Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hawk in transition

While walking past Seward Park tonight, some angry robins alerted me to the presence of a hawk.  Sure enough, in a tree right over the sidewalk near the fountain, a red-tail perched.

Notice anything interesting about this bird?

Hawk in transition

It has a beautiful eye color, not quite as bright yellowish as a fledgling, but not dark brown like an adult.

If you look closely at the tail, you can see a brown striped baby feather on the left and a red adult feather on the right.

Hawk in transition

This is not a great shot, but we can see the tail better. There are clearly two or three striped juvenile feathers, three full adult red feathers, and several more growing in.

Hawk in transition

A full hawk tail should have twelve feathers.

Hawk in transition

I'm not an expert, but I'm guessing this hawk is just over a year old and going through its first molt.

So, who is this bird?  Where did it come from?  Generally, hawks migrate through the area in winter, so seeing a juvenile like this in summer seems unusual.  Could this be a fledgling born in the city last year?  Unfortunately, it's impossible to know.

Over the last few weeks, I've seen a juvenile red-tail flying around SoHo, just below Houston, and as far west as Thompson Street.  I have no idea if this is the same bird, but it's possible.  I really wish we had a way of identifying these individuals so we could track them around the city and beyond.  I'd love to know if hawks born here migrate elsewhere, or stay in the area. I'd also like to know if the established adults are in any way tolerant of the presence of their previous offspring.

If anyone has further knowledge or theories, please let me know.

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