A friendship with Fawkes

If you visited us last summer, you may have been lucky enough to spot Fawkes, our Wahlberg’s Eagle, soaring over Reg’s Wildflower Meadow. She is a beautiful but sensitive bird, and is very selective as to who she chooses to work alongside on our Bird Team. Ronnie Hunter has been working closely with Fawkes since 2022 – carry on reading to hear from Ronnie all about this wonderful bird.

“Wahlberg’s Eagles are Africa’s smallest eagle species and whilst they may not look remarkable from a distance; their beauty is all in the details. Their feathers have a variety of deep chocolate browns and honey beige tones which change and settle as they get older. They’re ‘booted’, meaning their feathers run all the way down their legs and stop just above the feet giving the appearance of wearing trousers! They have a crest that they use as a form of nonverbal communication. Most people will picture a bird’s crest as ornate curled feathers like a cockatoo or elongated feathers creating a crown like a Harpy eagle; the Wahlberg’s Eagle crest is neither of these. Instead, they have just a few feathers on the top of their head that are slightly longer than the rest and when raised, creates a small triangle crest.

Fawkes hatched on the 24 November 2017 weighing in at just 40 grams and was hand reared by Bird Team member Jane Robertson. You can still see Fawkes’ egg shell if you visit the National Bird of Prey Hospital™ during your next visit! Fawkes was hand reared because her parents lost interest in incubation and at the time there were no suitable foster parents available to raise her. She didn’t have an easy start to life: battling mild infections at just a couple of months old, but she soon made a full recovery and joined the flying team.

Fawkes is a sensitive eagle. She isn’t very fond of loud noise, bright colours, vehicles or other birds – particularly corvids and buzzards. She also very much decides for herself which members of the Bird Team she is willing to work alongside here at the Trust. When I first started working at the Trust, Fawkes was still figuring out who she would like to work with after her parental figure, Jane, transitioned away from working on site with the birds to a different role offsite. I was very fortunate to have worked closely with a Wahlberg’s Eagle at a previous job so asked if I could test the waters with Fawkes. Turns out the Wahlberg’s Eagle I had previously worked with is Fawkes’ half-sister! Fortunately for me, Fawkes almost instantly accepted me as her new flying partner and over the past couple of years we have been working on Fawkes’ confidence and flying skills. Last year we were often involved in parts of the daily timetable at the Trust, including   ‘Masters of the Sky’, one of our displays. Having been hand reared, Fawkes has had to rely purely on her own instinct when it comes to learning how to fly like an eagle and it takes a long time for some birds to gain confidence in doing so. Even now she sometimes scares herself by flying too fast because she misjudges the wind. Fawkes’ next step this year is to work on developing bonds with other members of the Bird Team so that more of us get to enjoy working with her.

©2024 Hawk Conservancy Trust