & the science behind it. Then you might start to see that your ongoing fears for Tuffy2's survival are not necessary. Please trust that he is a survivor! That’s how he’s managed to make it this long in an Eagle’s nest with 3 eagles much larger than himself! I’m not saying Tuffy2 hasn’t been faced with many challenges & surely will continue to face more challenges in the future. But I think those challenges will actually end up helping Tuffy to become even stronger & more of a survivor when he’s out on his own someday!

I hope now you will be able to relax & enjoy this amazing & beautiful occurrence in nature & realize how lucky you are to get to witness it firsthand!

It would also be helpful observers & photographers for this nest, could continue to help everyone else understand & accept the premise & the science behind these rare & fascinating occurrences. We are so lucky to have 3 other prior cases to learn from which has now been validated by 65 year Eagle Biologist David Hancock’s Scientific Paper using all of his numerous observations & documentations from 2017-2023."

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