Dropping in all the way from California, the Zoo has welcomed Tony, a Harris’s hawk, as its newest resident.
While Tony the Hawk won’t be doing any tricks like ollies or kickflips on a skateboard, the bird of prey is training to become an animal ambassador and will pick up some sweet skills in no time.
Tony hatched around June 21, 2021, under the care of a Master Falconer and former colleague of Virginia Zoo Keeper Tara Baumgardner, and he arrived at the Zoo in late 2021. The full-grown male weighs just under 1.5 lb.
Tony lives behind-the-scenes near the Zoo’s Program Animal Building, where he will become an ambassador for his species and voluntarily participate in educational programs such as Safari Camps, birthday parties, special events and outreaches.
“Harris’s hawks are very smart, social and active birds, so training will be very fun with this guy!” says Baumgardner.
Using voluntary training and positive reinforcement, Zoo officials say Tony will first learn husbandry behaviors such as stepping up onto the Keeper’s glove, stepping on a scale to be weighed, perching and eventually kenneling. He will also be desensitized to a Keeper’s touch, which allows Keepers to touch various parts of his body, including his keel, which helps determine body condition. These enriching and stimulating behaviors are also beneficial for making any future veterinary examinations less stressful.
Tony is expected to make his gnarly debut on Zoo grounds this summer once he has successfully completed his training and Keepers feel he is comfortable doing programs.
The Virginia Zoo is located at 3500 Granby Street and is 0pen daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last entry at 3 p.m. Reservations and timed ticketing are no longer required.