With Atlanta on the wrong side of a 3-0 series deficit to defending Eastern Conference champs Orlando, The Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi considers the plight of former Hawks mascot, Spirit, who made headlines in 2009 when “the bird of prey became the bird who stopped play.” It seems Spirit’s been exiled to the Atlanta Zoo.

We got conflicting accounts from zoo employees. One claimed that Spirit was actually named Alamo and is no longer allowed to fly in the bird show at the zoo’s wildlife theater because he recently flew away and disappeared for 30 days. She pointed to a pen a few feet away and said the bird inside was, in fact, Spirit/Alamo.

Sure enough, the bird fit the scientific description: “Harris hawk (parabuteo unicinctus). Habitat: Scrubland and desert. Length: 12 inches. Weight: 2 pounds. Wild diet: Small mammals and reptiles.”

The hawk inside gazed down at us and then quickly turned his back. The proud bird seemed ashamed he was sharing a cage with a vulture (wild diet: dead animals).

But, wait, maybe this wasn’t Spirit. Another zoo employee informed us that Spirit’s real name is “Tahoe” and he actually does perform in the exotic bird show. We quickly entered the wildlife theater, where an owl, a macaw, a cockatoo and even a crow were on stage. But no hawk.

When we asked the whereabouts of Spirit/Tahoe, we were informed he was “behind the scenes” and not performing. It seems he is overweight after recently killing and devouring an unlucky chipmunk .

“Fat birds don’t fly,” a zoo employee said.