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Queens Chronicle

Rare bird returned to owner after scare

Kayaker found raptor in Jamaica Bay, belonged to falconry business

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 10:30 am

A raptor that appeared injured was found in Jamaica Bay by a kayaker on June 18.

Upon the arrival of state Department of Environmental Conservation Officer Jeffrey Johnston, the bird was secured and transported to wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath.

The raptor, a cross between a Gyrfalcon and a Saker Falcon, was found near Riis Landing and quickly determined to have belonged to a local falconry business.

Gyrfalcons are the largest of the falcon species and are commonly found in Canada and the Arctic regions while Saker Falcons are nearly as large and are found primarily in Europe and Africa. This makes the hybrid one of the largest and rarest breeds to be found in the United States.

Horvath operates Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides care for injured and orphaned wildlife throughout New York City and Long Island.

When asked about the condition of the bird, Horvath said the bird was not injured and was merely lost.

“That wasn’t a wild bird, that was a captive bred falconry bird, that got away from someone and it’s been returned to its owner,” he said. “We just had to find out who the owner was. So we spoke to the falconry community and people report when a bird is missing.”

Horvath said the turnaround to get the bird back to its owner was just two days. While he wasn’t able to comment on the identity of the owner, for more than a decade, such birds were commonly used as pest control for the nearby JFK Airport.

The birds were used to scare off smaller birds such as gulls from entering the flight paths of aircraft, which has been a recurring problem for years.

In 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration estimated that birds resulted in more than $700 million in damages to aircraft each year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that same year that at JFK alone, birds were blamed for more than two dozen accidents between 2000 and 2008.

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