Gunnar, the red-tailed hawk who flew away from his home at Woodland Park Zoo on Thursday, returned to his keepers Monday afternoon, the zoo announced.
“At around 2:30 pm, Gunnar decided to fly down, and landed on the glove that his keeper wears on his hand,” said zoo spokeswoman Meghan Sawyer. He initially took flight during a routine training session, she added.
An “ambassador” in the zoo’s raptor program, Gunnar doesn’t live in an exhibit and flies freely during a Wildlife Theater show most days of the week, said animal care manager Rachel Salant.
“Due to the nature of free flying birds in an open-air venue, sometimes the birds take a detour for various reasons,” Salant explained via email. “Sometimes they like to go sit in trees, sometimes they like to chase crows, sometimes they just like to fly around because it’s fun! Because we work with them every single day in this way, and because they have great relationships with their keepers, they usually come back the same day.”
However, it’s not unprecedented for a bird to remain away for multiple days, and they generally return when they feel ready, she added.
Gunnar mostly stuck to trees on zoo grounds during his excursion, but took occasional forays into nearby neighborhoods, Salant said. During that time, zoo staff kept an eye on him when he was active during daylight hours, leaving him to sleep wherever he perched after dusk.
Red-tailed hawks — including Gunnar, who is around a foot and a half tall and weighs less than 2 pounds — don’t pose a threat to humans or pets, according to Salant.
“We share Seattle and most of North America with wild red-tail hawks, and we coexist with them all the time,” she said.
Gunnar hatched in the wild but was blinded in one eye when he was hit by a vehicle at a young age. He was nursed back to health by a wildlife rehabilitator but deemed unreleasable because his blindness limited his ability to hunt, Salant said, so he was sent to the zoo.
He will now be retrained before making his return to show business.