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Meet “Alexander,” PSU Nature Reach’s new ambassador

PSU Nature Reach has a winged ambassador again.

When “Harriet” — a 35-year-old Harris’s hawk who had represented Nature Reach in outreach programming throughout the Four State Area since 1988 — died in January, it left a void in the raptor program that Director Delia Lister thought would be hard to fill.

“While Harris’s hawks are wonderful education ambassadors, they don’t live in Kansas,” Lister said.

Over the years, Lister, as well as her predecessors, presented hundreds of programs with Harriet, who perched on arms in front of audiences of all ages. Harriet was cared for by PSU Biology students training to work in careers with wildlife or environmental education.

This summer, Lister found a replacement, thanks to a partnership with Wild At Heart Rescue in Phoenix, Arizona, and with assistance from PSU alumnus Jeremy Albright who is a pilot.

The hawk’s name: Alexander, named by the staff at Wild At Heart.

“Having Alexander will provide an opportunity for people to see a bird that they might not ever get to see in the wild,” Lister said. “He will also help train PSU students who want to work with raptors as part of their career path.”

Alexander was taken to Wild At Heart Rescue in Cave Creek, Arizona, on July 4, 2018, after being kept by a human for a week and fed a diet of hamburger.

He had fallen from his nest in nearby Wickenburg, Arizona, and had a condition called “splay leg,” in which a chick can’t stand because its legs point to either side of its body and do not sit directly under its body.

Alexander was treated and placed with a foster mom. They later attempted to release him, but determined he was not going to do well on his own in the wild.

After eight months of paperwork and a permit for transfer, PSU Nature Reach took possession, and on Aug. 28, the hawk became a Gorilla.

The bird’s maximum life expectancy in captivity is usually 30 years, but “Harriet” lived to be nearly 36. She is was very close in age to the oldest known captive Harris’s Hawk.

This is a desert bird and is not native to Kansas. They are the only social raptors and are well known to hunt in packs.

These birds (along with red-tailed hawks and American kestrels) are often used for an ancient sport called falconry in which hunters use them to hunt for small game — a legal sport if you have the proper permits and have been trained under a master falconer.

Learn more about PSU Nature Reach.

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