He hesitated for perhaps a minute, eyes wide.
But when the red-tailed hawk took flight from the roof of the Ormsby House parking garage on Wednesday, he left in a hurry.
"Look at him, he has perfect control of his flight," said rehabilitator Evelyn Pickles, watching the reddish-brown bird fly to leafless trees in the distance. It banked left and right in the gusty wind, pumping its 2-foot wings as a small crowd watched.
The bird was injured Dec. 4 when it flew into a window on the 10th floor of the Ormsby House. Construction crews working on the casino's renovation found him stuck inside a room where he had flown into a window three times.
"I think it just panicked and got confused," Pickles said.
When she got the 4-pound bird, it was stunned and quiet with head injuries.
"And a very sore beak," said Ormsby House General Manager Larry Tiller.
He said the bird got into the building through openings created by the renovation project there.
"In the tower there's concrete, windows, an elevator and that's about it," he said.
He attended the bird's release with part-owner Don Lehr.
"Don made a special point of being here because he loves birds," said Robin Zakzeski, director of human relations at the Ormsby House. She and Tiller led a convoy to the top of the seven-story parking garage for the release.
Pickles transported the bird in a pet carrier in the back of her sport-utility vehicle. A print-shop employee during the day, Pickles runs the Dayton Valley Wildlife Rest Stop as a side job. She rehabilitates a lot of injured pet rabbits, she said, but is capable of caring for other animals as well. She has a 12-by-60-foot covered aviary.
"We kept him well fed on gophers until he was flying perfectly from perch to perch," she said.
The bird is one of a mating pair that has hung around the Ormsby House for years - possibly even nesting up there, according to Duke Fennell, superintendent of Metcalf Builders, the company doing the renovation. He said the birds perch on the red beam along the top of the building exposed by the construction project.
"I've been watching those birds for at least nine years," said James Estes, chief engineer on the Ormsby House project. The hawks, which catch their prey in flight using sharp talons, eat the pigeons who gather at the casino.
But the pair appear to have moved since the construction project began.
"They probably found another restaurant," said Tiller. "Those pigeons provided a good meal for them whenever they wanted. The Ormsby House has always been known as a good place to eat."
The casino, closed since renovations began in October 2000, was also a good place to release the bird after its rehabilitation.
"We brought him back here because he lived here and he'll know the area," Pickles said.
Lehr gave credit to the Metcalf construction crew for saving the injured bird.
"You'd think these construction guys are a bunch of hard-asses, but they're all soft inside," he said with a smile. "Just like me."
For information about the Dayton Valley Wildlife Rest Stop, call 246-0470.