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Angry bird: Hawk divebombs retired general in his front yard

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Dud Gordon of Melbourne, Florida, shot this picture of a hawk that has attacked him three times.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Dud Gordon of Melbourne, Florida, shot this picture of a hawk that has attacked him three times.
  • Red-shouldered hawk prefers to attack men near its nest
  • 32-year Army veteran, hit 3 times, appears to be main target
  • State, federal agencies expedite permit to remove nest

(CNN) -- Dud Gordon spent 32 years in the Army, advancing all the way from private to brigadier general. But now, 25 years into retirement, he has acquired a new and relentless enemy.

"I didn't pay much attention until the 13th of March," he said Friday. "That was the first time I got hit."

What hit him was not a shoulder-fired rocket but a red-shouldered hawk defending a mate and a large nest in a tree in Gordon's Melbourne, Florida, front yard.

The bird swooped down and scraped its talons across the top of Gordon's head, drawing blood.

"He flew into the tree, looked at me and said, 'How'd you like that, sucker,'" Gordon, almost 75, said.

Despite Gordon's keeping an eye to the sky, the bird got him again on March 21 and a third time on March 29.

"He's on an eight-day schedule," Gordon joked.

"I'm an old Army guy, so it takes me a little while to learn things. I thought I better put a hat on," he said.

Gordon's neighbor, a man on a bicycle and a newspaper photographer also felt the hawk's wrath, and the mailman is nervous, Gordon said.

"It only attacks men. It's a prejudiced bird," he said.

Still, Gordon worries about the safety of children in the neighborhood and the many gawkers who are coming to see the hawks after local media reported on the situation. He said he and his wife of 54 years, Ann, don't want to be hostages in their own home to a bird.

"We get a lot calls about this every year," said Alexander Kropp, northeast regional biologist for Florida Fish and Wildlife.

"Red-shouldered hawks are one of our most common hawks in Florida -- certainly our most common divebombing hawk," Kropp said. "They're trying to be good parents, in their own eyes, and keep people away from the nest and their young."

The usual solution is simply to wait a few weeks until the fledglings leave the nest and the conflict ends peacefully, he said.

"He flew into the tree, looked at me and said, 'How'd you like that, sucker?'"
--Dudley Gordon, bird-attack target

But when birds get particularly aggressive, wildlife officials will respond more assertively, said Michael Milleson, a bird disease biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services office in Gainesville, Florida.

"When it's a human health and safety issue, it's always our recommendation to do something about it," he said.

Gordon on Thursday requested a federal permit to remove an active nest, which is necessary because hawks and their nests are protected by federal law.

The state and the USDA recommended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expedite approval of the permit, and it did so Friday morning, wildlife service spokesman Tom MacKenzie said.

Gordon was notified by email, he said.

Gordon now can hire a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center to remove the eggs or chicks from the nest and raise them for eventual release, Milleson said.

"The trapper will do his thing sometime this afternoon," Gordon said. "Compare that scenario with what I was originally told by the Fish and Wildlife folks -- 90 to 120 days to get a permit and $300 to $500. And, now -- two days to get the permit and $200 to get it done."

The aggressive avian behavior should stop once the nest is removed, Milleson said: "They're not defending the young anymore." If they continue to harass people, they may be trapped and relocated.

Despite their adversarial relationship, Gordon acknowledges a certain admiration for his airborne nemesis.

"There is a grudging respect there," he said. "He's a powerful bird, and he's protecting his nest. I'd like it if we could live and let live."