Thursday, May 28, 2020

All three Tompkins Square hawk chicks have branched

All three Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks are now branching, exploring the area of the tree outside their nest. This has enabled us to get a better look at them.

Below, one of the chicks peeks out from the leaves below mom, Amelia.

Tompkins Square red-tail chick and mom Amelia

Tompkins red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Earlier today, I was able to get several photos showing the most adventurous of the chicks as it stretched its wings on a high branch of the tree.

Look at that wingspan!

LTompkins red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

Tompkins Square red-tail chick branching

I was able to tell the siblings apart for a few days, but now that their feathers and features are changing rapidly, it's hard to tell who is who. There seems to be one who is older, but I do not believe that one was the first to venture out of the nest. Back in 2018, the younger of two nestlings was the first to fledge the nest. The hawks will fledge when they're ready, and each individual is different, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens next.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Tompkins Square hawk chicks are branching

Just as I was getting ready to walk out of Tompkins Square this afternoon, I turned around and caught some hawk action up at the nest.

One of the chicks was staring me down, beckoning me back.

After hatching in early April, the chicks are now about six weeks old and are looking more like adults each day.

All three have been doing a lot of jump-flapping and are looking great.

It's a little hard to see in this photo, but all three chicks have peachy yellow coloring on their chests and their heads are quickly turning from white to brown.

The nestling on the left looked very serious as it practiced flapping its wings.

Note how the chick is looking intently at the branch sticking out directly in front of it.

With a determined hop, the chick jumped up to the branch above the nest.


The chick looked around, taking in the new perspective.

After it was confident on its new perch, the young hawk jumped down and back up to the branch a few more times.

Branching is the first step before fledging the nest, which should be soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The bigger they get, the harder they are to see

Things are changing quickly in Tompkins Square Park - since last week, the red-tailed hawk chicks have nearly grown up, and the leaves of the tree that hosts their nest have grown to obscure the view. Although the nestlings are active and flapping their large wings, it's getting harder to see them behind curtains of leaves.

These photos were taken today and you can see how the chicks are nearly full-grown. They have dark brown wings, speckled legs, their tail feathers are growing in, and their eyes are minty green. Their heads are still mostly white and downy.

All three chicks are close together in the nest, but they are easily hidden. It's hard to see all three at once.

What do those beautiful eyes see?

In the photo below, you can see the flight feathers on the wings are almost completely grown in. 

I've not been keeping track of developmental dates this season, but the chicks should start branching soon and, after that, will be ready to fledge.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Happy yellow birds and risks faced during migration

I didn't expect to be able to observe very many birds this spring migration season because of travel restrictions, so I'm amazed at the variety I have been able to see right here within the confines of the city.

My favorites are the yellow birds. A visit from a happy little ball of sunshine takes all the stress away.

Like this Prairie Warbler:

Prairie warbler

My day can only improve after seeing this little guy.

Prairie warbler

Palm Warbler:

Palm warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler:

Black-throated green warbler

Yellow Warbler, the definition of a happy little yellow birb:

Yellow warbler

Common Yellowthroat:


She's not all yellow, but this female American Redstart sports distinctive golden patches on her sides and tail.


Magnolia Warbler:

Magnolia warbler

Yellow-Breasted Chat:


Rivaling the Yellow Warbler in its yellowness is the American Goldfinch:


The Northern Parula has a bright yellow patch on its throat and is one of the more colorful warblers.

Northern parula

No yellow on this male Black-Throated Blue Warbler, but the sight of him still made my day.


A lot of attention is paid to colorful warblers as they pass through the city because they really are exciting to see, but I also enjoy the arrival of other types of birds like this Eastern Kingbird, who was feasting on a cloud of tiny flying insects.

Eastern Kingbird

Flying over the Kingbird was this Black-Crowned Night Heron. I caught one prowling for rats in Tompkins Square Park back in the summer of 2017.

Black-crowned night heron

Observing all these birds as they migrate north to their breeding grounds has been essential for me staying mentally and emotionally balanced during this stressful time. I am not alone in feeling this way, so it's heartbreaking to know how perilous this journey is for many of them, especially as they pass through the city.

This week, one particular building in Manhattan has made news headlines due to the number of fatalities birds have suffered as they collide with its ultra-reflective glass windows. These news outlets are running the story:

New York Post



Unfortunately, the building in the news is not the only one that poses a danger to migrating birds. Every window or surface that reflects the sky is a potential risk to birds who may not see it and fly straight into it. Last December, New York City Council passed legislation requiring all new construction (over a specified height) use bird-friendly design. However, this doesn't apply to pre-existing buildings.

So, what can we do?

An easy fix for windows is to use bird-friendly window films and decals. They are inexpensive and can be found online here.

If we all work together, we can continue making NYC a safe and welcoming stopover for all the happy little rays of sunshine that continue to thrill and amaze us as they press on with their journeys north. If you need help spotting birds from your window, West Side Rag offers a guide to birding from home.

Many more happy bird photos to come...!