Animal Island: Mystery bird is likely a lost falcon

Q: I’m trying to identify a bird that I spotted yesterday in my Lloyd Harbor backyard. I’ve attached a photo for your reference. As you may be able to tell, the bird has a band on its leg. The consensus of my Facebook friends is that it’s most likely either an immature red-tailed hawk or Cooper’s hawk. Can you confirm whether either guess is correct?

A: That bird is actually a Gyrfalcon, a bird not native to Long Island in the summer months. The leather anklet indicates that it is — or was — owned by a local falconer who got separated from the bird during a training session. The owner of the bird must be going through some anxiety, and the habitat here on Long Island is not conducive to these birds, so it would be a good idea to contact the directors at the New York State Falconry Association at and let them know that you spotted the bird.

Birds of prey cannot be kept as pets. Their relationship with their human caregivers is more of a working partnership, and like most partnerships that get separated, this bird is looking for its human partner as much as the human is looking for the bird.

Q: We recently adopted a puppy and have heard some conflicting information about how long to keep the puppy separated from other dogs. I’ve heard 8 weeks old is the earliest they can be exposed to other dogs provided they have all of their puppy shots. I’ve also heard 20 weeks. Can you clarify this? We’d like to begin socializing her with other dogs soon.

A: There are many different scenarios, and that is why you see so many varying answers. Every dog has its own unique immune system, and some fall prey to viruses more so than others. If the vet who gave your dog its puppy shots says to keep it away from other dogs until it is 20 weeks old, then that is what you should do. If the vet said that the dog can socialize with other dogs at 8 weeks, then just use common sense. Be sure that the puppy is playing with dogs that have been vaccinated and not in areas where unvaccinated dogs may have been, exposing it to viruses such as parvo that the temporary puppy vaccines may not be able to protect it from.

Q: We have a 2-year-old Quaker parrot, and we read on the Internet that the bird needs 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. We cover the cage at 9 each night and uncover it at 7 each morning. However, after we cover him at night, we can hear him through the cover, and he is quietly muttering to himself and playing with his toys and thus not going to sleep right away. Is this situation harmful to him, and if so, what can we do about it?

A: What you describe here is just another one of those Internet rumors of pet-keeping that is not based on science at all.

The only place on Earth where the length of darkness at night is constant is on the equator. Quaker parrots are native to Argentina, and the natural light cycles there are as they are here. The sun goes down and comes up at a different time every day. There are many Quakers living a feral life here on Long Island, and in the summer it gets dark at 9 p.m. and light at 5 a.m., and in the winter it gets dark at 5 p.m. and light at 7 a.m., and they do just fine.

So trying to keep the bird in total darkness for 10 hours a day is most unnatural for it. When he is tired, he will go to sleep, and if you keep him up late a night here or there, he will just take a nap the next day to make up for it.

Covering the bird’s cage does keep it quiet until you uncover it in the morning, so if you want to sleep late and do not need to be awakened by your bird at the crack of dawn, then by all means cover him, but this is more for your comfort than the bird’s.

First Published August 5, 2014 8:00 PM