For the past few years, a pair of red-shouldered hawks — an especially vocal and balletic species that mates for life — has kept a nest in Rock Creek Park, visible from the bridge that carries Connecticut Avenue NW over the Klingle Valley Trail.

On May 1, the male bird got tangled in fishing line and wound up dangling from a tree behind the Kennedy-Warren apartments. This is its story, told by the humans who helped it.

Amy Henderson, a resident of the Kennedy-Warren: “I’m not a big bird person, not an expert. But I like them. There are three chicks. The hawks became part of the neighborhood. . . . We take excitement where we can get it these days.”

Jennifer Packard, a photographer who lives nearby: “I have named this family Walt and Libby, and the babies are Cleveland, Covid and Dorothy. Dorothy was named when we believed only two had hatched and, at the very moment we saw the third hawkling appear, a woman named Dorothy was walking across the bridge, so we named it after her. The neighborhood has been enjoying the distraction from the virus.”

Henderson: “I got a call from a resident: ‘Amy, there’s a big bird hanging from a tree.’ I went down. By god, there was this poor hawk hanging by a wing.

“Duncan said they often see the hawk hunting back there. We’re guessing he got tangled.”

Duncan Cameron, a Kennedy-Warren resident whose apartment overlooks Rock Creek Park: “I looked out my window and I saw this big bird about 15 feet away, stuck, like it was on a limb of a small tree. And he was trying to fly and he couldn’t fly. I called Amy.”

Henderson: “Every once in a while he did a frantic, desperate thrash to get loose.”

Cameron: “I didn’t want a bird dying in front of my window and have other birds circling around, nibbling at it.”

Dan Newton, a Kennedy-Warren resident and facilities worker at the National Zoo: “Whenever anything animal-related happens, my neighbors call me: ‘What’s going on with the pandas?’ I don’t really know.

“The zoo is closed, but I have a key. The tree was actually on the zoo side, and the branch hung over on the Kennedy-Warren side. It was very convenient for me to know everybody at the zoo at that point. We got in touch with the Bird House.”

Sara Hallager, curator of birds at the National Zoo: “It was just completely entangled in fishing line, hanging upside down from a branch about 40 or 50 feet above the ground.”

Cameron: “There were quite a few people in our apartment, watching, then quite a few people on the ground.”

Newton: “The guy from cheetahs was there. The curator for the elephants was there. The head veterinarian for the zoo was there. They were all trying to put their minds together.”

Cameron: “Maybe cut the tree down? Well, the word came back they would not do so. Another idea: Maybe get a big rope and loop it around the tree to bend the tree over. That idea didn’t take hold either.”

Suzanne Shoemaker, director of the Owl Moon Raptor Center, Boyds, Md.: “In this case, we needed a climber. A team [from Bartlett Tree Experts] happened to be down in Chevy Chase. They were able to get over there pretty quickly.”

Henderson: “That guy just scampered up the tree.”

Newton: “That little fellow was just like a squirrel. He was walking on branches no bigger around than a wine glass stem. He went right up, grabbed the bird, put it into a bag and brought it down.”

Cameron: “I thought, ‘Jesus, he’s going to fall.’ ”

Wilber Mendez, Bartlett Tree Experts: “You’ve got to make sure everything is safe before you go up, which I did when I climbed it.

“I saw a really good tie point. I climbed up there. When I get close to the bird, I kind of grab it from the back to get the wings so it doesn’t start flying and biting my hand.

“This is not the first time that I rescued a bird. This is like the fifth time I did this.” 

Newton: “When the bird was finally on the ground, the applause was unbelievable. It was like everybody in the building. It was like stadium applause.”

Hallager: “This is a celebrity family.”

Shoemaker: “Sara Hallager at the National Zoo transported the bird out to Rockville to meet Tina Lunson, a volunteer, who brought it to us.

“Fishing line was totally wrapped around one of the primary feathers. That was kind of straining the wing pretty badly. We gave him anti-inflammatories and injected several milliliters of fluids under the skin to rehydrate him.

“I wanted to rest him for at least 24 hours before flight testing. Usually, it’s worse than that. Usually, it takes several weeks. This guy, I could see right away, was holding his wing normally.

“We knew he had a nest. We wanted to get him back there if we could do it successfully. We kept him overnight for two nights and on the third day flew him on a long line to make sure he was doing all right.”

Hallager: “Monofilament is a huge problem for wildlife. Animals that find food near water frequently get entangled in it.”

Shoemaker: “We get a lot birds caught on fishing lines. It’s one of my big pet peeves. Don’t just cut the line and walk away. If you’re not a fisherperson you can still help by removing what you see while you’re out walking.”

Henderson: “They released him as close to where he was rescued as they could. He burst out.”

Newton: “He’s back on the job already, like it never happened.”

Shoemaker: “It seems like they’re both tending to the babies.”

Newton: “You can’t just watch the thing die. We had to do something. It’s a little story of community and people caring.”

Henderson: “People feel all kinds of gratitude that something good like this can still happen: something wonderful without any additional awful things coming in.”

Twitter: @johnkelly

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