Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Kestrels in action

Late summer saw numerous kestrel fledglings disperse from their nest cavities here in the city. After leaving the nest, kestrel families will usually stick together for a while as the parents teach the youngsters to hunt large insects and small birds and rodents. I spent a few days with one such family on Governors Island as they practiced their new hunting and flying skills.

This male has a very pale chest and a generous smattering of black spots.

Kestrel

Below is a second male with smaller, fainter spots.

Kestrel

Two males together:

Kestrels

Below is a third, heavily spotted male. Note he has two striped outer tail feathers on each side while the male above has only one on each side. This was one way to tell them apart.

Kestrel

Two females:

Kestrels

I had a harder time telling the females apart as their color patterns looked very similar. They also flew around so fast, it was hard to keep up.

Kestrel

Kestrel

Kestrel

The kestrels preferred perching on bare branches at the highest points of the trees. From there, they could see each other and their prey.

Kestrel coming in for a landing

Kestrel

Kestrel

A female and the heavily spotted male perch together:

Kestrels

So, why all the darting around in the trees? Late summer offers up the perfect kestrel snack: cicadas. Below, one of the females tucks into one.

Kestrel eating a cicada

Crop full and sun going down, the heavily-spotted male perches on a rooftop as I reluctantly head back to the ferry.

Kestrel

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Highlights from the 2019 Raptor Fest in Central Park

Below are some highlights from the 2019 Raptor Festival, which took place in Central Park this last weekend. The event was hosted by the NYC Urban Park Rangers, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. The festival featured a fantastic variety of raptors including owls, hawks, falcons, eagles and a vulture.

This is a Eurasian Eagle Owl, whose brilliant orange eyes gave me chills.

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Check out those massive talons.

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Compare the bright eyes of the eagle owl with those of the Barred Owl, which are very dark.

Barred Owl

This is a lovely Black Vulture.

Black Vulture

Her wingspan is enormous. Although I see vultures soaring over the city, I was thrilled to see one this close.

Black Vulture

Bald Eagle!

Bald Eagle

This Harris's Hawk put on a lively flying demonstration.

Harris's Hawk

Notice the differing patterns on her wing feathers - this hawk is molting from juvenile to adult plumage.

Harris's Hawk

Harris's Hawk

The colorful American Kestrel is always a crowd-pleaser. These little falcons nest here in the city.  

Kestrel

NYC is also home to the fastest animal on the planet, the Peregrine Falcon.

Peregrine

This year, Raptor Fest included several birds I've never seen before, one of which was this gorgeous Aplomado Falcon.

Aplomado Falcon

And a Saker-Gyrfalcon hybrid.

Gyrfalcon hybrid

Gyrfalcon hybrid

The most unusual bird of the day had to be this African Crowned Eagle. Its size and presence were stunning, and everyone had to get pic!

African Crowned Eagle

African Crowned Eagle

Many of the birds on display were non-releasable due to injuries. This Eastern Screech Owl is blind in one eye and is in the care of Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR).

Blind Screech Owl

Many thanks to the NYC Urban Park Rangers, Bobby and Cathy Horvath from WINNOR, and all the falconers who shared their beautiful birds and made it such a fun and educational day.

See many more photos from this exciting day over on my Flickr page.

Previously.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Evening play time for Lower East Side hawk

One of the young red-tailed hawks featured in the previous post put on a playful show on a recent evening in East River Park.

Just as the sun was setting, I happened to spot the hawk high in a tree. I believe it is the larger of the two who performed the earlier sky dance, but I didn't see the second hawk to make a comparison.

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

After the sun slipped behind buildings, the hawk flew to a pile of bark chips.

Immature red-tail

It ignored all the people in the area, and I thought it might be looking for rats.

Immature red-tail

Immature red-tail

Attacking the mulch pile

Attacking the mulch pile

Instead, the hawk pounced on a chunk of wood and proceeded to play with it.

Red-tail playing with a bark chip

We've seen this many times before with young fledglings learning to catch prey.

Red-tail playing with a bark chip

Red-tail playing with a bark chip

Red-tail playing with a bark chip

After about 20 minutes of rousing stick play, the hawk settled down on an antenna with One World Trade in the background.

Red-tail and 1 World Trade

Dedicated to my father.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Young red-tailed hawks put on a spectacular aerial display over the Lower East Side

I came across two immature red-tailed hawks putting on a spectacular aerial display over the Lower East Side the other day.

I've seen Christo, Dora and Amelia each go talon-to-talon with hawks, Peregrines, and Kestrels, but I've never seen anything quite like this. The pair flew together, chased each other around some tall buildings, then dove at each other without actually touching.

Immature red-tails

Above, the hawk on the right is slightly bigger than the one on the left. It had a full crop at the time, making it look bulky. The hawk on the left had a darker head and more dark brown speckling on its legs. They both had bright yellow eyes.

Frolicking red-tails

Frolicking red-tails

Dance of the red-tails

Dance of the red-tails

Dance of the red-tails

Red-tails playing around

Sky dancers

Sky dancers

Wild things

Wild things

Wild things

Dance of the red-tails

Wild things

The hawks engaged in synchronized soaring and several tumbling displays. This went on for 15-20 minutes until this Peregrine appeared and broke up the party.

Peregrine

Fall raptor migration has begun, so we may see more hawks in the area over the next several weeks.

You can see many more photos of the hawks performing their acrobatics on my Flickr page.