Thursday, April 28, 2016

Feeding time in Tompkins Square

With at least one hungry hatchling in the Tompkins Square hawk nest, dad Christo has more mouths to feed.  I found him Wednesday evening preparing dinner - a large rat - behind the park offices.

Christo with a rat

Sticking his tongue out...

Christo sticks his tongue out

Then it was off to deliver dinner to the nest.  He made sure to give me a nice close look at the rat as he flew past.

Christo with a rat

Christo with a rat

I had a hard time getting a good angle on the nest as the sun went down.  In a couple of weeks, it may be impossible to see due to leaves being in the way.  In the photo below, Christo stands guard while Dora does the feeding.  Her tail is just visible sticking out of the nest below the horizontal branch.

Feeding at the nest

To my surprise, Christo didn't react at all when this Peregrine falcon flew overhead.  It circled high above the nest a few times before drifting north.

After dinner service ended, Christo flew to his favorite perch on the flagpole where he was promptly mobbed by a blue jay.

Christo harrassed by a blue jay

Another day done.

Christo on his throne

Monday, April 25, 2016

Feedings commence at the hawk nest in Tompkins Square

This last Saturday (April 23), I caught Dora in what appeared to be the act of feeding at the nest.  Her back end stuck out of the nest and she did the telltale head-bobbing, indicating at least one egg has hatched.

Dora - first feeding

Meanwhile, Christo remained on guard at the nest.  At one point, he remained vigilant for a couple of hours.

Christo guards the nest

Dora eventually emerged to stretch, but did not fly off.

Dora stretches

Here is the nest from a different angle.  Christo is on the branch to the right and Dora's dark head is barely visible above the rim of the nest. 

Dora and Christo

Christo made several food deliveries to the nest.  Here, he grabs an adult starling from the ground.

Christo with a starling

Christo with a starling

On Sunday, he caught and delivered a baby starling.

Christo delivers a baby starling to the nest

Later in the day, I saw him take up another adult starling, then raided a blue jay nest.  He seemed to be focused on small prey.

Below, Christo removes what I thought were leftovers.

Christo clears food from the nest

It turned out he just needed to prepare the food a bit more, so he took it to a nearby tree, plucked the feathers, then took it back to Dora in the nest.

Christo with food

Christo with food

The two of them stayed on the nest for a really long time.  On Sunday, I didn't see Dora take a break until 7pm.

Dora & Christo

The proud papa.

Christo, king of the flagpole


Based on previous years, if we assume the first hatch was on April 23, we can estimate fledge time to be in 45-50 days, which would be around June 7-12. 

It will be interesting to see whether or not the ability to climb the branches of the tree will make a difference in the development of the young hawk(s) this time around.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hatch time in Tompkins Square

This last Saturday (April 23), feedings were witnessed at Christo and Dora's nest in Tompkins Square, so we can conclude at least one hawk egg has hatched.  Photos will follow, but I just wanted to get the news out.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hunting with Christo

I caught up with Christo the hawk in Tompkins Square late Sunday just after he and Dora made a nest-switch.  She'd been on break, and after she returned, Christo went hunting for dinner.

He started out at his usual perch atop the flagpole in front of the park offices.

Christo, king of the sky

After about 15 minutes, he took off towards me as I stood in the garden behind the offices.

The world on his shoulders

He appeared to employ a tactic I've seen him do a few times before.  He seems to know that I will stay still, so he came as close to me as possible, then flew inches over my head and landed on a fence directly behind me.


I think he uses me (and other observers) as shields so he can sneak up on what ever is behind me.  In this case, it was rats running around near a garbage can.  He landed on the fence with his back to me and didn't even glance my way - I took this to mean he trusts that I won't interfere.

Christo, ready to pounce

You can see the concentration on his face as he crouches like a cat.

Christo, ready to pounce

He did hop down to the ground, but what ever he was interested in got away.  He then turned his attention to an area on the other side of the garden where rats were rustling in the bushes.

