STAMFORD — A Long Island man admitted he shot federally protected hawks that he trapped at his mother’s home next to Cove Island Park because they were preying on his racing pigeons, federal authorities say.

Thomas Kapusta, 63, of Westbury, N.Y., pleaded guilty at federal court in Hartford to one count of conspiracy to take, capture and kill red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks, and four counts of taking, capturing and killing red-tailed hawks or Cooper’s hawks.

The hawks are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Kapusta admitted that he and another man were racing pigeon enthusiasts who built and maintained a pigeon coop at his mother’s home on Weed Avenue in Stamford, according to a release from Dierdre M. Daly, U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut.

Kapusta and his associate kept a large number of racing pigeons at the coop and regularly let them fly outside the coop for exercise.

Because the hawks are birds of prey who eat the pigeons as part of their regular diets, the investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that Kapusta saw the hawks as a threat to their pigeons.

Kapusta admitted to systematically capturing the hawks in a trap specially built for them, before shooting and killing them and disposing of their carcasses.

Kapusta also admitted that he and his associate killed red-tailed hawks on Sept. 8 and Oct. 14, and Cooper’s hawks on Sept. 2 and Oct. 21, 2015, the release said.

“Red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks are protected species under federal law,” Daly said in the release. “With our law enforcement partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who violate the law and harm such protected migratory birds.”

Stamford police assisted in the investigation, Capt. Richard Conklin said.

“We greatly appreciate our state and local partners in law enforcement, and the support of the U.S. Attorney's Office in prosecuting those who violate federal wildlife laws and holding them accountable for their actions,” said Honora Gordon, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.

“The plea agreement today is a success in our collective efforts to conserve migratory birds and other wildlife.”

Kapusta is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on May 13. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 months and a fine of up to $75,000.

jnickerson@scni.com;