Traveling with a hawk

My wife and I have been traveling for the last three weeks or so visiting family for Christmas.  My family is a 17 hour drive away in Pennsylvania and hers is 12 hours away in northern Indiana.  It takes a lot to see them so we tend to stay a while to make the effort worth it.  This was the first time we traveled with a hawk and I think it went rather well.  I’ve already posted a few photos in the last post.

Ogedei spent his time inside a giant hood, sometimes called a hawk box.  There are some variations on the basic design, but it really is what it sounds like – a box to put the hawk in.  It works like a hood in that the bird is calm when it can’t see (hence the name giant hood).  The box must have a perch that is high enough the tail feathers don’t bend and must be big enough to fit the bird comfortably.  The hawk box is great for transporting a bird because it catches all of the mutes and castings so the vehicle doesn’t get messy.  Newspaper is generally used to line the box so the mutes don’t absorb into the box (if you’re using wood) or slide around if you’re using something impermeable like plastic.

The giant hood I constructed for Ogedei was 23″ high, 21″ deep, and 11″ wide.  I built it out of 3/8″ plywood.  It was relatively easy to screw the wood together without it breaking if the screw holes were predrilled.  I tacked velcro along the edges to ensure it sealed well and kept out light.  I couldn’t find my manilla rope so wrapped the perch in cotton clothes line; it was screwed 6″ from the front and 6″ from the bottom of the box.

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Giant hood mk I

While we were in Pennsylvania the box got damp – even though the porch it was on is covered the rain came in sideways.  The door of the box warped badly and doesn’t keep light out now.  I had to cover the crack with a towel or blanket most of the trip to keep it light tight.  In addition the newspaper drooped a few times and so didn’t catch every mute.  The back of the box absorbed these stray mutes and became dirty.  I’m going to build a new box for the Arkansas Hawking Association’s winter meet because aside from being embarrassing I’m worried the mutes will allow fungi to grow and possibly get Ogedei sick with aspergillosis.  Once suggestion at the AHA’s apprentice workshop is to use corrugated plastic as it doesn’t absorb mutes.  I’m going to give this a try and will write a post about it when I do.

It was relatively easy to train Ogedei to the hawk box.  Like everything else with training hawks it comes down to food.  I placed a tidbit on the perch that he ate while on the fist and repeated that a few times.  Then I carefully backed him into the box.  It took a couple of tries to get him into the box and onto the perch without him trying to flap out of it, but once he was inside I fed him the better part of a quail.  I fed him his dinner this way for two days and he seemed to take to the hawk box.  He still needed more training because he randomly protested going in the box for the next week, but eventually he settled into it and goes in without problems most of the time now.

The box conveniently fit behind the driver’s seat of the car.  I had to wedge it into place with some fiberglass (it came with some frozen quails I ordered and was on hand when we were packing to leave) to make sure the box didn’t wobble or wasn’t knocked down by the dogs who shared the back seat with Ogedei.  He did become more active when the sun came in his window, so we covered the box with a jacket or blanket when that happened.  I suspect the box was getting warm or some light was creeping in a crack.  One thing I read about having a hawk in a vehicle, whether in a hawk box or hooded, is to never idle the vehicle to warm it up.  Birds are more susceptible to carbon monoxide than people and can die easily in an idling car.

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Giant hood packed in for a road trip

A few times while traveling I had to weight Ogedei outside.  At those times I set the scale up in the back of the car.  I learned that I shouldn’t let Ogedei see his bow perch because he will try to stand on it, no matter how tight the space the perch is packed in.

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“I get a tidbit for this, right?”

I was feeding Ogedei in the hood during the trip and made the mistake of letting him see food in my ungloved hand before I transferred it to the glove.  He footed my finger, which was much more painful than I thought it would be.  He’s landed on my ungloved hand, shoulder, and head while on the creance, which wasn’t bad.  Even when he was trying to gain purchase or balance he didn’t grab too hard then.  This was different, and painfully so.  I learned my lesson and will be more careful in the future.

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Outch

Finally, here are a few fun photos.  I had Sarah hold Ogedei on the fist for the first time when I cleaned some mutes that missed the paper out of the hawk box.

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She’s excited about it, really.

On the way back to Arkansas we were caught in the polar vortex.  Traffic on the roads slowed to a crawl, then a stop.  We were forced to get hotels for two nights and what is normally a one day trip turned into three.  The overnight temperatures in Indiana dropped to -20F (-29C), with windchills down to -40F (-40C).  That’s cold enough that I brought Ogedei into the hotel room.  Wild birds can withstand those kinds of temperatures, but a hawk at hunting weight with little body fat might be pushed over the edge and get too low and die.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Traveling with a hawk

  1. 3 weeks of travel is impressive! The concern I have is whether your hawk box has ventilation or air circulation — I don’t see any holes in the photos. I use coroplast (yes it does clean up nice) and have small vents cut into the walls at floor level, and a large vent on top with an old computer fan wired to a battery. The top vent has a baffle offset by about 1/2″ to block light but keep the air pulling out the top.

    • I didn’t think about it when I posted the photos that you can’t see the air holes. Therr are are 6 1/2″ holes in the back about 2″ from the top. I covered them with the fabric you lay down in a planter to keep weeds out. It keeps the light out but allows airflow. The air holes are part of the reason the giant hood is propped off of the back seat in the car photo.

      I’ve seen the computer fan set up before and like it. I’m going to try and find a fan for the chloroplast good I’m making. Definately regret throwing away the three fans I had early last summer now…

  2. Coroplast is good providing you get the denser or darker version of it. The White stuff lets light in. My concerns with the box was that the wood was pretty rough. When the hawk travels around they can move about and get feathers rubbed up against it. A good sanding and a couple of coats of Polyurethane (allow to dry well and air) will help prevent that. Great Blog !

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