Christo hunts for rats

Christo hunts for rats

Several rats ran along the fence, but Christo was unable to nab any of them.

Christo hunts for rats

Christo hunts for rats

At this point, there was quite a crowd of people around, which was probably too much for him to deal with, so he retreated to a tree. 

In the photo below, you can see his feathers are all swishy from sitting on eggs.

Christo looking for rats

When Christo is in hunting mode, you can really see it in his face.

Christo looking for rats

He then employed another tactic I've seen him do before.  As there were so many people blocking his path to the rats, he decided to clear the area.  He did this by flying back to the flagpole and luring all the spectators to the other side of the park offices.  Once the garden was clear, he quickly dove down to the area where everyone had been standing, and grabbed a rat.

I left him to eat in peace.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Chinatown and Tompkins Square hawk updates

Following the necropsy that was performed on the Chinatown hawk who died March 31, the specific rodenticides responsible for her death have been identified by the Department of Environmental Conservation:
Anticoagulant rodenticides (ppm, wet basis) in liver (NYSDEC - BAQS Shared Laboratory Facility):

Brodifacoum     0.247
Difethialone      0.129
Bromadiolone   0.044

NOT DETECTED (detection limit = 0.005 ppm): difenacoum, warfarin, diphacinone, chlorophacinone.
I knew next to nothing about rodenticide before this hawk died.  Since then, I've taken myself on a crash course which has been horrifying and depressing.  A Google search of any of these terms returns a tidal wave of results about dangers to wildlife and pets.

And why New York rejected the EPA ban on these poisons still boggles my mind.  If anyone can shed some light on this decision, I'd appreciate it.

In the mean time, the surviving male red-tail is still hanging around Collect and Columbus parks in Chinatown.  He has been spotted this last week with another hawk and it is presumed this could be his new mate. I haven't been able to put in too much time hawk-hunting this week, but I did look around the Lower East Side this morning and was surprised to come upon this juvenile red-tail.

Juvenile red-tail on the Lower East Side

It has a very white chest with a barely-there belly band. 

Juvenile red-tail on the Lower East Side

When I found it, the hawk appeared to be hunting around a playground near Madison and Catherine Streets.  This is just a short distance east of Columbus Park. 

Juvenile red-tail on the Lower East Side

Back in Tompkins Square, Christo and Dora are doing well with their nesting.  There's not much action to be seen at this time except nest-switches.

This is Christo surrounded by green buds.  Soon those leaves will be out and we'll have difficulty seeing the hawks in the trees.

Christo surrounded by green buds

Christo with a snack.


Dora on a break.




I'm guessing the eggs (assuming there's more than one) are due to hatch in a couple more weeks, around the end of April.  We may get a clue when Christo suddenly starts making a lot of food deliveries to the nest.

Morningside Hawks has a detailed and informative update of all the known Manhattan hawk nests.

Urban Hawks is also keeping track with a spreadsheet here.  We should be seeing the first hatches very soon.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chinatown hawk necropsy results and a surprise update

Today I received the results from the Department of Environmental Conservation of the necropsy that was done on the female Chinatown hawk who died March 31.

The verdict:  Poisoning - Anticoagulant rodenticide.

Further tests are being done to determine which chemicals were responsible for her death.  I'll post if/when I receive those results.

Some details from the necropsy report:
Beak soiled with blood/residue from last meal.  Massive poorly clotted subcutaneous hemorrhage along right wing, from shoulder to wrist.  Smaller foci of hemorrhage present at caudal margin of right breast and over right caudal aspect of the pelvis.  Otherwise in good flesh with large fat deposits (especially visceral).  Liver and kidneys are pale and the heart is devoid of blood.  Oviduct contains a cracked shelled egg.  Three other ova are very enlarged.  
A photo was included with the report, which is too graphic to post here.  It is available on request.

So, imagine my fury when I returned to Columbus Park today and found that the rat baiting is still going strong.  The most recent day poison was put out was April 9.  It seems to be happening on a weekly basis.


