Bristol Audubon Society Adventure: Red Tails and Pink Hearts

Inseparable as any couple would be, Red-Tailed hawks Atlanta and Finn are the best of friends.

The Audubon’s bonded pair of Red-Tailed Hawks, Finn and Atlanta. Photo by Alyssa K. Anderson.

Have you ever looked up into the sky on a clear, crisp day and seen a massive pair of wings circling the sky? That’s probably a Red-Tailed Hawk, according to Lauren Parmelee, senior director of education at Bristol’s Audubon Society Nature Center and Aquarium.

Two particular hawks, Finn and Atlanta, are what the Audubon Society calls “Avian Ambassadors.” The pair both suffered from impact injuries – some kind of collision that seriously harms the bird, often while they’re still young – and were left unable to fly. This means that rehabilitators cannot release the animals into the wild, because hawks are raptors, meaning they hunt by flying and catching prey with their talons.

Finn was first to find his home at the Audubon Society. He was discovered in Connecticut, injured as a young fledgling.

“He was very…jumpy!” Parmelee says with a laugh as she tells me about the young raptor’s behavior. “He couldn’t settle, you know, kind of like a young kid. So we were really thinking about getting him a partner.”

That’s when Atlanta came into the picture.

“Atlanta was originally from Georgia, hence ‘Atlanta,’ but she’s an older woman,” Parmelee says with a wry smile as she tells me about the older of the two birds, and now it’s my turn to laugh. “So we thought, ‘Hmm, she might make a good pair with Finn.’”

Although everyone was apprehensive at first – it can be nerve-wracking to put two unfamiliar raptors together, Parmelee tells me – it was immediately clear that Atlanta was in charge.

“It was so good for him,” she says. “He is so much calmer, they’re bonded.”

I can tell that she’s right. I go outside with her to visit Finn and Atlanta in their enclosure on what has to be the coldest day of the year so far, well below freezing, and not far above ten degrees. Luckily, the two of them have a heated space by their water supply to keep it from freezing.

Finn and Atlanta are curled up in a corner perch, eyeing me curiously as I snap a few photos. Parmelee coos at them gently, reassuring them I’m not here to hurt or disturb them. I take as many shots as I can, smiling as they chatter inquisitively.

“Their eyes are so good that they can actually see the shutter of the camera,” Parmelee informs me, much to my amazement.

The two of them are partners – completely inseparable. Animals like Finn and Atlanta are well-taken care of at the Audubon Society, a place they can forever call their home.

1401 Hope St., Bristol, 401-949-5454 ex. 3118, asri.org

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