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Training a Hawk to use her water dish

Summer ‘Training’ for Red-Tails

Training a Red-Tailed hawk has many methods and ways of achieving conditioning for your hawk. There are creance flights and jump-ups to build endurance. Most of these exercises are used in combination of weight management during the fall, in order to get ready for the hunting season. But what about the Summer? Typically, Red-Tails are fed up to be “fat and happy” so that they have enough energy to moult and grow new feathers. You don’t stress out your red-tail during the summer in fear of creating shock-marks in the feathers. A good steady diet of quail, rabbit, and mice will grow out your red-tail’s feathers nice and strong during the summer months. Conditioning exercises will just have to be repeated in the fall, so what else can you do during the summer?

I spend a lot of time watching my bird in the summer. It’s a time when I can learn a lot from their behavior and body language. Set the bird out in the weathering area on a perch with a water pan and let your raptor enjoy the summer shade and gentle breezes. After watching my hawk for some time, I noticed that she wasn’t using her water dish. Not even for drinks. Most of the time, I provide water via a squirt bottle, or on hot days, I’ll mist her down, give her a good gentle soaking, and let her dry out. This works pretty well, and is probably more of a bath than the bird really wants, but definitely needs regularly. So how can you get a hawk to WANT to take a bath?


I cleaned out the dish and filled it with water, set it next to the perch, and then emptied out a small bag of goldfish from Meijers. Feeder goldfish are typically cheap, about 19¢ each. A few minutes later my hawk noticed the little tid-bits in the dish and started to investigate. Load of fun to watch and my hawk learned to use her water dish. I’ve kept the fish alive for a few more days with a change of water each day, and the mews is now regularly wet from Cedar playing with her new pet goldfish in the water pan.

** As an afterthought, there was one other behavior that was observed during these bath-pan training exercises. Raptors typically mate in the spring, and with Cedar being outside on a perch and visible to the sky, any other Red-Tails would and do notice her perching.  When a young male suitor Red-Tail came closer in to investigate, Cedar began making a strange noise  / call that I’ve never heard from a Red-Tailed hawk before.  The call sounded like “Rrrrrrr….. Rrrrrrr… Rrrrrrr…”.  So, now I know what the “Buteo Booty-Call” sounds like.  🙂

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