On Wednesday afternoon, the fugitive was spotted on Harvard Street in the District. On Thursday, an alert resident called to report him near Fifth Street in Arlington. Over the weekend, he moved again and was seen loitering in a wooded area near the Alexandria Hospital.
Finally, authorities moved yesterday into a back yard on Alexandria's Ivanhoe Street and captured their quarry--a Red-billed blue magpie, a 20-inch native of east Asia with a gloriously long tail that was discovered missing from the National Zoo a week ago Wednesday morning.
Ivanhoe, the name he acquired from sympathetic Alexandria residents during his stay in their neighborhood, traveled yesterday the nine miles (as the magpie flies) back to his home in a metal cage, his tail a bit ruffled but his health none the worse after a full week on the lam.
"I miss him," said Sarah Gabbert, in whose back yard Ivanhoe was nabbed. "I have pigeons back there now."
Ivanhoe came to the National Zoo in September 1973 as a gift from a private donor. He lives there in an outdoor enclosure. A week ago Wednesday he was found to have escaped through wires knocked awry by the constant walking of parakeets with whom he shared the enclosure.
Wednesday afternoon, phone calls began coming in, recalls zoo official Joan Smith. People described him as "a two-foot-long blue bird with an orange bill that squawks a lot." The length may have been slightly exaggerated but not the voice. "He's very vocal," says Smith. "You would never mistake him for a bluejay or any of our local birds."
Ivanhoe reached Alexandria by Sunday and his size, voice and plummage was quickly noticed by residents, who called the zoo Monday to ask if anyone was missing. Zoo officials told them to feed him oranges, apples or raisins and if possible to coax him into a garage.
On Tuesday, he was still there, springing from limb to limb in fir trees, alighting on the ground to peck at the food people put out and disappearing to some unknown place at night.
Zoo officials, feeling now that he would stay put until they arrived, sent a team. A cage was set up baited with fruit and "pinkies," or baby mice, which are a treat to a magpie diet. He winged down to it, darted in and out again. Failure.
Yesterday morning, the zoo tried again. This time officials brought an added lure--an American Pinyon jay, a bird that shared Ivanhoe's cage. His buddy was placed in a small cage, which was placed in a baited larger cage, with a string leading from its door.
The jay called, Ivanhoe came down, strutted back and forth and within 10 minutes stepped inside. Zoo employe Earl Pinkney tugged on the string and the door slammed shut. Ivanhoe's escapade was over.
He was the latest of the zoo's residents to go over the wall. Earlier this month two poisonous Gaboon vipers were stolen from the zoo and one later bit a boy who was carry the deadly pair in a plastic sack. And last year, a zoo peacock lived in Rock Creek and surrounding neighborhoods for weeks before zoo authorities finally cornered him near Porter Street.