Biologist Tony Gennaro tries to calm an American Kestrel Falcon after catching the bird in the press room of Greyhound Arena on Wednesday. The bird had been trapped in the arena since Thursday of last week. Freedom Newspapers: Mike Linn.
By Mike Linn
PORTALES — A small falcon trapped in the press box at Greyhound Arena gave biologist Tony Gennaro a frightened stare as he tried to coax it to safety on Wednesday afternoon.
Talking gently to the bird as if it were a scared 6-month-old child, Gennaro was able to corner and catch the male American Kestrel Falcon with his hands.
Gennaro said the bird, which has been flying around the Eastern New Mexico University arena since last Thursday, is doing fine and is surprisingly energetic.
It will be cared for by a student and released on Friday, Gennaro said.
“It’s amazing; I didn’t think they could go that long without food. But he’s doing great. He seems to be eating, he’s resting and hopefully he’ll be OK,” said Gennaro, a professor emeritus with ENMU’s biology department.
Gennaro and Dawn Davis, a biologist with the Department of Game and Fish, first tried to capture the bird with a small mouse trap and a small white mouse.
After the trap failed to work properly, Gennaro slowly approached the bird and calmly caught it with his hands.
Workers at Greyhound Arena said they were concerned for the bird’s safety after they noticed it hanging around for a few days.
On Saturday afternoon, witnesses said the bird was quite the spectacle flying over a Zia basketball game at Greyhound Arena.
“We’d watch it fly around to see where it would land, kind of curious as to when it would take off again,” said Norma Stroik, coordinator of Eastern’s athletics administration office. “It was probably dangerous for the basketball players if the bird would have flown over the court and pooped on the floor. It could have caused a really bad accident. … I don’t know how we would have explained that one.”
Stroik said the bird flew into the press box above the main basketball court on Wednesday morning, when workers shut the door and called Gennaro and Davis to the rescue.
Gennaro said he did not know how the falcon got in the arena, but he assumed it flew in through an open door.
Gennaro said the species is special to him because he owned an American Kestrel Falcon for 14 years. The bird was the subject of a television show Gennaro produced called “Mr. Hank,” named for the pet falcon. The show was broadcast on televisions in sixth-grade classrooms in Portales years ago, Gennaro said.
The American Kestrel Falcon is a common species in eastern New Mexico and loves to dine on grasshoppers. The bird also eats small mice, like the one Gennaro fed the hungry bird after its capture.