HAMILTON HEIGHTS — A domesticated pigeon owner captured a red-tailed hawk who tried to make a meal of his trained pigeons on Monday, delivering the hawk to officials.
Rene Leclerc, 56, who keeps about 15 pigeons in two air-conditioner units he converted into pigeon shelters in the window of his third-floor 138th Street apartment said he saw the hawk divebomb his birds about 10:30 a.m.
The hawk managed to get inside one of Leclerc's handmade shelters, tearing up the birds inside. When Leclerc saw the "carnage," he said he opened his living room window to allow his birds a place to flee.
What followed was a chaotic scene when half a dozen birds, followed by the hawk, started flying around his apartment living room, he said.
"He had already killed two pigeons and injured at least four more when I got ahold of him," said Leclerc, who once held a falconry license.
He used a towel to capture the hawk.
“He flew right into it,” Leclerc said.
After catching the hawk, who weighed a little more than a pound and had a 4-foot wingspan, Leclerc brought the raptor to The Bird Wildlife Fund, a nonprofit that provides medical care and rehabilitation to injured wild birds in the city.
"He seems perfect," Wild Bird Fund Director Rita McMahon said after examining the raptor. "We found blood in his mouth but we think it was probably coming from when he attacked the pigeons because he was not injured,” she said, adding that the juvenile hawk would be released in Central Park Tuesday morning at the latest.
Leclerc, who used to be in the military, said he has had birds for more than 25 years.
“I’ve always gotten along with animals better than with people,” Leclerc said. “ I like training pigeons. It’s all based on faith and loyalty. I open their cage in the morning and I don’t know if they’re going to come back. I hope they come back but I have no guarantee. It’s all based on trust,” he said.
Most of Leclerc’s pigeons are Portuguese Tumblers and Budapest High Flyers, Leclerc said.
“They’re easier to care for because they’re small,” the bird owner said.