Hawk flies through window of Kansas City man’s house

Chris Harriman, a Kansas City animal control officer, spoke gently to the red-tailed hawk that flew into Drew Arnold’s south Kansas City home — and grabbed it by the talons.
Chris Harriman, a Kansas City animal control officer, spoke gently to the red-tailed hawk that flew into Drew Arnold’s south Kansas City home — and grabbed it by the talons. Drew Arnold

Young urban millennial, meet bird of prey.

That introduction happened earlier this month, after Drew Arnold, 23, heard something crash through a bedroom window of his south Kansas City home.

Arnold, who was in another room at the time, peeked in the door and saw a large red-tailed hawk with a dazed look on its face sitting spread-eagle — sorry — on the floor.

“Usually birds will perch or stand,” Arnold said. “But it was just sitting on its butt with its legs splayed out and looking around like, ‘What just happened?’”

One immediate issue: Arnold, having gotten out of bed only minutes earlier, was wearing just boxer shorts. So did he really want to enter a small enclosed room to confront a large angry hawk known for its talon grip? No.

Instead, he called the professionals, requesting an animal control officer from Kansas City’s Animal Health and Public Safety Division.

A dispatcher routed the call to Chris Harriman, an officer experienced in working with large raptors as a volunteer at the Shawnee receiving center of Operation WildLife, which provides rehabilitation and veterinary services to injured and orphaned wild animals in northeast Kansas.

“I’m somewhat familiar with handling these guys,” said Harriman, who went into hawk whisperer mode upon arrival at Arnold’s home.

That impressed Arnold, who in the 45 minutes before Harriman arrived listened to the hawk knock over a basket of clothes, clear his dresser top of personal items, scratch up woodwork around the window and rip up curtains.

Harriman “just walked in the room, calling the hawk diminutive names, and then picked it up,” Arnold said.

With any animal in a stressful situation, it’s critical to use calming tones, Harriman said. “I had my gloves on and I grabbed it by the talons.”

In a photo taken by Arnold, the hawk appears to be resting on Harriman’s left arm when in fact he’s got it by the talons.

“It kept turning around and looking at me, as if it was really stressed out,” Harriman said. In an effort to calm the bird, Harriman placed his ballcap on the bird’s head.

“That was improvised,” he said. “Usually in a clinical setting I have a proper hood. But animal control is all about finding ways to resolve stressful situations.”

Hawks often hit windows but seldom break through them, said Larry Rizzo, a Kansas City-based natural-history biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“But usually these will be large picture windows or sliding glass doors in which the bird sees the window reflection of sky or the surrounding landscape,” Rizzo said.

This incident was unusual, he said, because the hawk went completely through such a small window.

“So that is kind of amazing,” Rizzo said.

It’s possible, Rizzo said, that the hawk was chasing prey, small mammals like rabbits or squirrels. “In that case, a hawk will be focused on what it is going to catch.”

Harriman wonders if the window’s black curtains offered the hawk a high-definition reflection that it thought was another hawk.

“This is the time of year when they are establishing nests and being territorial,” Harriman said.

Since the Feb. 6 incident, the hawk has been recuperating at the Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park. She — staff members believe the hawk to be female — suffered superficial lacerations to her legs, said Kimberly Hess, center director.

The bigger challenge has been the bird’s broken feathers. Half of her tail feathers and two primary right feathers broke off. While staff members could wait to release her until the feathers grow back, they’ve chosen instead to use a process called “imping.”

Staff members will attach red tail feathers to the broken feathers, creating a temporary prosthetic, Hess said.

The hawk naturally will molt out the “imped” feathers and replace them with new feathers. This will allow the bird to be released much sooner, but it will still be a few more weeks, Hess said.

As the hawk mends, Harriman and Arnold monitor their growing social media followings.

Arnold initially reported his hawk encounter on Reddit and then watched it become the No. 1 post within two hours. Since then, friends have constructed meme images featuring his hawk photo and new nicknames for Arnold, such as “Birdman” or “Hawkman.” This week, a Washington Post reporter spotted the Reddit thread and wrote a story.

Harriman has received many Facebook likes, plus a few questions.

“Some of my Facebook friends are asking me about these ‘diminutive names’ I called the hawk,” he said.

They included “Little buddy” and “Hey guy.”

The girl didn’t seem to mind.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.