Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hectic hawk weekend - Part 2

Sunday was a busy day for red-tailed hawk, Christo.  When I arrived in Tompkins Square, he made himself known within minutes by landing in a tree right in front of me.  After appearing to hunt pigeons on the west side of the park, and then on the east, something grabbed his attention and he started calling.

Christo calling

High in the sky over Avenue B, Dora (below, right) was sparring with an intruding juvenile red-tail (below, left).

She seemed to be handling herself just fine, so Christo remained in the park, but stayed vigilant.


A short while later, a juvenile Cooper's hawk flew through the park.

This was the second Cooper's sighting of the day.

After spotting the hawk, Christo took off east, in the direction it had gone.

Christo takes off to chase a Cooper's hawk

In my previous post, I noted that Dora is usually the one I see doing battle with intruding hawks.  This time, I watched as Christo and the Cooper's got aggressive with each other high up over Avenue B and 3rd Street.  In the photos below, the Cooper's is on the left and appears to be chasing Christo.

I lost sight of them when they headed south and then west, behind some buildings.  Over the last few weeks, the red-tails have been highly tolerant of the Cooper's hawks in their territory, so I don't know why Christo lost his patience this day.  Maybe the red-tails have been too lenient allowing the Cooper's to take food from their territory.  I can only speculate.

Just before sunset, Christo returned to his usual post on the flagpole outside the park offices.

Christo on his flagpole

From there, he flew behind the bathrooms where he had a showdown with a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker stares down red-tailed hawk

Catching the last rays of sun...


When Christo eventually flew off, I lost him.  So, I went to see Dora, who was perched on the cross at St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A and 10th Street.  I could see that her attention was focused on something to my right.  Just at that moment, a commotion broke out on the street and people were snapping pictures with their phones. I turned to see Christo about twenty feet away on a fence with a mouse.  I'd been standing there looking at Dora and completely missed Christo making the catch!

Christo catches a mouse

He ate the mouse in less than five minutes and still looked to be hunting. I wondered Dora was expecting him to catch her some dinner, or if he was still hungry.  Thanks to a very effective rat control program in the park, there haven't been any big rats to catch since early summer, so seeing Christo catch a rodent at all has become a fairly rare event.

Christo in the evening

As it got dark, the hawks were still active, but it became too difficult to see them flying around the park.  I've been wondering if the hawks have been doing any hunting after dark.  They are diurnal birds, but I've seen Christo catch rats after dark before.  Now that the rat population in the park is greatly diminished, perhaps the hawks have had to adapt and have extended hunting hours in order to have the best chance of finding rats as they emerge from their burrows in the evening.  Again, this is just speculation, but is something I'm trying to determine.

See more recent hawk photos here.

Previously:  Hectic hawk week - Part 1

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hectic hawk weekend - Part 1

I spent some quality time with Christo this last weekend as he hunted in Tompkins Square and defended his territory against several intruders.

On Friday afternoon, I found him perched next to the new nest near the ping pong table.  The hawks have not done any work on it recently, but it seems to be holding together pretty well.

Christo posing next to his second tree nest

Christo then perched atop the Christodora building on Avenue B.

Christo getting ready to dive

After a few minutes, he dove off.  The hawks usually take off from this high perch by jumping up and flying out horizontally.  This time, he leaned forward and came straight down the side of the building.

Christo diving off the Christodora

Christo diving off the Christodora

Christo diving off the Christodora

Christo diving off the Christodora

At this point, a tree got in the way and I wasn't able to capture Christo's impressive swoop to the ground and then an upward loop right past my face.  Lucky for me, there was another bystander there to witness the spectacular feat.

Christo made two more of these dives off the Christodora before heading across the park to check out the view from St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A.

Christo considers the dinner offerings

The pigeons didn't seem to mind his presence.

Christo the hawk

As it got dark, Christo went behind the park offices to look for dinner.

Christo closing in on a rat

He came up with small rat, whose feet you can see below on the branch.  Christo ate it in less than ten minutes.

Christo with a rat

Saturday was beautifully sunny and I found Christo casually hunting near the Temperance fountain.


Suddenly, his attention went to the sky and he sounded the intruder alarm.

Christo calling the intruder alarm

The following all happened in the blink of an eye.  Dora flew into the park from the south and both she and Christo circled above the central lawn screaming.  They were chasing a large juvenile red-tail (below).

Dora aggressively went after the juvenile and slammed it with her talons.  As the three red-tails tussled over the lawn, a Cooper's hawk shot through the park from west to east, and then this Peregrine.  Raptor chaos!

The action all happened so fast, my head spun.  Fortunately, there were several hawk-watchers present to witness the sequence of events.

