PEOPLE are used to hearing about cats stuck in trees.

But birds of prey — normally in their element soaring up into the sky — do not usually find themselves caught out by leafy branches.

So when Harris Hawk Nell could not free himself from a tree in Green Fold Lane, Westhoughton, the RSPCA and firefighters were called in to get him down.

Road cordons were put in place and the fire service brought in a hydraulic platform so crews could reach the 18-month-old bird just before 10am on Tuesday.

Nell became trapped on Monday evening after escaping from his perch on Sunday morning when the knots on his jesses, the leather straps tying him to the perch, were not tight enough.

He became entangled in the tree in Green Fold Lane, just a few streets from his owner’s home in Southfield Drive, and was stuck 60 feet up.

The hawk was spotted on Monday evening but it was too dark for the RSPCA to carry out a rescue.

Owner Joanne Smith, who is five-and-a-half months pregnant, heard Nell was in the tree after a friend called her when they heard the bells on its jesses ringing.

The 33-year-old said: “It was horrible seeing him. He was going upside down because he was caught on the branch. I was worried because there were fireworks going off and he could have broken his legs.

“I was surprised that the firefighters rescued the bird but I have heard of them rescuing kittens from trees.”

RSPCA inspectors were worried Nell’s legs could break if he became further entangled in the tree.

Melissa Furey, the RSPCA inspector who helped rescue him, said: “The last time Nell had eaten was on Friday. It could have been a completely different story if it had been another 24 hours before he was found.

“He looked at me as if he was quite annoyed. He is probably a bit sore and stiff but will hopefully make a very good recovery.”

Harris Hawks have a wingspan of about 1.1m.

They feed on small creatures including birds, lizards, mammals, and large insects. Because it often hunts in packs, it can also take tackle prey, such as rabbits.

Crews from Hindley and Bolton Central were called to help free Nell. Hindley watch manager Tony Callaghan said: “We can supply a ladder but we looked at the tree and thought the branches were too brittle and requested a hydraulic platform. “Firefighter Paul Hesford had some experience of handling birds of prey and brought it out safely. It is not very often that we get jobs like this.”