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And Watch a Hawk Makin’ Lazy Circles in the Dome

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An image of (insert name here), taken at about 2:30 this afternoon. (Photo by Abby Brack/Library of Congress)

Yesterday I blogged about a hawk that has come to visit our Main Reading Room.  It has captured the imagination of the public, the media and researchers in the Main Reading Room, as heads are constantly craned upward (I’m really trying to swear off the bird puns!) to get a glimpse.  Well, she is still with us (yes, it’s a she), so I wanted to update everyone.

I just came from the Main Reading Room, and it is an awe-inspiring sight: a beautiful, majestic bird against the backdrop of one of the most magnificent buildings in the world.

The bird is a juvenile female Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii).  This photo on Wikipedia is quite similar in appearance, at least insofar as I can tell from photos, and my own view looking 160 feet up into the dome.

The bird is reportedly doing fine.  A woman from the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia has been up in the dome all day with baited cages, patiently waiting.  One commenter yesterday noted that Cooper’s Hawks don’t go for mice or, in his words, “Cooper’s hawks eat feathers, not fur.”  At the risk of spoiling your dinner, I’ll just say that I heard the bait that is being used is consistent with that information.

The hawk has confined its hopping and circling to the cupola just below the dome itself, so curious people in the reading room probably won’t get any close encounters.  Another raptor expert apparently will be joining the effort starting tomorrow.

Blog readers took to heart my tongue-in-cheek suggestion to name the Cooper’s Hawk.  Off the top of my head, I liked “Fenimore” until I found out it’s a female.  Some others:

Hudson Hawk, Gary Cooper, Anderson Cooper, D.B. Cooper (well, both of them are known for flying up high), and Addison Hawk (“Ad” Hawk–get it?).  The Main Reading Room staff have dubbed it “Shirley,” which I presume came from my oblique “Airplane!” reference yesterday.

Meanwhile, our on-the-spot staff in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, like all good librarians would do, pulled together some resources about this accipiter, all of which also can be found at this link:

Listen to a Cooper’s Hawk at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Explore these websites for details on the Cooper’s Hawk’s habitat and behavior:

Hawk Mountain



Want to learn out more about hawks?  Look for one of these books at your local library or bookstore:

The Hawk Family / Bev Harvey.

The Cooper’s Hawk : A Cross Timbers Chronicle / Vic McLeran

The Wonder of Hawks / by Rita Ritchie and Sumner Matteson

Hawks: Hawk Magic for Kids / by Sumner Matteson

Hawks in Flight: The Flight Identification of North American Migrant Raptors / Pete Dunne, David Sibley, Clay Sutton

If we were a cable news network, we would put “Breaking News” at the bottom of your screen, but rest assured we will keep you up to date on when this Coop finally flies the coop.

Speaking of which, CNN’s “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer is supposed to run a story today during its 5 p.m. EST hour.  Camera crews from local channels 4, 5 and 9 have also been here today, among other media.

A few more photos by Abby can be found below, including a little of the aforementioned media circus, and also yours truly looking like a deer in camera lights.  It’s also possible I might be able to update this post with a little bit of video.

And thanks to those who pointed out that I had misspelled “Edgar Allan Poe” yesterday in my haste.  I am chagrined beyond description!

Comments (52)

  1. So amazing, but hope she safely gets out soon & back to outdoor living. In the meantime, has she any favorites on her reading list?

    Our Coopers here (in Alameda) hunt the doves in the tree right outside our house – we see many thrilling chases at dusk. Always feathers on the sidewalk in the morning… Doves must be delicious. Good luck to you and Shirley!

    I guess you picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue…

  2. Another suggestion for her name: Ham Hawk–because clearly she likes attention. Also, say it aloud.

  3. How did it get inside?

  4. Glad to see you have experts on the scene. The hungrier she gets, the more likely she’ll be rescued (via a trap). Unfortunately, she doesn’t see it that way.

  5. Sure looks like the puns are flying off the shelves with these posts.

  6. granted that your readership is considerably more erudite than the general public. still i wonder how many get the oklahoma reference.

  7. I think she should be named Kitty.

  8. I do so love the picture of the hawk against the dome — I’ve set it as my wallpaper. Any chance we could get a little information about that painting? Artist, date, style, influences?

