TWO stolen hawks have been found abandoned behind a disused Chinese restaurant, after their owner was sent an anonymous tip online.
Former gamekeeping student Barry Shaw admitted he was stunned to find his prized Harris hawks following the anonymous tip, and said he had been called by someone claiming to be the thief hours earlier and told he would never get his birds back.
Mr Shaw said the animals appeared to have been “bullied”, with one apparently having suffered burns to its wings and chest.
He had appealed for the animals’ safe return on Facebook after they were stolen on Friday, and on Saturday night received an anonymous message via the social networking site from a page called “Harris hawk”, informing him that the birds – worth £350 each – had been left behind a disused Chinese takeaway in Edinburgh.
The 22-year-old, who lives in Loanhead, Midlothian, made his way to the former take- away in Burdiehouse to find the female pair inside a cat box behind the building. One of the birds, three-year-old Jess, was missing some feathers and several had been singed.
Mr Shaw, who is currently unemployed, said: “Whoever took them has bullied them. Jess has been burned with a lighter. Some of her feathers have been snapped off and all her tail’s knackered, and she’s underweight.
“I think Luckie’s got a tail feather missing but other than that she seems fine.
“The person mailed me saying they had seen the story in the paper and their friends and family had the birds.
“The person said they thought they were in the wrong hands and had put them behind the old Chinese restaurant in Burdiehouse in a cat box.
“I went straight over and they were sitting there at the back of the restaurant. I thought it was just going to be a wind-up but I knew if I didn’t go I would be thinking I should’ve gone all night.”
Around two hours before receiving the Facebook message, Mr Shaw said he got a phone call from a man who claimed he had the birds.
He said: “The man said, ‘I have got your birds and you’re not getting them back’. I asked him how much money he wanted but he said I wasn’t getting them.”
Mr Shaw believes the birds, which he uses for hunting rabbits, were stolen for their value. He thinks the person who contacted him via Facebook panicked after spotting the story in the newspapers.
He noticed the hawks were missing from the aviary in his back garden on Friday morning.
Mr Shaw now plans to ask Midlothian Council for permission to erect a six-foot fence to protect the birds when they are in the aviary during the day.
“The place will look like Saughton jail by the time I’ve finished with it,” he said.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn added: “We’re glad these hawks have now been returned to their owner and would advise all birds are kept securely and checked on a very regular basis to prevent thefts.”