Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Tompkins Square hawk family gathering

On a recent walk around the neighborhood, we heard some birds making a commotion, looked up, and spotted the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling perched on a rooftop.

The young hawk (now three months old) took in its surroundings from the high perch, then performed a few stretching exercises before it took off and disappeared over the buildings.

A short while later, we found it perched atop the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A, a favorite look-out spot for hawk parents, Christo and Amelia.

After a brief rest, the fledgling took off towards the park and we caught a nice view of it soaring high overhead.

To our surprise, the fledgling landed on the roof of the Christodora building on Avenue B, where its parents were also perched. The whole hawk family could be seen looking over Tompkins Square. In the photo below, Amelia is on the far left, the fledgling is to the right of her, and Christo is on the far right.

Here is a closer look at Amelia watching the fledgling frolic on the slanted roof. Its antics were reminiscent of those of the fledgling's half-sibling from 2015 who slid around on the dome of Most Holy Redeemer church.

This is a closer look at Christo who looks a little strange because he's going through his summer molt. The color on his head and shoulders looks washed out and he appears a bit scraggly, but he's fine.

Later, just before sunset, the fledgling settled into a tree for the evening. It appears to be doing very well, and looks healthy and on track to gain its independence soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Summer playtime for a young hawk

As summer rolls on, the red-tailed hawk family of Tompkins Square Park is taking things easy. Parents, Christo and Amelia, have been watching over their lone offspring as the fledgling spends more time outside the park. The young one is flying and hunting well, but still spends time playing and exploring its environment.

Early one morning, we found the fledgling playing with a piece of wood on the main lawn.


The fledgling also practiced hopping and balancing on a fence. Look how the house sparrows line up to watch the spectacle.


Zipping along East 7th Street...

The young hawk still has a wide-eyed "baby" face look.

When the hawk preens, we get a good look at its tail. Note the white tips on the feathers.

We caught the fledgling looking more like a fierce adult as it dove after some food.

The youngster is a really beautiful and colorful hawk. Note the heavy dark belly band and the dark speckles on the legs which look like diamonds.

When the hawk stretches, we can see the dark markings extend all the way down its flanks.

The afternoon sun highlights the warm peachy chest.

This is the same hawk in the same tree, but the lighting conditions changed dramatically, giving us an entirely different photographic image.

As the young hawk becomes more self-sufficient and independent, it will venture further away from the park, eventually dispersing to parts unknown. Late July/August is usually when this happens, so we treasure all the time we can spend with the fledgling before it embarks on its next adventure.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Tompkins hawklet learning to catch prey, taunted by squirrels

The Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling continues to do well and is quickly learning to hunt and catch prey. Below, the fledgling holds up a freshly-caught rat.

We've seen the fledgling catch rats and pigeons, but one thing it still needs to master is carrying its food up to a tree or safe place to eat. Below, the young hawk sits atop a pigeon in the middle of the park while people and dogs are nearby.

Everyone was respectful of the hawk in this instance, but the bird needs to learn to be more wary. As it was born in the middle of an urban area, it's accustomed to human activity and noise, so we need to ensure it has a safe environment in which to grow.

After eating its meal on the ground, the hawk flew low across the plaza...

...and landed on top of a trash can.

From there, it spied something interesting on the ground, and ventured back down to investigate.

Squirrels continue to tempt and taunt the young hawk, who'd love nothing more than to catch one, but the tricky rodents know how to elude capture. In this video, the hawk tried in vain to nab a squirrel, but they all easily slip away.


The squirrels continue to out-maneuver the hawk in this video.


As the fledgling is still a kid, it does cute kid things like playing with a pigeon feather.


There's something about seeing the hawk run across the grass that always amuses us.

Playing with sticks is good practice for nest-building and prey-catching.

Dead leaves also make fun playthings.

Tompkins Square is outfitted with many iron fences that make perfect perches for the hawks. Below, the fledgling practices keeping balance. With large talons, it must be harder than it looks.

Perching on the fences puts the hawks at eye-level with humans, bringing them into our realm.

Take care when walking through the park - there could be a raptor waiting for its close-up.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Tompkins hawk fledgling doing well, Christo and Amelia molting

We're entering the summer doldrums when hawk-watching gets a little dull. It's been hot, humid and cloudy for the last several days, which makes the air feel heavy and it can be tedious trying to find the hawks when they're most likely out of sight, keeping cool.

Early one morning, we found Christo drinking from a puddle in Tompkins Square Park.

He dipped his feet in the water a few times before flying up to the roof of the park offices.

On closer inspection, we see that Christo is going through his summer molt. The feathers on his head and face appear very white and he looks a little rough around the edges. This is perfectly normal and he'll likely look worse as he loses his old feathers and replaces them with bright new ones by fall.

Christo has always looked very pale as he molts, and he can look downright ghostly when the sun finds him in the shadows of the trees.

If you look closely, you can see the pigeon in his talons as he lifts off.

Despite molting, Christo is still a very handsome hawk.

Amelia is also molting, although she doesn't look as ragged as Christo. Below, you can see a lot of white feathers appearing around her face, but she still pretty much looks like her beautiful self.

Meanwhile, their fledgling is doing well and is still spending time in and around the park. It still has yellowish color on it's chest, but that will eventually fade to white. The dark brown belly band is one way you can identify the fledgling from its parents. along with the bright yellow eyes.

If you spot a hawk on the ground, it's likely to be the fledgling hunting, playing or just being curious. Christo comes to the ground to catch prey, but Amelia is not likely to be seen down on the grass or perched on a fence.

At this age, the fledgling is getting to know everything in its environment, including butterflies!

We love how colorful the red-tails are at this age.

And flexible!

It's been a tough season for this red-tailed hawk family and others around the city. We're hopeful this fledgling stays healthy and is able to survive on its own soon.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling learning to handle food-prep

The remaining red-tailed hawk fledgling from Tompkins Square Park seems to be doing well and has been very active exploring buildings and learning to handle its food.

Dad, Christo, still makes food deliveries, but we've also seen the young one catch its own rat.

Handling food in a tree is not as easy as it seems, though, as the young hawk has to learn to balance, eat and hang on to the food with its talons, all while the tree in which it's perched sways and moves in the wind. 

Several times, we've seen the food fall to the ground, prompting either Christo or the fledgling to retrieve it. Until now, we've seen the fledgling eat the food on the ground, which is not ideal, so we were happy to see it pick up its dropped food the other day and fly it to a tree for safe eating.

Looks like pigeon is on the dinner menu.

We watched as the fledgling plucked the pigeon before eating - another skill it has to master.

Winking with its nictitating membrane...

On another day, we watched the fledgling excitedly call after landing in a tree.

Check out the catch of the day!

It's still hard to believe the fledgling is not yet three months old as it can look so grown up and serious at times.

Then again, it reminds us it's still curious about everything it sees.

And, the young hawk has the table manners of a toddler. No chewing with mouth closed here!

A less flattering angle shows the last gulp, eye protected from those pigeon toes by the nictitating membrane.

Following up on a previous post, we heard back from the Parks Department and they confirm they are still using CO2 to control rats in Tompkins Square and are not using rodenticide. However, private properties all around the park and throughout the neighborhood and city are, so the hawks are always in danger of catching and consuming poisoned rats. If you see any dead rats on the streets or sidewalks, please report it to 311.