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December 16, 2018

“When you have a big heart, you do something.” Uber driver tells of how he pulled over while carrying a fare to rescue hawk stranded on FDR Drive

November 23, 2018
Uber driver Kasim Eldilemi was carrying a customer when he spotted the harried hawk on the shoulder of the busy FDR early on Nov. 13. (David Wexler for New York Daily News)

Call him Father Hawk.

That’s the new nickname a 58-year-old Uber driver’s family has given him after he pulled over on the FDR Drive and made a daring rescue of a hawk in distress.




“When you have a big heart, you do something,” rescuer Kasim Eldilemi told the Daily News.

Eldilemi was driving a customer when he spotted the harried hawk on the busy freeway shoulder early on Nov. 13.

Motorists were rubbernecking to snap pictures but Eldilemi was the only one to spring into action.

“I put on the emergency lights and I jumped out and grabbed the hawk,” he said. “My passenger was surprised. He was like ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Look, I’m gonna drop you off first and then do something with the bird.”

Eldilemi held the hawk in one hand while working the steering wheel with the other.

“I feel my arms are very strong,” he said. “The hawk has power. I got the power from it.”

Taxi, a female red-tailed hawk rescued last week by a taxi driver, takes flight in Central Park on Saturday.
Taxi, a female red-tailed hawk rescued last week by a taxi driver, takes flight in Central Park on Saturday. (Gregg Vigliotti for New York Daily News)

Animal experts say the the young red-tailed hawk likely had been hit by a car or flown into a glass skycraper window and was still stunned. Otherwise she would have put up a mighty fight with her sharp talons when Eldilemi scooped her up.

As he drove, he tried to smooth the rattled raptor’s ruffled feathers with some soothing talk.

“I tell it, ‘Look, I’m going to save you,’ ” he said. “The bird just looked at me, like, friendly.”

His passenger even took a selfie with the hawk — albeit from the back seat.

“He was scared to get close to it,” Eldilemi said.

After dropping off his fare, Eldilemi, who had driven all the way to Brooklyn with hawk in hand, was baffled by what to do next. He approached a cop by the Brooklyn Navy Yard for help.

Taxi was cared for by The Wild Bird Fund Center.
Taxi was cared for by The Wild Bird Fund Center. (Gregg Vigliotti for the New York Daily News)

Cops took the young hawk to the Wild Bird Fund in Manhattan. Workers there named the hawk Taxi after being mistakenly told it was a yellow cab driver who found the wayward bird.

On Saturday, Taxi was strong enough to be released back into the wild. She was last seen soaring over Central Park following a sendoff by the Wild Bird Fund.




Bird rescuer Rita McMahon wanted to find the caring driver and was thrilled when Eldilemi’s daughter reached out to the Wild Bird Fund.

“I really appreciate that he saved her from probable death,” she said. “He was kind, brave.”

Uber also heaped praise on the determined driver.

“Uber’s driver-partners do incredible things every day,” the company said in a statement. “But we’re particularly amazed by Kasim who ensured the hawk was safe.”

Eldilemi, who has been a driver in the city for more than two decades, has no experience in falconry but he did nurse a hawk back to health when he was a child in Iraq.

He said he stops for anyone in distress, whether they have wings or not.

“This is an example for America,” he said. “If I go to drive anywhere, and I see something — animal, human — I stop to help.”

While he is glad Taxi is flying high again, the Uber driver has just has one regret.

“I wish they named it Eldilemi,” he joked.

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