For the birds

Eagle-Eyed Sergeant Aids Struggling Hawk

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

Boston College police count among their many duties aiding those in need of assistance, typically humans. But thanks to the efforts of a BC police sergeant, a young red-tailed hawk is safe after being spotted struggling to fly last month.

The large birds of prey often spotted on or near campus are not, alas, eagles, but their cousins the hawks. This spring, one hawk family made its home in a large pine tree near Boston College Police Department headquarters in Rubenstein Hall, according to BCPD Sgt. Frederick Winslow.

Winslow first spotted the struggling raptor on a Rubenstein window ledge in early June. After borrowing a pair of heavy-duty gloves from a BC plumber, Winslow said he approached the fledgling and "took it into custody."

Fledgling, although accurate, is perhaps a misleading description of the bird. It stood about a foot tall and boasted formidable talons and a beak designed for tearing at raw flesh.

Nonetheless, Winslow said he wasn't afraid of approaching it. He said he noticed some downy fluff still visible on the bird, as well as a certain serenity about the animal.

Boston College Police Department Sgt. Frederick Winslow holds the red-tailed hawk on the roof of Ignacio Hall. The fledgling's downy feathers are an indication that it was not quite ready to leave the nest.

"There was something that seemed particularly calm about this bird," he said. "He seemed to need help. Luckily, it worked out for both of us."

A call to the Animal Rescue of League of Boston revealed that June is the time of year when adult red-tailed hawks kick their offspring out of the nest, forcing them to learn to feed and fly on their own. Since there was nothing physically wrong with the animal, Winslow took it to the roof of nearby Ignacio Hall, as the adult hawks watched from a nearby perch.

The bird disappeared until June 20, when Winslow again spotted it in distress behind 38 Commonwealth Ave. He again donned the gloves and picked up the hawk, which appeared to have an injured wing.

The Animal Rescue League picked up the bird and delivered it the New England Wildlife Center in Hingham the following day.

Tanya Pellecchia, a spokesperson for the center, said the facility takes in a number of red-tailed hawk juveniles each June. She said this particular fledgling was "a little bit young" to be an accomplished flyer, but was otherwise in good health. "He was almost fully feathered," Pellecchia said. "He was just starting to feed himself and hop around."

The center cared for him for a few weeks while he finished maturing, Pellecchia said. He was paired with another red-tailed hawk and released onto the center's 350-acre preserve two weeks ago, she added.

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