ST. PETERSBURG — The last bird missing from Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is back, found harried in the preserve 10 days after vandalism led to her release.
The red-shouldered hawk, named Shadow, was discovered in reeds off of the west shore of Lake Maggiore by preserve visitors around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, said Sydney Lemieux, a nature preserve supervisor.
Another red-shouldered hawk was dive-bombing Shadow, who is blind in one eye, for infringing on its territory. The visitors noted leather straps dangling from the besieged bird's legs, a sign she had been in captivity.
"She was kind of hunkering down, trying to be invisible," Lemieux said. "Luckily, she stayed put long enough for one of our bird-of-prey volunteers to wade out and grab her up."
Shadow was among eight injured birds that escaped when a vandal cut holes in the preserve's aviaries the night of Sept. 21. All the birds, including a bald eagle, two turkey vultures and a barred owl, were rescued the next day except for Shadow, who remained on the loose.
Police on Wednesday arrested Blake Riede, 21. He faces charges of burglary and animal cruelty. Officers were working off a tip that a video of the burglary was posted to YouTube. Under the video "Saving some birds," by user blakeman1212, someone wrote the preserve was keeping the birds "caged, unable to hunt, unable to survive on their own in the wild."
Volunteers and bird lovers canvassed the neighborhood, posting missing flyers. Gabe Vargo, who heads the preserve's group of bird-of-prey volunteers, said freeing the injured birds was a "death sentence."
Calls of suspected Shadow spottings came in from as far as Tampa; none panned out.
Ultimately, Shadow was found in the preserve. She was placed in a carrier, where a veterinarian could check her for injuries before releasing her back into the aviary. She lives with Thinman, another red-shouldered hawk, with whom she is romantically involved.
Shadow was taken to Boyd Hill 10 years ago as a chick, her left eye badly damaged after she fell from her nest. In captivity, she eats mice, quail and beef heart. No one knows what, or if, she ate in the wild.
"Who knows," Lemieux said, "what she has been fighting out there."
Contact Drew Harwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.