Old Bird

Last week, Anne Price of the REF e- mailed to tell me that her Harris tiercel Indiana Jones had died, very much of old age and attendant frailties. Anne:

“This morning I said goodbye Indiana Jones, a.k.a. Indi, my Harris Hawk. I would be lying if I said I weren’t sad, but he was kind enough to give me a few days notice, and at 31 years old, he gave me so many more years than I ever expected.

“Many of you reading this “knew” Indi nearly as long as I did; helping me fly him at Marine World, taking care of him when I was traveling in LA, San Diego, and ultimately Colorado. For those of you who never knew, or have forgotten Indi’s history, he was found sometime in 1980 in a cardboard box outside the Alexander Lindsay Nature Center in the eastern Bay Area, which is now the Lindsay Wildlife Museum and one of the premier nature/wildlife rehabilitation centers in Northern California. He was very heavily imprinted to people, and had an old break in his left wing at the elbow. No one knows where he came from. After getting him back on his feet, the museum placed him at the San Francisco Zoo.

“All I can recall, since I was 12, almost 13…was that he showed up one day from the Zoo, and our department manager at Marine World Africa USA announced that our park had acquired a bunch of animals, traded some, and he was in the lot. It was 1981, and since we were all Harrison Ford fans, and the FIRST Raider’s of the Lost Ark had just come out, we named him Indi. He had been handled at the zoo, but couldn’t fly……or so they thought! We flew Indi all over the place, hundreds of feet, off of buildings, roofs, across a lagoon, everywhere. He was amazing, ignoring the sea gulls, cutting through that San Francisco wind and fog, and always giving his all.

“Fast forward to 1991, and after 18 months of wrangling and permitting paperwork with the State of California, I drove up from LA to Vallejo (half way between San Francisco and Sacramento for you non-California types), and Indi was mine. That was April 1991, 20 years ago this month. Doug and I were living in Air Force family housing in San Pedro, and I even occasionally flew Indi there at Ft. MacArthur, across the quadrangle, sometimes using my upstairs neighbor’s balcony.

“Sometime around 1995 when Doug got out of the Air Force and we moved from Black Forest back up to Denver, Indi decided he no longer liked kids…10 years being petted at a zoo was apparently enough. He simultaneously decided that he was no longer afraid of four-legged creatures, like cats and dogs. He had always looked warily at bobcats, tigers, and various other mammals on leashes, but as long as they kept their distance he was fine. No longer; now he screamed at dogs, and when we got Otto in 1996, Indi actively flew at the end of his leash trying to kill him. Poor Otto got the message and to this day gives all raptors a wide berth.

“Around the same time I started using Indi to teach the new volunteer class at REF. For many folks, he was the first raptor they got to see up close. He was a very tolerant, if not occasionally clownish, assistant teacher.

“Two states, five homes, one dog, two kids, 20 years as part of our family, 30 in my life altogether. How many people get to love an animal for 30 years, unless it’s a macaw, tortoise or elephant?

“Glenna took this photo yesterday; as I said, I could see things were coming to an end. I am very grateful that he waited until we returned from Jamaica one week ago today, and I don’t believe he suffered. Right up to the last 24 hours of his life, he was eating, drinking, could see, hear, and both give and receive affection from those who loved him. We should all be fortunate to die so well.”

When I gave her my condolences I remarked that his longevity was biologically interesting. She agreed and added:

“From a purely biological standpoint, it was interesting to see what happened to his feet. This is what a 31 yr old arthritic raptor food looks like…check out his hallux. His left foot was completely normal, but I’ve seen this in a couple of my birds with wing injuries; as they age, the foot on the opposite side of the injured wing starts displaying twisted talons or swollen joints, almost as if it’s compensating for the injured opposite limb. We have a 23 year old female ferruginous hawk, with a left wing injury just like Indi had; the talons which have twisted on her right foot are the inside/medial or “power” talon, and the middle one. I keep them trimmed a bit shorter than normal, in order not to further twist or deform the way the toe lays….I did the same thing for Indi.”

1 thought on “Old Bird”

Leave a Comment