Bird Watch

Rapt Attention

Red-tailed hawk chicks set for their debut on KGW’s Raptor Cam.

April 21, 2011

Call it breaking news. Literally. This morning the KGW Raptor Cam (with the help of Bob Sallinger from the Portland Audubon Society) is reporting that the four eggs laid by downtown Portland’s beloved—and none-too-camera shy—Red-tailed hawk family are finally hatching.

Considering the Muddy Boot’s office is within screeching distance of these critters, I have a special fascination with their feathered lives. In fact, I see the hawks circling the sky around here so often (even swooping down to snatch a rodent in one instance) that I don’t usually bother to tune into the cam footage. But today it’s worth a dedicated watch party.

As I write this, I can see mama hawk standing above its clutch of eggs, all neatly tucked into a tangle of branches and fir leaves, while least one tiny beak attempts to peck its way out into the world.

According to the Audubon Society, the official terminology for this fledgling entrée into life is that the eggs have “pipped.” – GASP – who cares about science!? THE MOTHER HAWK HAS JUST FLOWN THE COOP! The eggs are utterly alone! Someone help them! … OK. Everyone calm down. She’s back. Probably just coordinating with dad hawk. Maybe asking where her breakfast is. I’m not an ornithologist. But I imagine this is how the day goes for them. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the father is feeling a bit hen pecked right now.

But really, who can blame mama for being a bit testy? After all she’s got so much on her mind: Will my babies have all their claws? What food cart will I fly them to first? Raptor college has gotten so expensive these days—is our nest egg big enough this? The emotional drama is endless.

Apparently, so to, is this painstaking birth process. For those counting down, this latest round of egg-citement (sorry about that) comes 41 days after the first egg was laid and 32 days after the last egg was laid. And this pipping can go on for up to two whole days. The chicks’ birthathon make the three hours that Lady Gaga spent incubating in her plastic shell for the Grammys look downright lazy.

It also means that you’ve got plenty of time to buy some Swisher Sweets to celebrate their arrival, not to mention download “Born This Way.”

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