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Build a Coroplast Hawk Box For a Red-tailed or Harris's Hawk


Updated 7/25/2023

Properly these boxes should be called buzzard boxes since the vast majority of the time Harris's and Red-tails are carried in them. And they are buzzards.....

In 2004 I built a hawk box for my kestrel in based on the plans from the original Coulson box shown here.  Original Hawk Box  It was made of wood. Then, using plans from this same web site, Randy Kocurek and I built two more boxes for our Red-tails. They weighed about 18 pounds each. They were OK, but very heavy. I used for one season, but it aggravated my already injured back. Because of the weight I usually took the bird to the field hooded on a bow perch, rather than in the box.

In March of 2005, I saw Matt Mullenix's Coroplast® box, one that he used to transport his Harris' hawk, and didn't realize how handy it was. I now recommend coroplast boxes for everybody. There are a number of different ways to go about it. One of the best methods is a completely folded box, the design put together by Charlie Kaiser. This box weighs about 4 lbs, or less than 25% of the wooden box!  I claim nothing original here.  I had a brief correspondence with Ron Kumetz, who came up with the one piece fold feature of this box. Bravo, Ron. The folded box design is very clever and robust, but there are at least two viable alternatives.

Alternatives are:

An all-taped box using the following pattern. Click this link:  Plans  This makes a lighter box, but less robust. The large box dimensions are the same as the all-folded box, and is suitable for birds up to the size of a large female Red-tailed or Ferruginous hawk. The middle size is appropriate for a bird up to the size of a male Red-tail, or female Harris'. The small size will fit a male Harris. The only advantage to making smaller boxes is space considerations. The large box is fine for any smaller hawk. For my male Red-tail, in April of 2009 built the middle size, using white duct tape, white coroplast, a shovel handle for a perch, and a drawer handle. Five years later I pulled the box apart and converted it to a pop-rivet and sheet rock corner box. See below. Use strips of Velcro for closing. Picture of taped box, below left. The door is a third panel placed over the frame, which is the front of the box. The front is cut out, leaving an inch of material all around and the frame is taped over it. For the perch, use a screw and fender washers (small holes, large diameter) to relieve the stress on the single thickness coroplast. Perch position as follows: Small, 6" in, 6" up. Medium, 6.5" in, 6.5" up, and large, 7" in, 7" up. These are referenced from lower front corner, and you can see the fender washer where perch is attached. An important point is this: when you position the sides of the box prior to taping, be sure that they are placed outside the bottom and top panels. Understand this point before you begin. You want the end panels to cover the sides, bottom and top. If not, your end panels will not fit properly. Also the more accurate your cutting and dimensions are to the plans, the better your box will be. If the hawk will not tolerate the light coming through the white translucent coroplast, paint the outside black, then white again with a separate coat. Unless you are willing to wait weeks for the smell to leave, do not paint the inside of the box. I am not sure that hawks do well with toluene. Cut plenty of 1/2 inch slots for air on the side, and on the back, about 3/4 of the way up, cut a 1/2" X 3" slot. Cut more slots than are shown in pictures, maybe twice the number. That will aid natural convection. Another feature that I like is putting a 12V CPU fan over the slot in back. Use white mounting tape at corners of fan. Run it with a power supply, but use a 6V to 9V supply, not 12V. If you use a 12V power supply the fan will be very loud, possibly causing hearing damage to the hawk


Taped box and the same box five years later converted to pop rivet (at left) -  still used for my male Red-tail


Folded box with view of fan - same picture is repeated below


From Toby Bradshaw's web site Toby Bradshaw Hawk Box - a juvenile male Harris's in a heavy wall coroplast box.

Folded Box (to be updated by 10/1/2023) In the meantime email me for improvements

For reference, click on this link and have a look. Charlie Kaiser Plans 

Plans that I based based on the dimensions of the original Coulson boxes and Kaiser's folding scheme. Detailed Box Plans

The three sizes are for a very large female Red-tailed, Harris's and average sized Red-tailed, and small hawks. Plus I added dimensions referred to as MAXIMUM SIZE BOX. This one is 2' X 2' X 1'. The only downside to this large box is bulkiness, a consideration in a vehicle. It is 1 1/2" deeper, which may not sound like much, but might cause an issue packing the car. But the dimensions are simple. If you have a pop-rivet gun you can secure the box with relatively few rivets, with no adhesive required. The rivets are not much faster if at all, but I have made some really nice boxes with pop-rivets and sheet rock corners.

UNCUT 8' X 4' Sheet of Coroplast - 3/16" Thick
Light Weight Utility Knife or X Acto Knife
Contact or Barge's Cement
Optional but good: Pop Rivet gun and 1/8" dia X 1/8" and 1/4" grip length rivets or nuts/washers or automotive plastic rivets. Various fasteners may be used.
Sharpie or other marker
Measuring Tape
Straight Edge or T (better)
Good Scissors
Package Wrapping Tape
Long Strips of Velcro
1.5" to 2" diameter wooden dowel cut to width of box, and wrapped with daisy mat(this is the perch)
1/4" X 3/4" Long Round Head Wood Screw
1/4" Fender Washers (have small hole, but large diameter)
Hand drill and small drill bits (around 1/16" to 1/4")
1" spade bit for air holes

Before You Start:
White Coroplast is translucent, so if your bird will not tolerate the light, then you may have to paint the box. Whatever color paint you use, it needs to be opaque, and a finish coat of white will keep the box cooler. According to Toby Bradshaw, Harris' hawks do not mind the light coming in. So far my Red-tail has no problem at all with the light. You can do the painting after. If you paint the interior, do not put a hawk in it for a couple of weeks because of fumes.

