Harris Hawk Goes For Cockatoo

Now here is a dramatic video! As a bird handler, you have a tremendous responsibility of keeping the bird safe while you are working with the public.  If all goes well, it's a great educational tool.  If all does not go well...it can be a disaster for the birds and for the audience. Here is a video from a live bird show at the Los Angeles Zoo which incorporates both birds of prey and, well prey. This is a nighmare situation where the bird handler's quick thinking saved the life of a cockatoo: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikDpYwDKQ_A[/youtube]

I watched that with both fascination and horror. On the one hand, to see how quickly the Harris hawk dives in is cool, but as a bird handler, that is an intense situation. I wish I could see a copy of the video without the dramatic special editing. But, here is what I see and here is why that handler is a pro and was able to save the cockatoo.

She works with that cockatoo enough, that she knows when the bird is nervous and that something else has its attention. Typically, when I work with birds of prey, when they look up, there's a raptor--sometimes just a pepper speck to my eyes. That trainer, noticed that the cockatoo looked up and exhibited fear, she was smart enough to look up and realize that their other program bird, a Harris hawk wasn't far overhead.

As soon as the hawk dove, she blocks the cockatoo by covering it with her body--I can't imagine the amount of pain and to have it done in front of a crowd. If you get a glimpse at her face, you can tell that it hurt. Besides, the grasping talons of the Harris hawk, I wonder of the cockatoo bit her to either get balance or out of fear? Owie, owie, owie! I'm not sure which would be worse, I can't imagine both at the same time.

I found the full video on Animal Planet's website and they interview Lauren, than handler in the video.  Interesting, despite the sensationalized editing.  Again, her quick thinking and knowledge of her birds' behavior kept that live show from becoming an unfortunate bloody lesson on animal behavior.