    And I got the Oklahoma reference. 🙂

  9. To get hawk out:
    During daylight hours, turn off all the lights, except the ones leading out to the nearest doorway. Have the doors wide open. It is best if there is a doorway that is in line-of-sight to where the hawk is. I have used this technique to get birds, squirrels, rats, etc out of our house… good luck…

  10. A friend of mine suggested naming her “Jeff” after Thomas Jefferson, but since she’s a she, I think that’s out of the running. Hope she comes out alive & well, whatever the name is.

  11. We think we saw a mate flying around the dome outside between Adams and Madison after lunch. Are the bird experts aware of a possible mate when they catch and relocate?

  12. Nathaniel Hawkthorne?

  13. There are several Cooper’s Hawks on Capitol Hill. The one that hangs out on South Carolina Avenue has been dubbed “Clarissa.” Apparently, Cooper’s are becoming more urban . . . Hope the LC hawk gets a safe haven . . .

  14. Sorry, I saw the news report this evening and got into this blog without reading yesterdays’. I didn’t realize that you don’t know how the bird got in… I just worry about trying to catch/trap it. If you can figure out where it got in and light the way out, it would be safer for the bird to get out on it’s own. Once again, good luck!

  15. What a wonderful story! I had a bad day and this restored my faith in human (and avian) nature.

  16. @bill hahn- I got the Oklahoma! reference too! I thought it was just my imagination. I’m really enjoying these posts about the hawk. Hope everything turns out ok for her! She’s a beautiful creature.

  17. I personally vote for naming the cooper’s hawk Winnie! 😉

  18. This is so cool! I wish I could come and see this bird for myself! Let’s have more pictures!
    And as for the person casting aspersions on the general readership of this blog. for shame!
    Write on, Matt! (get that one? We all have hidden talents!)

  19. One lure you might try is Water…do you have a fountain in the Reading Room? She should be drawn to spraying water, or, tinkling water…you need a lure that sparkles and sounds like water.

  20. Beautiful Photos!

  21. Call her Sadie…..Sadie Hawkins.

  22. Hope you’re able to share more with a video. With all of that media hardware you’d think that they’d provide you with some footage or a least a couple of real good close up shots. I can only image how beautiful she is in flight in that dome.

  23. Such serious minded people, that have been photoed! poor Hawk , must have only wanted to read up on its self! Getting an education! But seriously, was very interesting read!

  24. I’ve been humming the “Oklahoma” tune since I real the title. The Washington Post said the hawk may have found her way in through a broken pane in the dome. Probably cruising in search of pigeons.

  25. @bill…we know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand…

  26. Well Bill Hahn, I got it. I hope that others get it also. “Oklahoma!” is one of our national treasures. Good luck, Matt!

  27. Just curious…what is the latest news on LOC’s hawk?

  28. Still looking for a name for your female hawk? Why, “Kitty” of course!

  29. I suggest you name her Constance for Constance Fenimore Cooper, a distinguished writer in her own right.

  30. 1)Get the people out
    2) Mouse on the floor with a string
    3) Catapult net shot over hawk when he goes for the mouse

  31. Took me a while, but yes, I got the Oklahoma reference & the the Zappa ref! And I may be falling in love w/ Matt based on his extreme blogability! Aye-yip-ee-o-kai-yay, we’re only saying LC is OK!

  32. Wasn’t there just some story about witches using a vulture for the purpose of spying in the news?

  33. I had the privilege of having a Cooper’s Hawk fly past my family room window one day, right where the bird feeder hung.

    I jumped up to get a better look, grabbed my bird book to identify the hawk as a Cooper’s Hawk, and agree with another blogger that Cooper’s LOVE doves. That’s what my Cooper came for….time after time!

    Even though I hated to sacrifice my loved doves, I really enjoyed studying the Cooper up close and personal. They are absolutely beautiful!

    And, the reason I described the Cooper’s visit as a privilege is that I lived in the city at that time, and my Audubon book said that they are rarely seen in the city! I’m sure my Cooper’s found my backyard birdfeeder because I lived very close to the University’s agricultural fields….Just as I surmise that “your” Cooper visited from The National Cemetery or D.C.’s surrounding farmlands.

    Thanks for your postings about our “friend.”

  34. The incident fills me with something. Even just reading this blog. I wrote on my notebook:
    A Bird flew into the Library
    Distance and sound
    are opposite

    and the bird
    flew under the watchful eyes of the ceiling
    is a whisper.

    The words in the words evaporate.
    The library looks up.
    A bird flies round and round.

