A young red-shouldered hawk has a new lease on life thanks to the Carolina Raptor Center and Charlie Burdick.
Burdick and his wife, Jane, live on several acres off Matthews-Mint Hill Road. Burdick, 72, was sitting on his porch in late May observing wildlife when he noticed a small hawk sitting on a downed pine tree near the edge of his yard.
"It was evening, and the little fellow was just sitting there," he said. "I thought he was hunting, but then he jumped down and hobbled into the woods."
Burdick got a towel, went into the woods and put the towel over the bird to catch him. He put the hawk in a cage and called the Raptor Center.
"Volunteer Rob Taylor dropped what he was doing and came out here," Burdick said. "He had a fancier cage and heavy gloves, and he took the bird to the Raptor Center to get checked out."
The hawk, named Little Fellow, had lacerations on one wing that had become infected.
The bird was treated and stayed at the center for several months. His medical records were placed online so Burdick could monitor his progress.
Once the hawk healed and passed required courses - a flight test and mouse catching - Burdick was called to retrieve Little Fellow .
On Sept. 3, Burdick drove to the center and picked up the hawk, who was in a cardboard box sealed with masking tape.
Burdick took the bird back to Mint Hill and put him in a quiet place until his grandchildren arrived.
Soon four grandchildren, two grown children and Jane were gathered in the grass. As they watched, Burdick carried the box to the middle of the yard, pulled off the tape, folded back the flaps and set the bird free. After landing for a moment in a nearby tree, the young hawk took off without looking back.
The Carolina Raptor Center's Michele Miller Houck says that though the center offers many educational programs and other activities, the center's core mission is to rehabilitate injured and orphaned raptors.
"We take in between 700 and 800 birds each year," said Houck. "Our goal is to get these birds, get them fixed and get them back into the wild. We are able to do that about 70 percent of the time."