Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Three red-tail chicks confirmed for Tompkins Square

Three chicks are confirmed for Tompkins Square red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia.

The photo below (taken yesterday) shows one chick looking towards the camera, a second chick head to its right, and - get out your magnifying glass - a third white head barely visible behind the sticks to the left of the center chick. Amelia is on the far right. The last time Tompkins saw three hawk chicks was back in 2016.

Tompkins Square red-tail chick

Tompkins Square red-tail chick

Tompkins Square red-tail chick

The nestlings are already stretching their wings, so I hope they show us more of themselves soon.

Tompkins Square red-tail chick

Amelia is an extremely dedicated mom, having spent the last several weeks in the nest incubating eggs and subsequently sheltering her chicks. I've barely seen her out of the nest at all, but I caught her taking a short break yesterday when she perched on the cross of St Brigid's church.

Amelia takes a break from nest duties

After spending so much time in the cramped nest, I imagine stretching out like this feels really good.




Even on break, Amelia doesn't go far, staying close enough to keep the nest within sight. Below, she perches in a tree within the park.


Meanwhile, Christo has taken to hunting rats around the dog run now that there are no dogs in there to pose a threat. The dog run has been temporarily closed due to social distancing rules, and it's been interesting to see Christo adapt to this change in his environment. Normally, this is not a safe area for him to be, but he's now taking advantage of it being available to him.

Christo on the prowl for rats

He quickly caught a rat and delivered the fatal neck bite.

Christo finishes off a rat

Christo prepares to take a rat to his kids

Not wasting any time, he flew the rat to the nest where Amelia served it up to the kids. Dinner delivery accomplished, Christo took a little break himself.

Christo and the American flag

Monday, April 27, 2020

Two chicks confirmed so far for Tompkins Square red-tails

The red-tailed hawk chicks in Tompkins Square are getting big enough for us to see them from the ground. This afternoon, one of them gave us a wave as mom Amelia looked on.

Red-tailed hawk Amelia and her chick in Tompkins Square

Hello, world!

Red-tailed hawk Amelia and her chick in Tompkins Square

You can get an idea of the nestling's size below. It is covered in white down and has yet to show any pin feathers.

Red-tailed hawk Amelia and her chick in Tompkins Square

There is a second chick barely visible behind the sticks to the right of the one who is standing up.

Red-tailed hawk Amelia and her chick in Tompkins Square

Red-tailed hawk Amelia and her chick in Tompkins Square

Red-tailed hawk Amelia and her chick in Tompkins Square

Red-tailed hawk Amelia and her chick in Tompkins Square

I believe there is a third chick, so we will just have to wait a little longer for confirmation. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Tompkins red-tails Christo and Amelia doing well, a note about drone photography

Tompkins Square red-tails, Christo and Amelia, continue to thrive and are caring for at least one chick in their nest. It's still too early to be able to see much from the ground, but we have been observing both parents bring food to the nest and go through the movements of feeding little ones.

Below, Amelia serves up a rodent.

Amelia - first feeding

This has been a typical scene - Amelia bends down into the (deep) nest to feed while Christo keeps watch close by.

Christo and Amelia - first feeding

After serving dinner to the family one recent evening, Christo went on his usual dinner-hunting routine. This often begins with him perching on the flag pole where he has a good view of his favorite rat spots.

Christo on his throne

Christo on his throne in Tompkins Square

Something catches his eye and he takes off.

Christo takes off

Rat time! Rats start getting active around sunset, so Christo usually makes a dinner run around that time. I've also seen him catching rats well after the sun has gone down. The lights in the park may help him see in the dark.

Christo catches a rat

As we all await news of the chick(s), I've had reports of someone flying a drone over the nest. This is NOT OK. Not only is it illegal to fly a drone in Manhattan, it is highly unethical to subject the birds to this stress, especially during nesting season.

In 2016, I caught someone harassing Dora with a drone as she screamed and mantled her chicks in the nest. I called the NYC Urban Park Rangers, who responded right away, but not in time to confront the done operator. says to call 911 to report anyone using a drone. Considering our current situation with the pandemic and the burden on emergency services, I would recommend calling 311 to report any drones and let them make any further decisions. Also notify the Urban Park Rangers.

