Thursday, May 19, 2022

Tompkins hawk chicks are a month old and are changing fast

The Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks are growing fast, and are now able to stand and look over the side of the nest. Their dark brown flight feathers are growing in on their wings, but they still have downy white heads and bodies.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling

The chicks are a month old now and are starting to get that serious adult look.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling looking serious

In the photo below, the chick on the left appears to be older than the one on the right, who still has more down on his/her wings.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestlings

The chicks are starting to show the peachy color on their upper chests that will distinguish them for the next few months.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling flapping its wings

Taking a look at the wings, you can see the primary flight feathers growing out, and look like paint brushes. The chick will preen away the feather covering, allowing the full feather to unfurl.

Wing feather development detail

You can learn more about feather structure and development in this article on Cornell's Bird Academy site.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling stretching its wings

Looking at the top of the wing, you can see how much down still covers them. The chick will preen that away as the flight feathers grow longer.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks

Mom Amelia feeds the three kids.

Amelia feeding three chicks

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestlings looking over nest

After dinner, one of the chicks takes in the view.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling looking over nest

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling looking straight at us

Amelia leaves the nest, giving the chicks room to spread out and move around.

All three Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks

This is a nice view of the down still on the wings of one of the chicks.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling with downy wings

After a meal and a nap, it's time for exercise.

Downy red-tailed hawk nestling flapping its wings

I have wings!

Compare the photo above with the one below, which was taken a week earlier when the chick was still mostly downy, and the flight feathers were just beginning to grow.

Fuzzy red-tailed hawk nestling

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling looking cute

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk bobblehead

The appearance of the chicks will change quickly now. They will soon lose all the fuzzy down and should start exercising their wings more. The next step for them will be exploring the branches outside the nest. Until then, we will enjoy their babyish cuteness while it lasts.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling still has a baby face

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick pics

It's been just over three weeks since the first red-tailed hawk chick hatched in Tompkins Square Park, and they're finally getting big enough to be seen from the ground. They're growing fast and already have pin feathers on their wings and tails, but still have the fuzzy white bobblehead look.


Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling showing some wing.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling.

Check out the pin feathers on the tail. They look like little paint brushes.

Pin feathers on red-tailed hawk chick tail.

Getting a clear view of the chicks has been a challenge because of all the sticks poking up from the nest.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling stretching its wings..

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling stretching its wings..

This nestling has a crop as big as its head. They've been eating well.

Pin feathers on the wings of a red-tailed hawk chick.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk nestling.

Mom Amelia gets ready to feed the three chicks. Christo has also been feeding the kids when Amelia is on break.

Amelia feeding her chicks.

Amelia feeding her three chicks.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick gulps down lunch.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick gulps down lunch.

This one took a few minutes to gulp down a huge chunk of pigeon.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick gulps down lunch.

Amelia and one of her chicks.

Amelia and two of her chicks.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick.

Well, hello there...

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chick.

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks with mom Amelia..

Amelia and two of her chicks.

This photo is from a week ago, and you can see how much the feathers on the wings have grown since then (see top photo for comparison).

Stretch those tiny wings!

A note about photography:  Most of these photos were taken from 200 feet away, with the nest being approximately 60 feet up in a tree. Normally, I would say the photographer should be further away, but in this setting, which is in the middle of an urban park, that's not really possible, and the birds are tolerant enough not to be disturbed at this distance. However, there are other nests around the city where the hawks are much more sensitive to human presence (even just eye contact) and will not tolerate people in the vicinity. Take care to be aware of the environment and the particular situation. I know of at least two hawk nests that were abandoned this year due to human disruption and harassment.

Christo and Amelia are exceptionally tolerant of human activity, and it's easy to forget they are wild birds. They're not tame, and will not land on your arm or be fed. As long as we do not interfere with what they are doing, they will continue to live among us, allowing us to observe these intimate moments and marvel at their activities.

People often ask me about using a drone to get closer looks at the nest. Do not do this. Drones are illegal in Manhattan, and can only be flown in a select few locations in the city. You can find more information about New York drone laws here. Regardless of the legality, flying a drone anywhere near a nest causes great stress on the birds and can lead to injury if the bird decides to defend itself, or leave its chicks. In 2016, I was horrified to see a famous YouTuber fly his drone right up to Dora when she was on her nest with chicks. The Urban Park Rangers were summoned, but the YouTuber took off just before they arrived. In the footage he later posted to his channel, he removed Dora's audible screams and inserted thought bubbles intended to be humorous. Personally, I found it sickening. It was done for the sole purpose of generating views and comments, never taking into account the consequences of his actions.

Last year, I witnessed a drone harassing Christo as well as a local family of kestrels. The New York drone law says to call 911 if you see a drone flying in the city. If you see one harassing birds and you think calling 911 is too extreme, call 311 and report it to the Urban Park Rangers.

Finally, please take a look at Audubon's Guide to Ethical Bird Photography, which provides helpful advice about what to avoid when observing birds. We're extremely fortunate to have hawks nesting so close to us here in the city and as long as we show them respect, we can continue to enjoy them.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Spring Bird Migration 2022 - Part 1

Spring bird migration is well underway across NYC and a great variety of colorful travelers are stopping in to rest and refuel at our urban green spaces. Below are a few highlights seen around town so far.

Yellow-rumped warbler:
 
Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Palm warbler:
 
Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Northern parula:
 
Northern parula

Northern parula

Blue-gray gnatcatcher:
 
Blue-gray gnatcatcher

Rose-breasted grosbeak:
 

Rough-winged swallow:
 
Rough-winged swallow

Field sparrow:
 
Field sparrow

Chipping sparrow:
 
Chipping sparrow

Eastern towhee:
 
Eastern towhee

Check out BirdCast for current information about bird migration that is useful for planning bird-watching excursions. You can also enter your city/area on the Migration Dashboard to see how many birds are passing through, and get an idea of what species are expected to be migrating.