Thursday, May 25, 2017

This week's Tompkins Square hawk update

It's been a fairly quiet nesting season for our Tompkins Square hawks.  With just one nestling, there hasn't been much activity up in the nest besides feeding, a bit of wing flapping, and sleeping.  I have to wonder if the single nestling is less inclined to move around since there are no siblings to compete for food and space.  This time last year, there was a lot more action with three hawklets playing around in the nest in the ginkgo tree near the E 8th Street entrance to the park.

We've also had strange weather this year, which has affected both the birds and this photographer.  When it's rainy and dark, I can't see the nest very well, and when it's blazing hot, the nestling keeps hunkered down in the nest.

This photo was taken May 19. 

Red-tail nestling

I've been asked if the baby hawk has a name.  Names are not usually given to the babies, but I could call this one "Ten" as it's Christo and Dora's tenth kid. 

Below, Dora and the hawklet share a serene moment.

Nestling and mom

May 21:

Tompkins Square nestling

The tail feathers look to be a couple of inches long.  In about three weeks, that tail and the wings should be full size.

Tail feathers

This baby has displayed some impressive eating skills.  Dora is still tearing food up into little bits and feeding them to the nestling, but the little one has more than once been seen swallowing giant pieces of meat.  The one below was as big as the baby's head and it took 10-15 minutes to swallow.

When lunch is as big as your head

After eating a whole Thanksgiving dinner in one sitting, the hawklet slept the rest of the afternoon, then roused itself to waddle around the edge of the nest just before sunset.

Tompkins Square nestling

Meanwhile, dad Christo has been busy keeping the family fed.  With only one big mouth to feed this season, he's not been as crazy with the hunting as in past years.  He seems much more relaxed this time around.


Tools of the trade...

Tools of the trade

...and this is what those tools can do.  Christo started out on the fence, flew across the hockey area, snatched a sparrow out of a tree on the 10th Street side, then flew it back to the fence.  This all took about four seconds.

Christo catches a sparrow

He doesn't usually waste his time on tiny sparrows, but this is perfectly sized for baby food.

Christo with a sparrow

While on another hunting run, Christo paused on a fence near the Temperance Fountain to preen.  There were kids playing in the playground and people sitting on benches just a few feet away, but he felt comfortable enough to do this. 

Christo preens

Dora, on the other hand, is much more wary.  She observed the activity from a high branch.

Dora looking pretty

On Sunday, Christo and Dora briefly perched together.  You can see the difference in their size and coloring (Christo is on the left, Dora is on the right).

Christo and Dora

Later, Christo posed on a lamp post as the sun went down...

Christo in the evening

...and on his golden flagpole.


King of the sky.


Around 6:30pm On Wednesday, May 17, a big branch came crashing down from the tree that houses the hawk nest. The branch broke off the trunk on the NW side of the tree and landed in the enclosed grassy area. Both Christo and Dora had been perched in the tree and when the branch fell, they flew to a neighboring tree and turned back to watch the nest. There was nothing they could do and they were clearly shaken up. After a while, Christo went about his business looking for food, but Dora remained glued to her spot and didn't move. Even when Christo returned around 7:30pm to feed the baby, she remained where she was. I'd like to thank the thoughtful woman who climbed over the fence and searched the fallen branch for any trapped/injured animals (and people!). Fortunately, there were no casualties.

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