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Wounded red-tailed hawk found in Pasadena gets a new lease on flight

Michael Hayes wasn't sure what to do when an injured red-tailed hawk dropped in on the Pasadena Senior Center in February.

So he winged it.

"He'd been in a tree for several days, but one morning I came to work at 7 and saw him standing on the trash can next to the back door," Hayes said Wednesday.

"I walked up to him and he didn't move. Then I took a picture of him with a flash, and he still stood there. I knew something was wrong with him."

Hayes, who is maintenance chief at the center, called the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA and was advised that animal control officers would come and take the hawk if someone at the senior center could catch it. That's because most of the injured-bird calls the society receives are false alarms.

Using a blanket, Hayes tried to grab the hawk without being clawed by its sharp talons. But it jumped onto a nearby table, then flew out of his reach into a pine tree.

As the hawk perched there, ravens began diving at it and harassing it. Hayes threw pine cones at them to chase them off.

Determined to help the hawk, Hayes drove to his brother's house and borrowed a hand-held fishing net. He attached the net to an extension pole and was able to pluck the bird out of the tree.

Hayes assembled a do-it-yourself cage out of two milk crates held together with zip ties. Then he put the hawk in a darkened room until Humane Society officers arrived to take it to South Bay Wildlife Rehab in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The Feb. 11 incident caused a stir at the busy East Holly Street senior center in Old Pasadena.

The center's finance director, Alan Barasorda, quickly named the hawk Harry.

"I had a backup name, Harriet, in case it turned out he was a she," Barasorda said.

Art instructor Dana Mayhew borrowed Hayes' photos of the hawk and had her senior-citizen students draw and paint images of it. Their finished paintings now hang in the center's lobby.

"The day he was caught was the first day of our class," said art student Kay Garth Lee. "Every week since then we've gotten updates on his condition."

Experts at the South Bay Wildlife Rehab discovered that the year-old hawk had a mangled right wing and feather damage. Hayes speculates the bird may have been attacked by crows defending eggs in their own nest in a park behind the senior center.

On Wednesday, Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA President Steven McNall and Hillary Gatlin, a society community resources assistant, took Harry back to the senior center for a visit before releasing him in the Arroyo Seco north of the Rose Bowl.

Authorities did not want the bird "tangled up in any buildings" in the downtown area, said Akila Gibbs, the center's executive director.

"Look at his wing. It's better," announced McNall, who has held a falconry license since 1964. Holding the hawk as Hayes stroked its back, McNall joked: "If he gets loose, run!"

A group followed McNall and Gatlin to Brookside Golf Club for the hawk's release. At the C.W. Koiner Course's 4th tee, Harry launched himself into the air and glided 300 yards into an oak tree at the edge of the links.

Landing on a branch, the bird opened his newly healed wings wide for all to see.

Art class student Bill Walter, who painted a realistic-looking watercolor portrait of the hawk, was among those watching.

"This is a great ending," he said.

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