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Friday, January 04, 2008

Hawk Release

Friday I had the honor of participating in the release of three rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawks. They were first year birds that were injured in Brooklyn and brought to "Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation" on Long Island. Bobby Horvath operates the small facility and I've mentioned some of his rescues in past postings.

Bobby and I have corresponded for over a year, but we had never met. When he was planning to release some hawks in Brooklyn he asked if I'd like to be present. I was thrilled with the idea of being up close with the hawks and watching them fly off into the wilds of Brooklyn. Imagine how I felt when he asked me if I'd like to hold, then release one of the hawks. I tried to act all cool, like it was an everyday event, but I was jumping out of my skin with excitement.

It was a crisp 30 degrees and there was a steady wind blowing in from the west. Bobby and another rehabber (I was so focused on the hawks that I can't remember her name) took the first hawk out of its carrier. It seemed surprisingly calm and composed. When he was faced into the wind, he instinctively opened his wings to catch the uplift. The first bird was released and headed towards a huge linden tree to the north. It perched near the top of the tree.

As they extracted the second bird from the carrier they asked if I'd like to release it. Well, yeah!

Bobby showed me how to hold the hawk. He also explained that I shouldn't be worried about the bill, as they won't bite me. Their talons were another story. Given half a chance, they'd put a few good sized holes in me. I held the young Red-tailed Hawk firmly around his legs. He was a relatively small, male bird. The hawk seemed relaxed and imposing as he scanned his new surroundings. When it was time to let him go, I faced into the wind and opened my grip on his legs. I didn't have to toss him in the air or give him any kind of help. He just opened his wings, caught the wind and effortlessly ascended into the air. The raptor made a wide, arcing turn and found the tallest tree to land in and survey the new setting.

The third hawk flew off in the same easterly direction. Later, as Bobby and his assistant were closing up the empty carriers, Bobby spotted one of the Red-tailed Hawks taking off from his initial perch and heading over the trees. When the bird flew out of sight, Bobby had a smile and look of satisfaction on his face.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"


sparkrider said...

Been looking through your site and, I'll admit, trying to glean some information. I think I saw a red-tail a few days ago in Bay Ridge... any thoughts?

Rob Jett said...

It's a Red-tailed Hawk and I wouldn't be surprised if it was part of a pair nesting in the Dyker Beach Golf Course. Also, your kestrel is likely nesting on one of the buildings near your apartment.

Chris said...

Rob, was the female rehabber Rebecca Asman? I've spoken to her over the phone, but I've never seen her in person--I'd never seen a photo of Bobby either, until you posted this.

Rob Jett said...

No, it wasn't Rebecca. Kidding around, I asked her if she also worked for the FDNY (she's a very petite woman) and she told me she worked in a hospital.

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