From Coroplast's web site:
Q: Is it possible to paint on Coroplast®?

A: Krylon Fusion® Spray Paint for Plastics will provide a thin durable layer. Follow the manufactures directions for application of the spray paint. Brushes and rollers are not recommended for direct application of paints to Coroplast® because the paint layer is too thick and can easily peel and delaminate. For art projects you may use brushed application of compatible paints on top of the "primer"/ base layer of the Krylon Fusion® Spray Paint for Plastics.


Note: the more square you cut your box the better - to check a rectangule for squareness, measure diagonally across the corners before you cut. If the two diagonals are the same, then it is square.

Cut the Coroplast sheet to the dimensions on the plan. For the mid-sized box this will be 79" X 43". Look at the plans. Mark your large Coroplast sheet with marker, preferably washable, not permanent. Cut the sheet per the plans. Practice cutting first on a scrap piece, especially the half cuts. The solid lines will be cut completely through, the dotted lines carefully with utility knife just halfway through. These are the fold lines.

Fold into a box. Use the tape to hold into place. Use the cement or rivets to glue panels together from inside of box. You can use extra material to reinforce edges, if desired.

Use at least two strips of Velcro to keep door closed.

Read this paragraph carefully so you understand what we are doing with the cement. If you don't have the perch ends cemented, the perch will spin.
Cut the dowel pin to the width of the box (12", 11", or 9 1/2"). Drill a 1/16" pilot hole centered in each end of dowel. Drill two 1/8" holes in side panels of the box at the points where you will put the perch. Smear a small amount of Barge cement inside the box at these holes. This cement will prevent the perch from spinning. With a fender washer outside the box under each screw head, screw the perch into place and gently snug it up. Then spin the perch which should smear the cement at each end of perch and the inside wall of box. Back off on your screws so there's an air gap at each end and wait about 10 minutes. Tighten screws until it's fairly snug and the fender washer is depressing the sheet a little. The perch now should not spin. See picture below which shows a screw head and fender washer.

With 1" spade drill add vent holes as shown in picture. Lynne Holder cuts a 3" X 1/2" slot on side at eye level so her Harris' hawk can look out. She has no problem with this, and the Coulsons often do the same. Be careful so that you don't encounter something that will panic the hawk inside the box.

Install a carry handle on top placed with center about an inch or two behind the perch for balance when the hawk's inside. I use a drawer handle that is comfortable
for my hand with three stacked rectangles of coroplast for a backing plate with fender washers. Or you can use rope handles.

Rectangles and fender washers for backing up handle. Box turned upside down in picture.

Toby Bradshaw puts a bungee cord all the way around his box to keep the door secured, in addition to his door closers.

Note: This should be common sense, but be very careful about leaving a box in the sun, or anyplace where CO fumes can collect. I have read that Harris's hawks are particularly vulnerable. Also, the CPU fan keeps air fresh and should help remove body heat, but is in no way a real cooling system. Keep hawk and box in cool, shaded environment at all times.

Below: Finished box. Front view displaying velcro latches, perch, handle, and at corners, bumpers made of coroplast.
Back view of box showing 12V CPU fan installed for ventilation and removal of body heat.

Box with Pop-Rivets and Sheet Rock Corners:

The box shown below happens to be for a small hawk. The rivets take a fair amount of time, with about 60 required, but makes a really beautiful box. If you want to use this approach, and need some pointers, email me. I have made riveted large boxes as well. Note: A small Coroplast box for a Kestrel or Merlin must be weighted, with maybe two pounds at the bottom of box. Perhaps a series of fishing weights taped in place inside. Otherwise the resulting box would may so light that if you set it by your car, the wind could blow it away with your hawk in it. If not weighted, I would stick to the Coulson's original wood plans. The box is heavy enough to be solid and not blow away, but easily carried to the field. A wooden box should last forever, and is less susceptible to impact damage. Finally wood is opaque. My two Kestrels would not tolerate the tiniest amount of light. Even wood, with the seams sealed, the box placed in a dark closet with a blanket over it (but ventilated) was too much light for any extended time. When I took a bird hunting I would throw a blanket over the box, which would help for the few minutes drive.


Here is an enhancement for any box that you make. The hawks will slice in the box and mutes will run down into the lower corner running across the box. It gets very difficult to clean. One solution is to cut a rectangle with a short flap at the bottom, that fits into the back wall of the box. Make it snug, but not buckling. When you need to clean it, pull it out. Push back in when cleaning is complete.

A final point: If your hawk turns around in the box and roosts like that, it may get a little messy. The reason is probably irritation at having the door so close to her beak. My current Harris's Hawk does this in her field traveling box, which is more compact. At night I keep her in a bigger box that has more than 8" perch distance from the door. She no longer turns around. You must have adequate distance to slice behind the perch to effect this change.


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