Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A successful nesting season for a red-tailed hawk family in Queens

Back in May, the city was hot, humid, and suffering through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being outdoors was essential for maintaining my physical and mental health, but some parts of the city, like my local Tompkins Square Park, were too crowded for my comfort. Although I was excited to see the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks thriving, I felt I couldn't spend as much time with my hawk family as in years past, especially on weekends when the park was especially busy.

A hawk-watcher contacted me and suggested I visit a red-tailed hawk family in Queens that had just hatched eggs. I was assured the location was in a large open area with plenty of space for safe and easy social distancing, so I decided to give it a try.

I ventured out there on May 2 and was delighted to find two nestlings.

Red-tailed hawk chicks

One of them stood up and stretched, revealing the first pin feathers growing in on the tips of its wings.

Red-tailed hawk chick

Mama hawk made a fly-by.

Adult red-tail in Queens

She soon brought some food to the nest. Two little fuzzy white heads can barely be seen behind the sticks.

Food delivery

Later, Dad paid a visit and then took off. If you look closely, you can see there are actually three tiny white heads in the nest.

Dad, Mom and 3 kids


Mr Red-Tail

Mom feeding lunch to the chicks:

Feeding time

Feeding time

Mom and 2 kids

I visited again a week later on May 9 to find all three chicks were clearly visible and one of them had some very advanced feather development.

Red-tail trio

Red-tail trio

I went back again on May 16 to find Mom still feeding the chicks, who now had dark feathers on their backs and wings, as well as a couple of inches of tail feathers.

Red-tailed hawk siblings

All three looked great.

Red-tailed hawk siblings

Returning on May 22, the oldest chick was really starting to look like an adult and practiced flapping its wings. It wouldn't be long until fledge time.

Red-tailed hawk family

By the time I returned on June 13, the chicks had already fledged, but were still in the immediate area. This one stared me down from its perch on a high ledge.

Red-tail fledgling

It was a very hot day, so this fledgling took a nap in the shade.

Red-tail fledgling napping on an i-beam

I looked around and found one of the other fledglings lounging on the top of a light fixture. I wouldn't have seen it up there if it didn't raise its head.

Red-tail fledgling lounging on a light fixture

People who live and work in the area told me a pair of hawks has been nesting here for years and they are local celebrities. It's always great to discover wildlife succeeding in the city, and I'm really glad to have been able to see this red-tailed hawk pair successfully raise a trio of fledglings this season.

You can see more photos of this hawk family on my Flickr page.

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