A young red-tailed hawk that has been raised by a pair of bald eagles in a Sidney, B.C., nest continues to defy the odds.
The young hawk ended up in the bald eagle's nest in Roberts Bay in early June — likely intended as the next meal for their eaglets.
Instead, he survived and became part of the eagle family.
"This guy thinks he is a bald eagle and I think that is what helped him survive," said David Bird, an emeritus professor of wildlife biology at McGill University who now lives in Sidney.
The hawk likely started begging for food after he arrived in the nest, and the eagle parents started to treat him like the other eaglets, Bird said.
"The last time I laid eyes on him just a few days ago, he's in excellent health," he said.
The young hawk some have nicknamed Spunky has captured the imagination of bird-watchers in Sidney since he was first spotted living with the eagles.
But most wildlife experts did not think he would make it in a nest full of his natural predators.
"Initially I thought he can't survive in this nest. One of his siblings would just simply put a foot on him and that would be the end of him," said David Hancock, a wildlife biologist who specializes in bald eagles.
"But he kept eating and growing and pretty soon he grew full size. So he's a mini little eaglet."
The young hawk has to learn to fly and has been spotted splashing around in bird baths in Sidney.
But Bird says his next big challenge is to figure out how to gather his own food, like a hawk rather than an eagle.
Hawks tend to rely on hunting species such as voles and meadow mice, while eagles often hunt for fish.
"If he does get so weak because he is not finding food ... then I think it is a no brainer to catch him and take him to a wildlife rehab facility," he said.
There's also concern that the young hawk will not be sufficiently wary of other eagles, given his unusual upbringing, Hancock said.
But for now, Spunky is holding his own.
A plan is also being hatched to turn his story into a documentary film, Bird said.