A RARE Harris Hawk suspected to have escaped captivity has been pictured in a Solihull resident’s garden.
Stephen Parrack from Olton took a picture of the imposing bird – which is native to the US and South America – on Saturday (May 4).
The photo shows the ‘at-large’ hawk – with distinctive brown markings and impressive talons – perched on his garden fence.
It also appears to have a thin leather strap around its leg which could be used by a falconer to tether the bird.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has confirmed to us that the bird in the photo is a Harris Hawk.
Mr Parrack says he and his wife Janis are keen birdwatchers and often feed birds in the back garden.
The Warwick Road resident says he even tried to catch the hawk with thick gloves and some meat so he could take it back to its owner.
He said: “It is obviously an escapee as these are not native to the UK and as can be seen by the jesses and bell on its legs – but an interesting spot for ‘birders’ to see.
“At first I thought it was a young golden eagle or a buzzard.
“It was a good 18 inches high, with a wingspan of easily a metre.
“It had lovely markings on it, a lovely white rump and bars on its tail – with this redy brown colouration to its wings.
“It had a heck of a beak on it and fantastic looking talons.
“It feasted on some wood pigeons. I didn’t see it attack any other birds but it was sitting on a dead pigeon.”
It is a crime to release the birds deliberately in the UK as they pose a risk to other birds and wildlife – even cats.
Hawks seen in this country have usually escaped from captivity although some wild hawks are establishing themselves in the UK, experts say.
Nick Moran from the British Trust for Ornithology said the raptors hunt in packs or alone and can have a wingspan of more than one metre.
They can be easily trained due to their high intelligence which makes them popular choices for falconers, he added.
Mr Moran said people with pets in the size range of the hawk’s usual prey items – such as small chickens or guinea pigs – should make sure they are not accessible to the bird.
But escaped hawks have sometimes been known to attack humans and pets, according to media reports.
The birds are sometimes used to control pests such as pigeons and this practice was employed recently at Waterloo Station in London.
West Midlands Ringing Group member and police sergeant Ben Dolan said sightings of the birds should be reported to www.independentbirdregister.co.uk/website/Home.html
Sightings can also be reported to the British Falconers’ Club.