Monday, August 19, 2019

Late summer Christo sighting

It's late August, which means the local red-tailed hawks are on semi-vacation. It's not unusual to not see them much this time of year, but they are around. Christo and Amelia do not migrate, but stay here to keep control of their territory. During the heat of the day, though, it can be difficult to find them.

On one recent evening, I found Christo hanging out atop St Brigid's church on Avenue B. He's still molting, so he looks a little ragged around the edges, especially above his eyes.


As the sun went down, Christo preened and stretched.


I observed him on the cross for about an hour and he looked thoroughly relaxed.


Just before nightfall, Christo took one last stretch before flying into the park to roost.


Since there hasn't been much recent hawk activity, I've been enjoying watching this live bear cam out of Katmai National Park, Alaska. Watching the bears chill out in a river, waiting for migrating salmon to leap straight into their mouths has been an entertaining way to find relief from the sticky NYC heat.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rat Academy!

NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the Department of Health are hosting a free Rat Academy on Thursday, August 22, from 6:30-8:00pm. Details are below:

I've attended the Rat Academy in the past and found it to be extremely interesting and informative. As we lost both Tompkins Square hawk chicks to rodenticide poisoning earlier this summer, it's even more important to get educated about controlling rats safely and effectively.

Rat Academy is free and open to everyone, including property owners, business owners, community garden volunteers and tenants.

FREE rodent-resistant trash cans will be raffled off to attendees!

I highly recommend attending if not for any reason than to brag to your friends that you are a proud graduate of Rat Academy.

You can RSVP to the event here.

There is also a Facebook event page here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

NYC birds of spring and summer

It's been a quiet summer on this site as there hasn't been much hawk activity to report. After the loss of the chicks in Tompkins Square, I took a little break from hawk-watching as it was too emotional. I have, however, been keeping an eye on Christo and Amelia, and they seem to be doing ok.

Summer is generally slow for bird-watching (for me), but there are definitely places around the city where you can see plenty of wildlife. Below are some highlights from the last few weeks.

Green Heron at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge:

Green heron

Cedar Waxwings feeding each other on Governors Island:

Cedar Waxwings

A bright Yellow Warbler on Governors Island:

Yellow warbler

Red-Bellied Woodpecker in Tompkins Square Park:

Red-bellied woodpecker

Always a favorite, a Tree Swallow on Governors Island:

Tree Swallow

Indigo Bunting in Central Park:

Indigo bunting

American Woodcock in Bryant Park:


Wood Ducks in Prospect Park:

Wood ducks

Hooded Merganser in Central Park:

Hooded merganser

Mallard on Governors Island:


Killdeer on Governors Island:


Eastern Towhee in Central Park:

Eastern Towhee

Tufted Titmouse in Central Park:

Tufted titmouse

Swamp Sparrow in Tompkins Square:

Swamp sparrow

Fox sparrow in El Jardin del Paraiso, East Village:

Fox sparrow

Wood Thrush on Governors Island:

Wood thrush

Hermit Thrush on Governors Island:

Hermit thrush

Red-tailed Hawk and a Merlin in Green-Wood Cemetery:

Red-tail and Merlin

Kestrel on E 6th St:


Not a bird!

Eastern Red Bat

This Eastern Red bat was flying around Tompkins Square late one afternoon.

If you'd like to learn more about NYC bats and possibly see them in person, NYC Audubon is hosting a Bat Walk this Friday, August 2, at 7:30pm on Governors Island. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Necropsy results returned for Tompkins Square nestling

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has completed the necropsy on the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling who died on June 9. The cause of death was rodenticide poisoning.

She was also determined to be female.

The hawk's sibling had passed away in the nest on May 31 and it is assumed the pair suffered the same affliction (to date, the body of the first chick has not been found).

Secondary rodenticide poisoning happens when the chicks are fed poisoned rats, mice or any other prey that has ingested rodenticide. The parents, Christo and Amelia, likely didn't eat the same food, or not as much of it, so didn't die. However, they are exposed to the same danger every time they eat.

The NYC Parks Department does not use rodenticide in Tompkins Square Park. However, it is used throughout the city and the hawks do not restrict their hunting to the park, so they can pick it up anywhere.

Unfortunately, hawks being poisoned is nothing new here in the city and yet it is totally preventable. Back in 2016, I posted about a hawk who died before my eyes in Collect Pond Park, near City Hall. Over three years later, the danger is still out there and several hawks have died since that tragedy.

The Parks Department has been using dry ice to control rats in Tompkins Square. I think it's very effective and is not toxic to other animals, plants or people. However, if you look around the park or the streets of the East Village on any given day, there is trash and food everywhere. Until we, as a community, stop feeding the rats, nothing will change.

Private property owners can get more information about dealing with rats at the NYC Rats Information Portal.

Everyone should check out Raptors Are The Solution (RATS) for information about alternative pest control.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Molt time for Christo and Amelia

As summer rolls on, the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawks continue to hang around the neighborhood. There hasn't been much activity since Christo and Amelia constructed the second nest in the park.

Monday afternoon, I found the pair relaxing atop the cross of Most Holy Redeemer church on E 3rd Street.

Amelia and Christo

Amelia is on the left and Christo is on the right. You can really see the difference in their coloring. She is much darker.

Amelia and Christo

Christo is also beginning to molt, which makes him look especially pale. It's most evident around his eyes and on his head.

Amelia and Christo

You can also see how much bigger Amelia is than Christo. In the photo below, Christo has disappeared behind Amelia, with only his toe visible sticking out to the right of her.