Drama over, we're back to where we began, with Christo perched next to the new nest.

Christo posing next to his new nest

I've noticed that Christo spends a lot of time guarding the park while Dora patrols the outer boundaries.  They both join in to escort intruders out of the area, but Christo usually returns to the park while Dora is more often the one I see engaging in battle.  This isn't a hard and fast rule (stay tuned for Part 2), but the hawks seem to have particular job responsibilities when it comes to maintaining their turf.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thanksgiving leftovers

Despite another overcast and dreary sky this last Sunday, Christo and Dora were active in the neighborhood.  Much of the activity took place high in the sky, or some distance away, so I was lucky to catch them both in Tompkins Square late in the day.

Just as I was about to give up on seeing any hawks in the park, Dora appeared in the SW corner of the park where she picked up a stashed pigeon in a tree.  I'm assuming Christo left it there for her.

Dora with a pigeon

Dora with a pigeon

She flew the pigeon all the way across the park, to the tall locust near the Avenue B and 9th Street entrance.

Dora with a pigeon

As Dora ate, Christo kept watch from atop the Christodora building.

Christo atop the Christodora

As soon as Dora was done eating, she gave the signal and Christo smoothly glided down...

Diving Christo

Diving Christo

...and landed next to her on the branch.  His landing was not as elegant as his glide.

Christo and Dora

As Christo finished off the leftovers, Dora took off and headed back west across the park.  I lost track of her, so don't know where she settled to digest her meal.


Christo, post-meal.


The clouds broke up just as the sun was about to set.  Christo returned to the top of the Christodora where he could have one more look around his territory before heading off to roost for the night.

Christo atop the Christodora

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving hawk highlights

While most of America was thawing turkeys last week, Christo the hawk grabbed himself a fresh butterball pigeon in Tompkins Square.

Christo with a pigeon

Let the feasting begin!

Christo with a pigeon

Thanksgiving day was dark and dreary, making it extremely difficult for me to photograph anything.  As luck would have it, I encountered three hawks (in addition to Christo and Dora) that day, so I really wanted to document them.  All the photos below have been lightened quite a bit in order to see the birds.

This large juvenile red-tail was perched down on East Broadway.

Juvenile red-tail on Thanksgiving

Half a block away, another (smaller) juvenile red-tail perched in a tree.  I'd seen it a few seconds earlier being mobbed by crows near the Seward Park library. 

Juvenile red-tail on Thanksgiving

In between the two red-tails was this juvenile Cooper's hawk.  Seeing three hawks in one small area was pretty amazing, especially as they didn't seem to mind each other's presence.

Cooper's hawk on Thanksgiving

Cooper's hawk on Thanksgiving

The following day, which was still annoyingly dark, an adult Cooper's hawk hunted in Tompkins Square.  I first noticed it when a flock of pigeons flew by and the hawk slammed into one of them.  There was an audible thwack, but the pigeon kept going.

Cooper's hawk

From this perch, the Cooper's made a dramatic swoop down and across the Krishna Tree plaza, right along the knees of people sitting on the benches there.  It all happened in the blink of an eye, and I failed to be quick enough to catch it with the camera. 

Every few minutes, the hawk dove at pigeons, but never caught one.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper's are such fast flyers, and often perch in places that are hard to see, it was a challenge to keep up with this one.

Cooper's hawk

At the end of the day, after several hours of the Cooper's having free reign of the park, Christo flew in and forced the other hawk off its perch.  The Cooper's flew to a nearby tree, but wasn't intimidated.  Christo didn't seem interested in pursuing the matter, so they eyed each other for a while before the Cooper's opted to fly right past Christo and out of the park.

Red-tail and Cooper's hawks

Just as I was leaving for the night, the Cooper's hawk returned to the same spot, and I saw it was being chased by a second Cooper's.  Over the course of the weekend, other hawk watchers and I were able to determine the second Cooper's was a juvenile.

There was a brief bit of sunset on Saturday, which Dora and Christo seemed to enjoy from the top of the Christodora building.

Dora and Christo atop the Christodora

Wind gusts that day were up to 40mph and Christo let himself be lifted and carried by the wind to the opposite side of the scaffolding.  He floated back and forth several times - was he trying to impress Dora or just having a bit of fun?

Christo and Dora atop the Christodora 

Earlier in the week, Dora had done the same thing in the high winds.  In the photo below, you can see how strong the wind is as it blows the feathers on her chest.

Dora the hawk dealing with 40+ mph wind gusts

And off she goes...

Dora the hawk dealing with 40+ mph wind gusts

Dora the hawk dealing with 40+ mph wind gusts

Dora the hawk dealing with 40+ mph wind gusts 

More to come...