The life of Fred, a black rooster, prior to New Year's Day 2009 is a mystery, but it must have been hard.

When someone abandoned him and a white rooster in a semirural area of Galloway Township then, the pair were scrawny and their necks were worn bare.

They were probably used in cockfighting and chained by their necks. Maybe someone's New Year's resolution was to quit that vile practice and they didn't know what to do with the birds.

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Francine Hunt spotted the white rooster as soon as she got home that day. She didn't see Fred until the next day.

Fortunately for the roosters, the neighborhood has several residents who feed birds in the winter. They felt bad for the birds and made sure there was food on the ground for them. No one even seemed to mind when the roosters crowed as early as 4 a.m., Hunt said.

The pair managed to survive last winter. Fred sat in a crabapple tree for three days to get through a snowstorm.

Nature is tough on animals whose instincts have been eroded by human breeding and care - especially those whose natural camouflage color has been replaced by the pristine white people often prefer.

In the spring, the white rooster was attacked and killed by a fox, hawk, weasal, owl or some other predator getting an easy meal.

Whatever it was, it didn't get Fred. He wisely roosts up in a holly tree each night, Hunt said, and keeps a keen watch for predators from his perch on a red wooden bench next to her house and during his rounds to homes to be fed.

One day, a hawk caught a bird at Hunt's feeder despite Fred's warnings. "Fred was so upset that morning," she said.

Then about a week before Christmas, she heard Fred clucking loudly and nonstop.

"I went to the sunroom window to see what he was making all the noise about, and there on Fred's bench was a red-tailed hawk," Hunt said.

Four feet away, but tucked under the bare branches of a shrub so the hawk couldn't drop on him with its talons, Fred faced the hawk and squawked at it. The standoff continued until Hunt tapped on the glass, prompting the hawk to take flight.

"The hawk then circled back, but Fred now put his wings wide and took an aggressive stance," she said. "He kept screaming, warning all the birds and squirrels to stay put. Fred defended his territory until the hawk gave up and left."

Residents have put out boxes and other possible shelters for Fred, but he prefers his holly tree roost. Restored to full health and plumage, all he wants is help with food.

A year ago, he was weak, likely abused and out of place. Now, Fred's the hero of local wildlife and the darling of many people.

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