    Distance and sound are opposite.
    Unreal, we have places to go
    or eternity.
    Here and now is
    a bird flying under the watchful eyes
    of the ceiling.

    ©All Rights are reserved by Kushal Poddar, 2010☼

  35. I have to go with the name DB, even though the mystery with this is how she flew in, not where DB went. Are any of your photos available under Creative Commons? I’d love to use one in my blog!

  36. Cooper’s Hawks are slicers, so it will get ugly and you need to get it out of there. Slicing is when a bird has the behavior of squirting feces from its cloaca to hit things it wants to.

    This is what you should do.

    1. The bird will get hungry and thirsty. You need to tether a dead pigeon, rat, or a thawed chicken to a table. The bird will descend to get it when people appear to leave the area and the bird thinks the coast is clear. If the bird is extremely hungry it might go for it with people in the room. Let the bird get into its eating before moving to capture it.

    You can also put out a bowl of water for it.

    2. A net should be readied to throw over the bird to capture it. An old volleyball net can work. Tie weights to the corners so it throws properly to cover the bird. You may need scissors to cut the netting away if the bird gets tangled.

    3. You should have the end cut off of a sock to put over the bird’s head to calm it down. The sock should have a slit in it to put the beak through so the bird can breathe and you can feed it and water it.

    4. You will need to grab the legs very carefully. This is best done by an experienced falconer, but people have done fine on their first try. The wings need to be held across the top.

    5. Be aware that the leading edge of the wings can hit very hard and hurt a lot. The claws are capable of singing into your wrist and right through the arteries. When the bird is thinking it is fighting for its life, it can inflict very serious damage.

    6. The hawk will never attack anyone except to defend itself.

    After you capture it, take a look at it. Hopefully, you haven’t injured it. Predatory birds are very tough cookies. They are designed to survive 50 MPH impacts with the ground when they hit prey. But human arms and hands are capable of strangling them, crushing their windpipes, breaking their legs and bruising their bodies without too much trouble.

    So if you can find a falconing club, or a veterinary school, they can help you handle the bird if you aren’t comfortable with it.

  37. It is true about the hawk being a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. I have seen an adult female
    Cooper’s Hawk and several juveniles. I once followed the sound of a fussing adult Red Wing
    Black bird. It turned out the Red Wing Black bird was an adult male. The reason for him fussing was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk in the tree eating what looked like a juvenile Black
    Bird. I got an excellent look at the hawk because it was only 5 feet above me on a tree
    branch. I was able to observe the Cooper’s
    Hawk for at least 15 minutes before it decided to take off with it’s prey. I live in Minneapolis,
    Minnesota and I was in St. Louis Park, Minnesota when I saw the juvenile Cooper’s

  38. I bet virtually all the readership gets the “Oklahoma!” reference. I thought it was great.

    Aren’t there any pigeons in the building? “It’s not against any religion to….”–and this is a perfectly natural way–much better than Mr. Lehrer’s suggestion.

  39. I had a wild bird in my house once. I think it was a starling or a grackle. Attempts to capture it failed. I finally figured out that when the house was mostly dark, the agitated bird would fly toward the light. So I turned on my porch light, turned off all the other lights, and left the front door wide open. The bird flew out of its own accord.

  40. “In the meantime, has she any favorites on her reading list?” Since she prefers birds then I guess it’s not “Of mice and men”.

  41. Another name suggestion: Marian as in Marian the Librarian from the musical The Music Man.

  42. She’s a Cooperstar!

    Thanks for the updates–very exciting for all of us in libraryland.

  43. Wow and I though the hawks only worked in the Manuscripts Division….

  44. We may be, Mr. Hahn… thank you for the compliment. To be precise, Matt Raymond’s title is a play on the second strain of the chorus, which goes…

    “Oklahoma, ev’ry night my honey lamb and I
    Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
    Makin’ lazy circles in the sky.”

  45. I got the Oklahoma reference! Yeeow! Aye-yip-aye-yo-ee-ay! (It was stuck in my head all day on Friday).
    The sky at the LoC sure is pretty.

  46. I think she is beautiful and elegant just like the amazing place she chose to take flight for awhile, can you blame her ?

  47. How incredible Library Staff are! How fortunate that Hawk chose to visit such a special place of all buildings in DC. I take it as a sign.

    Maybe staff involved could ask the Native American Community if they have any ideas for bringing Hawk to a happy and mutually respected

  48. All God’s creatures deserve our respect. Thank you for your humane you are giving to this animal.

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