A reprise for Hollywood hawk
He’s one traffic accident victim that from now on will be watching for oncoming cars like a hawk.
That’s because the Hollywood resident that returned home Saturday after being hospitalized more than a month with injuries from a presumed car collision is a hawk.
Wildlife experts from a Calabasas animal rehabilitation center returned a red-tailed hawk that had been injured in November to the busy urban neighborhood it calls home.
The bronze and white bird was found Dec. 7 hobbling in an alley near Santa Monica Boulevard and Western Avenue. It appeared exhausted and emaciated, and its left leg was broken.
But it had its old look of pride and predatoriness back as it soared to freedom Saturday over the graves of such celebrities as Rudolph Valentino, Norma Talmadge and Tyrone Power at the Hollywood Forever cemetery.
Its mended leg was strong as it dropped down and landed on the limb of a towering pine tree at the edge of the memorial park’s Fairbanks Lawn, named for screen legend Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Last month, the huge hawk, weak and thin from apparently not eating for weeks, seemed near death when it was rescued by representatives of the California Wildlife Center. It offered no resistance when workers gently transported it to their 3 1/2 -acre animal refuge in the mountains above Malibu Canyon.
There, its broken femur was reset and clamped with pins. The hawk, a male, was confined while the leg healed and it regained enough strength to fly.
Workers at the center decided to return the hawk to its familiar Hollywood haunts instead of releasing it in the Santa Monica Mountains.
“He came from this area. We always try to bring hawks back to where they came from because they are familiar with the territory,” said Kristin “Jo” Joseph, a wildlife hospital technician with the center.
The wildlife workers picked Hollywood Forever because the tree-studded, 60-acre cemetery is about four blocks from where the injured bird was found.
Joseph speculated that the hawk collided with a car as it swooped from the sky to pluck a small rodent with its talons.
“Hawks fly with their legs dangling down. He could have hit the top of the car,” Joseph said.
The leg appeared to have been broken for about two weeks, meaning the hawk had been unable to hunt prey during that period. It only weighed about a pound when found.
It was fed dead mice and rats while it recuperated. As it grew stronger and the leg healed, it was moved to an outdoor flight enclosure and reintroduced to live prey. By Saturday it had doubled its weight to about 2 pounds, Joseph said.
Although red-tails are known for their rasping screams, this one was silent as it was taken in a carrier across the cemetery to a spot near the 2004 memorial to rock guitarist Johnny Ramone. Joseph put on thick gloves before removing the bird from the carrier.
The hawk loudly flapped its brightly hued wings -- it has a 41-inch wing-span -- and fiercely eyed its surroundings as Joseph briefly held it up. A few dozen yards away, a flock of Canada geese walking across the grounds took flight in alarm.
Among those in a small crowd of onlookers admiring the hawk was Tyler Cassity, owner and president of Hollywood Forever. He said the large Canada geese seemed to have taken up permanent residence on the lush cemetery grounds. “They’re Angeleno geese now,” he said jokingly.
The hawk flew somewhat awkwardly to the pine tree and sat there briefly, stretching its wings. Then it took off -- more powerfully this time -- and flew to the top a 150-foot palm tree.
Jay Boileau, executive vice president of the cemetery, said the memorial park is frequented by another red-tailed hawk. It could be seen, in fact, perched in a different palm on the south side of the cemetery, next to Paramount Pictures.
Officials of the nonprofit Calabasas center, which is entirely supported by donations, said its staff of six and 70 volunteers rescued about 2,100 wild animals and birds last year. But many of them never fully recover from their injuries and cannot be returned to the wild. Since by law they cannot be adopted as pets, they have to be euthanized.
“For all the heartache you go through, seeing things like this makes it all worthwhile,” said Victoria Harris, a wildlife center board member from West Los Angeles.
She said the 10-year-old center is bracing for an annual deluge of calls from people who find baby birds on the ground. During the baby-bird season, as many as 100 reports of seemingly abandoned, injured tiny birds pour in each day.
But it’s normal for the babies to be left on the ground while adult birds are foraging for food, Harris said. It takes four to seven days for a baby bird to learn how to fly.
“We tell them to put it back on the ground where they found it and leave it alone,” she said.
And then to watch like a hawk where they’re stepping.