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A European Starling (far left) inches from a Red-tailed Hawk nest.
What is the risk of imprinting for the Red-tail? Probably high. When any young animal is growing up, they gain knowledge from their parents. For some, the parents themselves are a crucial component—they let the young know what species they are. Usually, everything goes smoothly: mallard ducklings are raised by adult Mallards, and later learn to seek out other Mallards. But occasionally, a mismatch occurs. The duckling is raised by a human, and decides it is a human. Imprinting is irreversible, and it is cause for a rehab patient to be deemed non-releasable. We cannot know what is going through the mind of this young Red-tail as it looks up at its Bald Eagle parents, but it may be making important decisions that will affect its success later in life.
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