You know that poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Allan Poe? The one where a guy holes himself up in a room surrounded by books, only to be pestered by a bird looking over his shoulder? Yeah, that one.
Well, a few of our researchers might have been getting a similar feeling lately, but on a much grander scale.
What one birder at the Library billed (no pun intended) as a Cooper’s Hawk–crowd-source a correction if I’m wrong–somehow recently got into the Library’s majestic Main Reading Room, and has been winging about ever since. It was first noticed by a patron looking dome-ward yesterday afternoon. I’ll include a few pictures here, taken by our very able Abby Brack.
Naturally, this event has prompted many questions, the most obvious of which being: How on Earth did a Cooper’s Hawk get into the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress?! I can’t answer that. But I can provide a few Q’s followed by a few A’s.
How do you know it’s a Cooper’s Hawk?
We don’t know for sure. But a Library staffer who by avocation is a birder checked an app she keeps on her iPhone and determined that to be the likely breed.
Have you tried to get it down?
The same Library staffer used the same iPhone app to play an audio clip of the call of a Cooper’s Hawk in order to lure it down, but to no avail.
Surely you can’t be serious. Have you really tried to get it down?
I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley. (Shout-out to the 2010 National Film Registry!)
What other steps are you taking?
You mean aside from several very fast steps and hitting the deck if it dive-bombs us? We immediately took steps to analyze a safe approach to handle the situation with minimum disruption to patrons. We are calling in experts from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a division of the Department of the Interior, to continue the efforts to safely return it to the outdoors. It is possible that the bird is an endangered species.
Now that you mention it, has it dive-bombed anyone?
That was purely hypothetical. It seems to be an agreeable enough bird. It’s not ruffling our patrons’ feathers, and they aren’t bothering it either. To them, the whole situation is like water off a duck’s back.
OK, you knew I was going to ask this, but how the heck do you think it got in?
Were not sure, but the working theory is that there was an open or possibly a broken window high in the building. We monitor those kinds of things closely, but storm breakage can sometimes occur. That might have allowed the hawk in. Pigeons sometimes congregate on our roof areas, and hawks often find them irresistible hors d’oeuvre.
How is the bird doing?
The reading room was open until 9 p.m. yesterday, and staff checked on the bird throughout the night. It remains in the reading room at this hour, and it appears to be in good health.
So you’re not feeding it any mice?
No, and no bookworms either.
How much do you think the bird is worth?
Once we get it in hand, I would say it’s worth at least two in the bush. Or at least that’s what the Geico commercial says.
Will you be releasing any other wildlife into the Main Reading Room?
Staff are contemplating that, both to keep themselves alert and on their toes, and also to prevent researchers from taking long naps.
Finally, does the hawk have a name?
“Cooper” seems pretty predictable and banal, right? Maybe Fenimore? I wonder what our readers might propose instead.
Thank you for your time, Matt.
You’re welcome, Matt. But before I go, I’d like to thank my staff for offering up many of these jokes. But only the bad ones.