Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens

A red-tailed hawk hatches and raises two chickens in this unlikely and heartwarming story of interspecies cooperation.

Author: Kara Hagedorn
Format: Hardcover & Paperback
Pages: 32
Ages: 5-9
Grade Levels: K-4
Lexile: 650L
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1970039047
Paperback ISBN: 978-1970039078
Price: HC $16.95 • PB $12.95
Where to Purchase:

Award Selected by the Junior Library Guild

Award Named an “Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12” by the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) and Children’s Book Council

“Zoologist Hagedorn tells the story of Sunshine, a red-tailed hawk she adopted after the bird was shot by a hunter and left incapable of surviving in the wild. In plainspoken present-tense narration, Hagedorn details how she has cared for Sunshine over time: “Every day I help her out into the yard so she can bathe in the rain or stretch her broken wing in the warm sunlight.” After Sunshine constructed nests and laid (unfertilized) eggs for several years, Hagedorn tried placing two fertile chicken eggs in Sunshine’s nest, an experiment that paid off when the hawk accepted the chicks that hatched as her own. Large, close-up photographs show Sunshine caring for the chicks until they are full-grown roosters. A tender story of cross-species relationships—most movingly, perhaps, the one between Sunshine and the author. Ages 5–9.”—Publishers Weekly

“In this moving true story, zoologist Hagedorn relates the story of her unusual encounter with a wild red-tailed hawk. Shot down but not killed, the injured raptor is brought to the wildlife center where the white author works. Thus begins a long relationship between an exceptionally patient and caring scientist and a wounded animal. Through dramatic full-page color photographs and straightforward narration, Hagedorn describes how she enabled the hawk, named Sunshine for her happy disposition, to live a life in captivity as naturally as possible. In a large, purpose-built aviary, bird and scientist together construct a nest in which the bird lays two eggs. Although the unfertilized eggs will never hatch, the mother bird faithfully incubates them. This process continues for several years, when Hagedorn tries the experiment of substituting two fertilized chicken’s eggs for Sunshine’s own eggs. With great excitement, hawk and woman watch the chickens hatch. The bird’s maternal instinct wins over her predatory nature, and she feeds and raises the two roosters as if they were her own offspring. Hagedorn concludes by reminding readers that ‘we can all overcome challenges and adjust to new situations with the help of others!’ A well-told personal story with a positive environmental message.” (author’s note, glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-10)”Kirkus Review

K-Gr 4—”When a bullet forever impairs Sunshine, a beautiful red-tailed hawk, she is cared for in captivity and given a second chance at life. Author and zoologist Hagedorn tells the story of how she adopted this magnificent wild creature, and how she helped Sunshine heal from the terrible injury that eliminated any chance of the hawk surviving in the wild. Though no longer in pain, Sunshine’s life in captivity limits her ability to act on natural instincts, the strongest of which are to nest and nurture young. Hagedorn explains, in accessible language, how she was able to help Sunshine become a surrogate mother to two young chickens. She uses clear language and highlights new terms for readers, who are then able to define those terms using the glossary in the back of the book. VERDICT A softhearted read for young naturalists, or any children interested in animal behavior, recommended for elementary school libraries.”—School Library Journal

“Sunshine, a red-tailed hawk, can no longer fly. Her left wing is broken from a gunshot wound and she can no longer care for herself. She is taken to the vet where she meets Kara, a zoologist, who adopts her and takes care of her. When Sunshine lays two eggs, Kara knows the eggs are infertile and will never hatch into chicks, but Sunshine takes care of them anyway. Then Kara gets the idea to let Sunshine incubate two fertile chicken eggs, she’s unsure of how Sunshine will react to the baby chicks when they hatch, because they look and behave differently than baby hawks. But Sunshine surprises everyone when she takes care of the baby chicks as if they were her own. A great story about overcoming challenges and adjusting to new situations.”—KidsBookshelf

“Thoroughly ‘kid friendly’ in organization and presentation, profusely illustrated with full color photography, “Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens” is very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book Pets/Wildlife collections.”—Midwest Book Review

Activities, Lesson Plans for Home and School, as well as Leveling Information. Download for free.

Click to download Research, Anatomy, Art, Vocabulary and Literature Activities.

Click to download Educational Standards and Leveling Information

Click to Download “Put Sunshine's Babies in Her Nest” activity. Cut along the dotted line and place them in her nest!


Kara Hagedorn

Kara Hagedorn loves animals. In college she studied zoology. She has worked as a wildlife biologist for Cornell University, Morro Bay National Estuary Program, Topaz Solar Farm and New York State Parks, where she was also a naturalist and environmental educator for 12 years. She lives in Santa Margarita, California, with her husband, two horses, and Sunshine the hawk. To find out more about Kara and her school presentations, please visit www.hawkmother.com.