PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Eighty feet off the ground, near the very top of a pine tree, Jeff Finch gently eases two red-tailed hawk nestlings out of their nest and into a canvas bag.
“They’re strong footed, so they were able to be a little defensive, but other than that looked more curious than scared,” said Finch.
He is also the principal at Hampton High School.
“I have an interest in birds of prey,” says Finch.
The chick’s parents, who’d been protectively swooping down on unsuspecting neighbors on Filmore Road, flew off and were nowhere to be found.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Officer Dan Puhala isn’t sure why.
“Wild animals – just when you think you have them figured out – they do something else,” says Puhala.
The two-foot wide nest was made of twigs and lined with pine needles.
Finch describes what he saw: “The nest, as seen from the top, is bigger and cleaner than it looks from the bottom.”
The nest was being removed by the state Game Commission for the safety of the neighborhood. Jim Bonner, of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, agrees.
“It was just something that needed to be done. This was a very unusual situation,” he said. “The birds were acting in a way, very territorial.”
Eileen Bridge, who lives on Filmore Road, was dive-bombed by one of the adult hawks while washing her car Saturday afternoon.
“I was going up and down, rinsing my rag,” she said. “And when I came up it just blindsided me – hit me!”
A diving hawk can reach speeds of up to 120-miles an hour.
Knocked to the ground, Bridge was left bleeding from facial, scalp and ear lacerations. er eye is still blackened. She watched the nestling come down.
“Relieved, so relived and safe,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Red-tailed hawks tend to have a single mate and to return to the same nest each spring. This nest was destroyed to prevent that.
The 5-week-old chicks will be taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center
“They’re going to be raised in a setting where they won’t get imprinted on humans, and they’ll be released back into the wild,” Puhala said.
Bridge spoke with Bill Rehkopf on the KDKA Afternoon News as the Game Commission was in the process of climbing up the tree to remove the baby hawks and remove the nest.
“Well, they are here and they are about 65 foot up in the tree, but they are not to the nest yet,” Bridge informed us.
She told KDKA about the process of moving the ladders and foot spurs to make their way up the tree to the nest. We could hear the men climbing the tree, yelling in the background the closer they got to the nest.
By the end of the interview, they had reached the spot they wanted to begin work on the nest. Bridge was able to detail the removal process for us.
“There is like a little crate that they are going to hoist up there. I think they are going to put them in. From what I know, they are going to take them like to a sanctuary for rehab. This is for the babies. Then, when the become adults they will leave them out in the wild,” said Bridge.
You can hear the whole interview here: