Ipswich: Terror swoop - hawk grabs kitten

BY ANY standards, the villain of the piece is both majestic and menacing.

Swooping down from the trees near an Ipswich house, the red-tailed hawk snapped up a young cat for its dinner.

And although the young puss escaped the talons of the bird and dropped back to earth, it hasn’t been seen since – and the hawk has been patrolling the area.

Edith the cat’s owner, David Alexander, watched as the bird – which is native to the USA and Canada – retuned to its urban hunting ground.

He took some remarkable pictures – and is still hoping his pet hasn’t been eaten and will return home one day soon.

David ,of Graham Road, Ipswich, spotted the hawk, with feet bound by the leather jesses used by falconers, in the garden last Sunday evening.

Moments before he took a series of amazing pictures, the hawk took Edith in its massive talons and lifted it skywards.

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Luckily, Edith was dropped to the floor uninjured, but the whole experience shook her up so much she hasn’t returned to Mr Alexander’s home since.

Mystery surrounds the ownership of the bird.

Said David : “The hawk picked Edith up and lifted her off the ground. She was a few feet off the ground before it dropped her.

“I don’t think Edith was injured, but she was really scared. She ran straight off and hasn’t been back into the house since.

“She’s only a one-year-old kitten and it was obviously very traumatic for her. I’m sure she’ll be back, hopefully after this bird has been caught.

“We also keep chickens in the garden and found piles of feathers on the ground in their pen. They’re huddled up in the corner of their hut so again the hawk was probably up to no good with them.”

Red-tailed hawks breed throughout most of North America.

A male may weigh from 690 to 1300 grams (1.5 to 2.9lbs) and measure 45cm to 56cm, while a female can weigh between 900 and 2000gms (2 and 4.4lbs) and measure 48cm to 65cm long.

The hawk is carnivorous, and an opportunistic feeder. Its diet is mainly small mammals, but also includes birds and reptiles.

It hunts primarily from an elevated perch site, swooping down to seize its prey or pursuing victims on the ground from a low flight.

Steve Piotrowski, President of the Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group, said: “Red-tailed hawks are falconers’ birds and they have become quite common over here.

“The bird in question sounds like an escaped one. A wild red-tailed hawk would certainly not go anywhere near people or their homes.”

John Grant, a journalist with Archant Suffolk, and a keen bird watcher, added that cases of hawks attacking kittens were extremely rare in the UK.

Mr Alexander added: “It’s a very spectacular looking bird with a wingspan of about four feet. However, I’ve been told that it’s known to attack cats and dogs. So although it may look nice, it’s a deadly predator.

“It has a tag on its feet so it looks like it may have escaped from a zoo or a bird sanctuary. Pet owners will need to be on their guard until it’s caught.”