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Attacking hawks keep family indoors

12:20 PM, Mar 31, 2011   |    comments
Dudley Gordon has been attacked three time so far by the red-shouldered hawks that have built a next in a tree in his front yard.
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MELBOURNE, Florida (Florida Today) -- When at least two red-shouldered hawks decided to roost in a towering oak tree in Dudley Gordon's front yard, he knew very little about the creatures.

He's finding out more than he ever wanted to know after being attacked twice by the birds and learning that because they're protected, he has to follow strict guidelines to bid them adieu. Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told him it could take months -- and up to $500 out of his pocket -- to get permitting necessary to remove the birds and any eggs or hatchlings.

Photo Gallery: Feisty hawks keep human neighbors indoors

In the meantime, there's not a lot of front-yard partying or lawn-mowing going on at the Gordon house, in Melbourne's gated Forest Creek community near Florida Avenue and Dairy Road.

"I'm a retired Army guy, and I had to wait all this time to be attacked," Gordon, whose head was left bloodied twice after he said his unwanted visitors swooped in for the kill, told our news partner Florida Today. "My wife doesn't want to go outside ... one young lady suggested that I get an umbrella and draw a couple of eyes on it, and that might scare the birds. I have a good sense of humor, but all kidding aside, we live on a cul-de-sac. Little kids ride their bikes around that circle. I'm concerned they could be attacked, or fall off their bikes and crack their heads. And then people would be sitting around wondering why I didn't do something to ward this off."

Judy Gillan, of FWC, said the hawks are protective during nesting season and that such situations are not uncommon. Experts at FWC "might have alternative ways to deal with the birds," she said.

"We'll look for someone who can give advice to this gentleman and how to handle it within the law," she said. "They can't live like that -- we've got to help them, but we also can't break the law."

Gordon and his wife, Ann, moved to the house from rural Malabar six months ago. He didn't think much of it when he first saw the birds, which weigh about 2 pounds.

"I thought, 'What beautiful birds,'" he said. Then, while he was walking down the street by his house about 10 days ago, one landed on his head.

"It stunned me for a minute. I turned around and there he was, sitting in the tree looking at me. I put my hand up to my head, and it was covered with blood; it left five or six lacerations in my scalp," he said.

What could be the same hawk attacked his neighbor a couple of days later -- and two days after that, "came back to me for seconds," said Gordon. "This laceration was about 4 inches long."

The beady-eyed, sharp-taloned creatures are now a constant sight in the tree, which stands at about 40 feet high. The female sits on the nest, calling, while at least two other birds stop by, Gordon said.

By the time permitting at the local and national level is completed, it could be months and many dollars from now, he said. Gordon added that he's been told even after red-shouldered hawks' nests -- which can weigh up to 70 pounds -- are removed, the birds can come back.

"If they find an area they like, they come back -- if not for a brooding nest, for a hunting nest," he said. "I've been trying to understand them and find ways to ward them off, but this is disheartening. Everyone I've talked to made it a point to remind me that all hawks in Florida are protected and that any actions which might harm them or disrupt their nesting is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in jail. That really put the fear of God in me ... look. Here he comes, back again."

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Britt Kennerly, Florida Today

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