Story from this morning's Daily News
Thursday, June 14th 2007, 4:00 AM
A downy red-tailed hawk plunged from the sky after leaving its nest for the first time yesterday.
Urban Park Rangers director Sara Hobel holds the rescued fledging after it was found on a courtyard near the famed Ziegfeld Theater on W. 55th St. The bird was taken to a sanctuary on Long Island.
Our feathered friend
Red-tailed hawk nests in city: 45
Wingspan: 42-56 inches
Length: 17-25 inches
Weight: 1.5 to 3.3 pounds
First Flight: Six-seven weeks old
Age expectancy: 28 years
Offspring: Usually hatch two chicks each spring
Most famous red-tailed hawks: Lola and Pale Male of Fifth Ave.
For a downy red-tailed hawk that plunged from the sky after leaving its nest for the first time yesterday, it took practically an army.
Nine cops, three city Parks Department rangers, a volunteer from the Audubon Society, a licensed hawk rehabilitator, a half-dozen good Samaritans, a homeless man, a gaggle of paparazzi and 50 gawkers converged at a midtown courtyard after the brown-and-white speckled bird touched down.
"People were taking pictures of it like it was Angelina Jolie," said Chris Ferretti, who was walking his dogs when he spotted the bird huddled against the back wall of the famed Ziegfeld Theater on W. 55th St.
The only-in-New-York saga began around 8 a.m. yesterday, when several people saw the dazed hawk struggling to fly away. The bird seemed desperate to get off the ground. Natural predators were everywhere.
Moments later, a homeless man picked up the bird and tried to run away with it.
But he didn't get far.
"There was an angry mob and we were like, 'Where you going with that bird?'" said Ferretti, 44.
The vagrant placed the hawk back on the pavement and slipped away.
Over the next 90 minutes, concerned onlookers called Animal Care and Control, the Bronx Zoo, the city Parks Department, the Audubon Society and anyone else they could think of to come rescue the hawk.
"I never thought it would be so hard to get anyone to help," said Dora Amerio, 34, an accountant from Astoria.
Finally, about 10 a.m., three cops from the Midtown North Precinct blocked off the courtyard to keep pedestrians away from the bird. Soon after, the NYPD's elite Emergency Service Unit truck rolled up.
Almost simultaneously, a volunteer from the Audubon Society, a freelance licensed bird rehabilitator from upstate New York and three uniformed members of the Parks Department's Urban Park Rangers arrived.
Another hawk, perhaps the chick's mother or father, was seen circling high above the courtyard. But Sara Hobel, the director of the Urban Park Rangers, said the older hawk did not dive down to feed the baby because it was surrounded by so many people.
All of them wanted to rescue the little bird.
"It's like it's a custody fight," said Sarah Iams, the Audubon society volunteer who is trained to rescue injured wild birds.
Iams added, "The largest thing I've ever saved is a sea gull."
The would-be rescuers conferred and the Parks Department won out. Rangers covered the bird in a blanket and whisked it away to their E. 105th St. headquarters to check for injuries — but found none.
The bird is not related to the city's most famous red-tailed hawks, Pale Male and Lola, who won the hearts of New Yorkers by making their nest atop a Fifth Ave. co-op. Hobel said she traced yesterday's hawk to a nest near Central Park South and Seventh Ave.
Bird watchers had spotted the hawk taking its maiden flight from the nest some time late Tuesday, Hobel said.
With the overnight storm, it's likely the hawk got disoriented and crashed into a building and then fell to the ground. Its weak flight skills kept it trapped in the courtyard, Hobel said.
Many fledglings falter during the first flight, she explained. Typically, the hawk parents will fly down to their chicks and feed them until they get their strength back up and can fly again.
If the baby bird hadn't been rescued, it probably would have died of dehydration or injury, Hobel said. Only about 15% to 25% of fledglings survive their first year. But this hawk's going to be fine, rescuers said.
By 2 p.m., the hawk was on its way to a trusted rehabilitator on Long Island. When it's rehydrated and ready to fly, the bird will be brought back to the city and released, hopefully within the next few days, near Central Park South.
"He will find his way back to his nest," Hobel predicted. "The most important thing for us it to educate people that we're the right people to call."