WARDEN, Wash. – A Warden family hopes to see the return of a stranded hawk they cared for named Mariah.
After the 10 days they cared for the hawk and the two months she spent in a Yakima facility specializing in avian rehabilitation, the Haynes family released this wandering star to the skies Friday morning, where she should complete her yearly migration to Argentina before returning to the Columbia Basin.
In July, Greg Haynes came across a downed bird near the golf course at Potholes State Park.
“There was this big bird in the middle of the road, and it looked like it was hurt,” he said.
“So I stopped, got out, and tried to shoo it off the road. Then I realized that it couldn’t fly.”
Haynes and his family looked after the bird for 10 days, all the while going through proper wildlife channels to get the Swainson’s hawk into the correct authority’s hands.
“She was hungry,” Haynes said of the bird.
“She was really, really hungry. She looked like she’d been out of the nest for a full day.”
But all the wildlife authorities he contacted assumed Mariah was injured and was going to die soon.
“In the meantime, we just kept feeding her and working with her a little bit,” he said.
And after time, the family said a symbiotic relationship began to form between them and Mariah.
“We all loved the bird,” wife Kim said. “She gave Greg a new kick in his step.”
“I’ve never had it happen before, and I’m probably never going to have it happen again,” 15-year-old son Connor said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
After exhausting all available channels for help, Haynes learned about and contacted the Raptor House, a Yakima-based nonprofit organization that works to rehabilitate birds of prey, then reintroduce them to the wild.
Shannon and Marsha Dalan with the organization took Mariah back to Yakima.
“It was emotional when I let her go to them,” Haynes said. “I didn’t want to let her go.”
The Dalans worked with Mariah for months to re-acclimate her to the wild, all while in captivity.
Mariah was set in cages with other adolescent hawks in an attempt to lose the human interaction she was used to, and trigger the hunting bird’s natural instincts in the wild.
This is a feat that Kim Haynes said wasn’t going to be easy.
“As we had her, she was friendly and she didn’t snap. We were petting her and everything,” she said about the hawk. “But we were told she had a human print on her that she will probably never lose. I don’t know if that will be to her advantage or her disadvantage.”
Mariah was released Friday morning at the Haynes’ home, along with two other Swainson’s hawks the Dalans had helped reintroduce to the wild.
After she took to the sky, Greg Haynes said Mariah’s release at his home was a somber event.
“It’s nice to release her out here and know that there’s a chance that she might come back after she migrates down to South America,” he said. “I knew this was a good spot for her.”