It is illegal to fly a drone in NYC Parks, except for these specific areas, none of which are in Manhattan:
  • Calvert Vaux Park, Brooklyn
  • Marine Park, Brooklyn
  • Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
  • Forest Park, Queens
  • La Tourette Park (Greenbelt), Staten Island
 More info can be found here.

Info on New York drone laws can be found here.

Aside from the legality of flying drones in the city, it is irresponsible and unethical to subject wildlife to the stress. The hawks may see the drone as a predator or invader in their territory and could either attack it, or be frightened by it. If your drone has a view of the hawks, the hawks can most definitely see the drone.

This Audubon article (Drones and Bird Photography: Why It's Just Not Worth It) lays out why it's a bad idea to use a drone to photograph birds. From the article:
. . . for many accessible wild animals living in close proximity to people, drones can be even more frightening than we are. This is especially true for wild birds that respond to drones as they would to threatening predators. This is why drones should never be flown over nesting birds for photography.

Every birder and photographer should read Audubon’s Guide to Ethical Bird Photography. A few points worth repeating here are:

  • Do not use drones to photograph birds, especially at their nests. Although drones can be useful when working with researchers and biologists to document bird populations for science (such as island nesting colonies), drones in general can be very disruptive to birds. They are also illegal in national parks and some state parks.
  • Never use drones to photograph nests, as they can cause injury and stress to the nestlings and parents. 
  • Use a telephoto lens and maintain enough distance to allow your subject to behave naturally. 

City hawks may be living among humans, but they are not tame, nor are they immune to human disturbance. Any stress can impact the health and well-being of the adults as well as young. Here is an interesting scientific paper on the impact of unmanned aircraft systems on wildlife. From the paper:
. . . when unmanned aircraft systems (UAS ) perform direct and too close approaches to animals or sensitive structures such as nests, they can evoke more disturbances to wildlife. Therefore, we recommend that UAS flights are avoided unless they constitute the least invasive option for necessary wildlife studies, and discouraged if they are performed just for leisure purposes such as flying or filming.

There are currently no scientific studies being conducted with any of the nesting hawks in the city, so there is no reason to be using a drone.

As a reminder, How Close is Too Close to Our Urban Hawks?

We love our hawks and want to continue observing them while keeping them safe.

Christo on his golden throne in Tompkins Square

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Hatch time for red-tails Christo & Amelia in Tompkins Square

We finally observed what appeared to be two feedings for red-tails Christo and Amelia today in Tompkins Square. Christo delivered food to the nest, and Amelia seemed to tear pieces off and feed at least one hatchling deep in the nest. We're not sure when exactly the hatch occurred, but today was the first day an obvious feeding took place. See the video below:

There's no way to know yet how many chicks there may be, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 10, 2020

This week with red-tailed hawks Christo & Amelia in Tompkins Square

As we are staying at home as much as possible, I have not been able to spend as much time with our local red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, as much as I usually do, but I am still able to check on them regularly while practicing social distancing. Sometimes, this means spending only a few minutes with them at a time, but even that is enough to lift my spirits and keep me mentally grounded during this extremely stressful time.

I realize not everyone is able to visit the hawks, so I hope posting photos and updates is of some comfort. They are living each day as it comes, and they give me hope that things will eventually get better.

Below is Amelia peeking out of the nest. You can see the green leaf buds of this locust tree are starting to open around the nest.  Soon, she'll have a curtain of leaves for shade and privacy.

Amelia peeking out of her nest

Amelia standing up to look at something in the distance:

Amelia on her nest

Amelia and Christo on the nest:

Amelia and Christo

This is the hawks performing a nest-exchange where Christo comes in to brood the eggs while Amelia gets a break to fly around and get some exercise.

Amelia and Christo

Here is Amelia in a nearby tree stretching her wing. You can also see her left foot stretched out below the wing, as well as her tail fanned out behind it.