I was hoping that the male hawk would leave town after the death of the female, but he has established a territory and he's not giving it up.  He's been seen in Collect Pond Park in the week since the female's death.

Below is a photo of the Department of Health Building on Leonard and Centre Streets.  The middle air-conditioner is where the hawks were building their nest.  (Unfortunately, it blew down in last Sunday's wind storm.)  To my surprise, a local hawk-watcher was able to capture TWO hawks taking sticks to the air-conditioner this morning.

Photo credit:  Betsi Gertz

It looks like the male hawk has wasted no time finding another mate.  Normally, this would be encouraging news. However, the poison that killed his first mate is still all over the area.

I've heard the DOH keeps receiving complaints about rats, and this is why they're going on a baiting blitz.  Rats are a valid complaint and are definitely an issue that requires control.  But there are alternative (non-toxic) ways of doing this, such as using snap traps in place of poison.  The hawks themselves are excellent tools for rodent control and they're here free of charge!

Nothing will change if no one speaks up.  Hawks and other wildlife will continue to die horrible tortuous deaths as long as poison is allowed to continue.  Please send an email to Council Member Margaret Chin (, who represents the Lower East Side and Chinatown, and demand that poison bait boxes be replaced with snap traps.  Anticoagulant rodenticide is indiscriminate and inhumane.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Follow-up to my earlier rat poison post

Earlier this week, I posted about the rodenticide signs posted around Columbus Park.  I wondered how the chemical Difethialone, which is banned by the EPA for residential use, could be allowed in our public parks.

Only today, I found this press release from 2014 explaining that New York state rejected the ban on super-toxic rat poisons.  This likely explains why the Department of Health is able to use it, but this doesn't make it ok.

From the press release:
“The state’s own reports reveal that majestic red-tailed hawks and snowy owls continue to suffer tortuous deaths from these dangerous poisons, but the Department of Environmental Conservation has turned a blind eye to these needless deaths in favor of pesticide manufacturers,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s a range of safer, cost-effective alternatives available today, and no reason at all to leave the worst of the worst poisons on the market.”

Information on alternative non-toxic rat control can be found at the Safe Rodent Control Resource Center.

Raptors Are The Solution (RATS) is also a good resource for education and community outreach.

Rodenticide is a public health issue.  Please email Council Member Margaret Chin (, who represents the Lower East Side, and demand the city use alternative methods of rat control in our public parks.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Christo and Dora doing well in Tompkins Square

As it's nesting time, and Dora is hidden away in the nest, I haven't done much hawk-watching recently in Tompkins Square.  I did, however, spend some time with both her and Christo last Sunday.  There was a wind storm that morning and I was worried their nest might blow away, but everything was fine.

To the surprise of everyone watching, Christo came out of nowhere and caught a mourning dove in a tree near the nest.

Christo catches a mourning dove

He called to Dora to come get it, but Dora didn't budge from the nest.

Christo catches a mourning dove

One thing I've noticed over the last three years with this pair is they are a bit stubborn about giving up nest duties.  They each want to sit on the eggs and feed the babies.  When one parent comes to relieve the other, it seems there is always some reluctance to take a break.  They're very dedicated to their jobs.

Christo took the dove to the nest where Dora picked it up and flew it to a tree where she ate it in semi-privacy behind a leafy curtain.


After finishing, she took a short flight around the eastern side of the park.




Then she caught a little sun atop the cross at St Brigid's.



After only a few minutes, Dora returned to the nest.  In the photo below, Christo is still in there - the hawks completely disappear when they lay down inside.

Dora at the nest

After Dora hunkered down in the nest, Christo popped up.

Christo on the nest

He came out and went hunting for sticks in the nearby trees.  After the heavy wind in the morning, he did a little nest maintenance.



I wasn't the only one enjoying the hawks.  This guy was happy to point them out to his dog.  This is why I love Tompkins Square.

Looking at the hawks