Neighbors often heard the sound of gunfire. Some found bullet and pellet holes sprayed into the sides of their homes.
The birds turned out to be protected hawks that traverse a major migration route. And now a neighbor faces federal charges that he repeatedly shot them from his back door.
Robert Losasso, 68, was arrested Friday on six counts of violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. He is charged with killing or attempting to kill red-tailed hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, red-shouldered hawks and Cooper's hawks.
He was scheduled to appear in federal court Friday afternoon.
Six birds of prey were recovered from yards near Losasso's home. They were examined by scientists and were found to have suffered wounds from a rifle or pellet gun. A .22-caliber bullet was recovered from one hawk and air gun pellets from another.
Authorities said they put up a camera near Losasso's home that looked into his backyard. At various times, the camera caught him open a rear sliding door and stick the barrel of a gun outside, they said; sometimes he stepped outside and other times he didn't. The camera also filmed Losasso sprinkling birdseed in his backyard and using binoculars before stepping outside with a gun, authorities said.
In June, officers searched Losasso's home and found a .17-caliber pellet gun and .22-caliber rifle propped up against a wall near the rear sliding glass door. Losasso admitted they were his, but denied that he shot the birds.
"I ain't shot any," Losasso told authorities, according to the court complaint.
The four species of hawks, as well as thousands of other birds, migrate each year from Canada south along the Atlantic Flyway, a migratory route that goes over New Jersey.
The treaty act makes it a crime to kill "any migratory bird."