Santa Clara County

Bay Area bald eagle apparently adopts baby hawk

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A bald eagle in the Bay Area appears to have adopted a baby red-tailed hawk, delighting birdwatchers locally and across the world.

The bald eagle was first spotted in Santa Clara County in May gently bringing the baby red-tailed hawk back to her nest.

Gilroy wildlife photographer Doug Gillard caught the moment on camera. He expected the hawk would be served as dinner to the eagle's baby. But that's not what Gillard saw happen.

"This little white head popped up over the nest, like the size of a cotton ball maybe," Gillard said. "I'm like, 'Oh my God, it’s alive.'"

The mother eagle began feeding the hawk, which has since been nicknamed Tuffy, bringing him food four times a day.

"That’s like crazy, crazy rare," Gillard said. "I’ve heard this is the fifth recorded case in history of this happening."

Avid birdwatcher Manny Vara was stunned the mother eagle was so careful with the hawklet.

"The female had to go to a red-tailed nest and actually grab the chick very gently with those giant talons they have and bring it over here without killing it," he said. "Usually, whenever they grab anything, they just sink their talons into it and kill it instantly."

It appears the male eagle accepted Tuffy, too. Some wildlife experts suggest it may be because red-tailed hawks have a begging call similar to an eagle's call.

Now both the eaglet, known as Lola, and her apparently adopted brother Tuffy are learning to fly and finding their independence.

"To actually be able to witness this is amazing," Vara said. "It just shows you that nature holds so many secrets."

At one point, there were two hawklets in the nest, but birdwatchers say it's unclear what happened to the second one.

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