Monday, October 19, 2009

Dropping weight

It has finally cooled off a bit here in NC. At least enough that I had to wear a jacket to work today. It is about the time that passage Red tails start their migration south in any numbers, and the trapping of them begins in earnest. It is also the time when I expect my hawks to be at a good hunting weight.

In the summer the birds are put up to molt (grow their new feathers). I feed them too much and they get fat and belligerent in their summer quarters, But now I am ready for them to be ready to hunt. This is not starvation! This is getting the birds down to fighting weight, like a runner, or a boxer.

To drop a birds weight, the obvious thing is to just stop feeding them, but that doesn't work. Raptors are built to go for long periods with little food. If a hawk stops eating, their metabolism simply slows down and they don't lose any weight. The best thing to do is to feed them a bit less every day. This keeps their system revving on the food they are getting, but at the same time you are cutting the birds caloric intake.

It is vital that you keep a close eye on their weight. In bigger birds, that means weighing them at least daily. In the smaller raptors, they may need to be weighed multiple times a day. Calories are then adjusted and the math is done to figure out the amount of weight lost over a set period of time and how much food needs to be fed.

My birds are still losing their summer weight, slowly. It will warm up this week, but I hope to have Tess where she needs to be this weekend. Gonzo may take a bit longer, but either way, I am hoping to have the birds first kill of the season under my belt by the end of October.

Wish me luck.