Amelia has been spending a lot of time perched on the church and I often find her in the shade of the dome. I imagine she gets a nice breeze up there.


Later, as the sun started going down, Christo resettled on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church at E 10th Street.


Amelia soon joined him.

Amelia & Christo

You can see by looking at Amelia's tail that she is in the process of molting. She has eight old tail feathers, two new ones growing in, and is missing two more. She also appears to have new feathers growing in on her wings. Her appearance doesn't seem to change as dramatically as Christo during molt time.

Amelia & Christo

I spent almost three hours with the hawks as they watched the sun go down. At 9pm, Christo was still on the cross and Amelia flew over to the Village View complex on First Avenue, so I had to call it a day.

Amelia & Christo

Monday, June 24, 2019

Christo and Amelia build a frustration nest in Tompkins Square

We have not yet received an update from the Department of Environmental Conservation on the cause of death of the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks. We'll post any information here as soon as we get it.

In the mean time, parents Christo and Amelia can still be found in and around the park.

Christo and Amelia

Christo and Amelia

Christo and Amelia

In a new development, they have built a "frustration" nest, or alternate nest, in the tree where Christo and Dora raised their tenth offspring in 2017.

Frustration nest

This is something I've seen ospreys do when they experience a nest failure, so it's interesting to see red-tailed hawks do it as well.

Frustration nest

Several people have asked me if this means the hawks will lay more eggs this year. Short answer: No. The breeding time for the hawks is generally February - May, so it is too late in the year to start again. The hawks undergo hormonal changes in the spring that lead up to egg-laying, and that time has passed.

However, nest-building is bonding activity, so it's a good sign. It shows Christo and Amelia are working together and maintaining their territory and partnership. Although I'm really sad not to have baby hawks playing in the park this summer, I'm happy to see the adults staying close to home and remaining visible.

Last evening, I found Amelia perched on the dome of Most Holy Redeemer church on E 3rd Street.


And, this evening, she took in the last bit of sunlight from a high branch in the park.


It's been a challenge to see the hawks lately among the lush leaves of the park trees, but they can be found near both nest sites, on the east side of the park and near the Temperance Fountain.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sad update on Tompkins Square red-tail chick

I'm sorry to report the Tompkins Square Park red-tailed hawk chick passed away tonight.

The chick was in the care of WINORR, who tried their best to save it, but its illness/injuries were just too advanced. The remains will be sent to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for testing to determine the cause of illness and death.

This is a devastating loss for Christo and Amelia, who also lost one of their offspring last year. It will be helpful to know what happened to this year's chicks and we will post an update if/when we are notified.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Update on the Tompkins Square hawk chick

Following Thursday's post where we expressed concern for the surviving Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick, we have some updated information.

Tompkins red-tail nestling 

This morning, between 6-6:30am, the chick fell out of the nest. Ranger Rob from the NYC Urban Park Rangers was able to retrieve it and take it to Animal Medical Center for treatment. It spent the day on an IV drip. The hawk will be transported to Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR) tonight.

It's still not known what exactly is wrong with the hawk, but it is extremely weak and in bad shape. Tests are being done and we will update if/when we know something conclusive. In the meantime, the hawk is getting the best care possible.

THANK YOU to the resident who saw the hawk fall - without that witness, the hawk would not have survived the day.

And big thanks to Ranger Rob, the staff at AMC, and Bobby and Cathy Horvath at WINORR who are doing their best to save our little guy.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Concern for the remaining Tompkins Square red-tail nestling

It's been a week since one of the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestlings passed away and I am concerned about the surviving sibling. Although it looked okay at the time of the last post, it seems to now be suffering from some kind of illness.

We still don't know what killed the other nestling and the body has not been recovered. I'm not sure if the parents removed it from the tree, or if it's still up there somewhere. Unfortunately, without the remains, it won't be possible to do any testing and get definite answers about the fate of the hawk.

Drying out

On the morning of May 31, after the first chick (I think it was the younger of the two) passed away, the surviving sibling stood on the edge of the nest and tried to dry its wet feathers.

Drying out

There had been a thunderstorm the night before - one of many in recent weeks - and the chick was totally soaked. You can see water droplets on the leaves in front of the hawk in the photo below. I don't know if the continuous wet weather conditions have had anything to do with the health of the birds.

Drying out

This morning (June 6), I found the nestling perched in the same place, but it kept one or both eyes closed, which is not normal.

Not looking well

At this age, the hawk should be jumping, flapping, and exploring the tree. Instead, it has spent most of the week sitting still or lying down. It does seem to have an appetite, so I hope food is giving it strength.

Tompkins red-tail nestling

Not looking well

Below, you can actually see three flies on the chick's wing.

Tompkins red-tail nestling with flies

At this point, there is nothing anyone can do to help. The nest is inaccessible and it is not known what is wrong. It's possible the nestling can pull through what ever is ailing it, and maybe food and rest are what it needs.  I had originally predicted this hawk would fledge the first week of June, but it's apparent that is not going to happen.

Best case scenario is the hawk recovers, takes its time, and fledges later. The three hawklets over at Washington Square Park are a few days younger that the Tompkins chick, and they are doing very well despite losing their dad. You can follow the activities of that family over at Roger Paw's blog.

Earlier in the week, Urban Hawks paid a visit to Tompkins Square and took some video of the nestling. Note the windy conditions blowing the leaves around and obscuring the nest, which has been one of the factors making this nest so difficult to observe.

Fingers crossed there will be a happy outcome here. I will update as I know more.