A sharp-shinned hawk made a Whidbey Island grocery store its home for about 12 hours on March 15.
The bird flew into The Goose at about 10:15 a.m. and spent the rest of the day swooping over customers’ heads and sitting perched on aisle signs and other locales around the store.
“There’s never a dull moment at The Goose,” said assistant store manager Belinda Permenter.
The bird, a male adult, was eventually captured at about 10:30 p.m. by Steve Layman, a South Whidbey falconer.
Layman said the sharp-shinned hawk, which is fairly common on Whidbey Island, was likely hunting a small bird such as an English sparrow and chased it inside the grocery store. He released the bird back to the wild the following morning.
Layman said he’s had plenty of experience capturing birds in public settings.
“That’s not the first time I’ve done stuff like that,” said Layman, who also assisted in a project that used raptors to scare away smaller birds from a five-star restaurant in George, and has captured birds in big-box stores like Walmart.
Staff at The Goose contacted state Fish and Wildlife, which recommended the store turn off its lights to direct the bird toward the main door and outside, said produce employee Jesia DiMesio. When that didn’t work, the store turned its lights back on and went back to business as usual.
Layman recommended store workers wait until all the customers had left after closing at 10 p.m. before making a move. Once inside, Layman said it appeared the bird had collided with the store’s windows.
“He was panicked a little bit,” Layman said. “But the ceilings are high enough. He was perched over by the produce section.”
To catch the hawk, Layman turned the lights off again, donned a helmet with a head lamp and grabbed a tactical strobe flashlight.
The flashing has a calming effect on birds, he explained.
“It calms them down enough where I can reach out and grab them,” Layman said.
Layman climbed an A-frame ladder to meet face-to-face with the hawk and in a flurry of quick motion, he successfully captured it.
He did not leave the encounter unscathed — the hawk’s talons punctured parts of his hand.
Layman took the bird home and kept it in a dark setting.
The following morning, he examined it for signs of a concussion, found none, and released it.
Sharp-shinned hawks typically hunt sparrows, which often hang around store entrances, Layman said.