Seneca Park Zoo is home to one female Harris’ hawk, Lady, born in 1999. A falconer donated her to the Zoo in 2004. She has been trained to perform free-flight demonstrations. Lady is trained using positive reinforcement. She has a strong relationship with her trainers based on mutual trust and respect, which is what enables us to allow her to fly-free outside and know that she will come back to us.
Harris’s hawks are not listed as threatened or endangered. They are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) appendix II and they are protected from harassment and illegal shooting by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Habitat loss is the major cause of decline of this species as well as excessive human disturbance. Shooting can result in nest failure, abandonment and mortality. Electrocution is responsible for the loss of half of the population of breeding hawks.
The Harris hawk is a resident of Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Its range also extends into Mexico, Central, and South America as far south as Argentina. These hawks are found in semiarid habitats like savannas, chaparrals, scrub prairies, and mesquite and saguaro deserts. Its preference is for scrub with mesquite, cacti, and yucca plants.
The Harris’ hawk feeds mainly on small to medium-sized rodents. It is also known to take birds — often in flight — lizards, insects, and mammals up to the size of a full-grown rabbit. There is some evidence that it also eats carrion when prey is in short supply.