Amelia stretching

Stretching from another angle:

Amelia stretching

Another pose in the routine:

Amelia stretching

I wish I could do this with my neck!

Amelia practicing yoga

How many out there can scratch their cheek with their foot without the assistance of hands?

Amelia scratching

All pretty now.


Yoga session over, Amelia heads back to the nest.



When she arrives, she brings in a fresh sprig of green locust buds.

Amelia brings a fresh bud of leaves to the nest

Christo gets up off the eggs so Amelia can resume brooding.

Amelia and Christo

Egg-sitting time over, Christo goes on a dinner run. He begins his hunting procedure by perching on a lamp post to get a view of an area populated by rats.

Christo atop a street lamp

He dives after one, but missed this time.

Christo diving for prey

Christo spends the rest of the evening hunting rats from another lamp post.

Christo hunting at sunset by lamp light

As the sun set, it became too dark for me to get decent photos, but Christo was successful catching a rat from this perch.

Christo hunting at sunset by lamp light

Dinner served, he went off to roost for the night.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Red-tailed Hawk Christo Observes #ClapBecauseWeCareNYC in Tompkins Square

Every evening at 7pm, the city erupts with loud cheering, horn-honking, whistling and the banging of pots and pans as residents give thanks to healthcare and other essential workers who are risking their lives to make sure we are all safe and the city still functions during this global COVID-19 pandemic. You can follow the phenomenon at #ClapBecauseWeCare and #clapbecausewecareNYC.

Last night, I was in Tompkins Square Park with red-tailed hawk, Christo, as 7pm rolled around and loud church bells sounded the start of the cheer. In the video below, all the sound is from the streets surrounding the park. It was much louder in person, and very moving.

As most of us are cooped up at home the majority of the time these days due to PAUSE, the daily cheer not only reminds me of all the work being done by doctors, nurses, EMTs, transit workers, delivery people, grocery store workers, pharmacists, drivers, police and postal workers, but also that I live in a wonderful community with neighbors who care. It's heartwarming and gives me hope.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

New female red-tailed hawk in Washington Square

No sign of a hatch yet for red-tails Amelia and Christo in Tompkins Square Park, but there's some good news over at neighboring Washington Square.

In my previous post, I relayed the sad news that the resident female of WSP disappeared on March 26 and was presumed dead, but not to give up hope for the breeding season. As predicted, a new female hawk has arrived and has been mating with the male. This bodes well for them, but we will still have to wait and see if they choose to use the existing nest.

I paid a brief visit to WSP Sunday evening just before sunset and found the male perched on the cross on the south side of the park.

Washington Square male red-tail

Washington Square male red-tail

He soon took off and flew right past me, allowing me to get a good look at him.

Washington Square male red-tail

Washington Square male red-tail

After sailing past me, he flew up to a roof on the west side of the park where the new female was waiting.

Washington Square red-tail pair

Washington Square red-tail pair

Washington Square red-tail pair

Now we can confirm who is who!

Washington Square red-tail pair

Washington Square red-tail pair

After the male took off, the female followed, and this was the only photo I could get of her in the sunlight. She had a full crop, so must have eaten not long before.

Washington Square female red-tail

I didn't get any close-ups of this female hawk, so haven't been able to study her enough yet, but she gives me the impression of being on the small side. By contrast, Amelia in Tompkins Square is a large hawk and this one seems more petite. Her eyes appeared light-colored, but I couldn't really tell given the bad lighting conditions.

For now, we have more questions than answers about this mystery female...

Washington Square female red-tail

The live webcam is still disabled for this pair, so I hope it does get turned on again if they start using the old nest.

If you would like to tune in to a live hawk nest, I recommend Cornell's Red-tail cam, which is in Ithaca, New York. Big Red and Arthur are currently brooding eggs, so there should be chicks in the next couple of weeks.

The only live NYC bird cam I know of at the moment is the 55 Water Street Peregrine Falcon cam. The falcon pair are also brooding eggs, so we have some good things to look forward to later this spring.