Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Cherry blossoms and brooding hawks in Tompkins Square

We're finally seeing some spring color in the city, and one of my favorite sights is the cotton candy pink blossoms of the cherry trees in Tompkins Square Park. Their appearance signals to me the arrival of all things sweet and fragrant.

 Note the amazing yoga pose of the woman in the above photo. I wish I could do that!

The cherry blossoms don't usually last long, and there is rain in the forecast for tonight, so relish them while you can.

As we enjoy watching all the flowers come to life around the park, red-tailed hawks, Christo and Amelia, are busy brooding eggs.

Christo and Amelia

Amelia appeared to lay an egg on March 13, and the window for laying additional eggs has now closed. The hawks usually lay up to three eggs, but we don't know how many the pair have this year. We will just have to wait and see what happens over the next several weeks.

If you are interested in seeing what goes on in a live red-tailed hawk nest, I always recommend tuning in to the Cornell Red Tail cam, which documents Big Red and Arthur in Ithaca, New York. Big Red laid her first egg of the season on March 26, a second on March 29, and a third is expected at any moment.

Here in NYC, we can observe Christo and Amelia as they come and go from the nest, taking turns incubating. Below, Amelia takes a break to do some stretching.

Amelia stretches

She always seems to be on the lookout for sticks she can collect and add to the nest.

Amelia collects a stick

Below, she breaks off a twig from a locust tree.

Amelia trims a stick

Amelia collects a stick

Amelia collects a stick

Christo's main job during this time is providing food for the both of them. Amelia prefers pigeon over rat, and I caught him preparing her a pigeon dinner earlier this week.

Christo serves up pigeon

Christo delivered it to the nest, but Amelia wasn't ready to clock out of her incubation shift. Below, Christo patiently waits while Amelia stays hidden behind some branches to the right of him.

Christo on the nest

When it became apparent Amelia wasn't going to get up, Christo took the pigeon away to a nearby tree where he finished it himself.



When he's not hunting and preparing food, Christo keeps a lookout over their territory from a number of favorite perches. Below, he sits atop the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A, where he has a view of the park.


Something caught his eye and he took off.


Christo continues to enchant me with his handsome hawk spirit.


As a bonus, here is a photo of a very friendly pigeon in the park. The distinctive coppery color of this bird is similar to the warm browns of the hawks, and this bird has gorgeous iridescent green feathers on its neck and a blazing orange eye. Look out for this beauty on the east side of the park.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Brood time for the hawks in Tompkins Square

As luck would have it, as soon as we published the previous post about being on egg watch in Tompkins Square, Amelia went and laid an egg. It looks like it happened either Friday night or Saturday morning, so we are safe to call it for March 13.

The hawks usually lay three eggs, but we have no idea what's going on up in the nest, so we will just have to wait and see. Going by the first egg date, we can expect a hatch in about six weeks, so around the end of April or first week of May. When that happens, we won't be able to see anything, but Christo will start bringing food to the nest. In the mean time, there won't be much for us to watch except for Christo and Amelia taking turns brooding.

Happy spring!

Amelia working on her nest

Friday, March 12, 2021

Playing the waiting game with the Tompkins Square hawk pair

We're still on egg watch for red-tails, Christo and Amelia, in Tompkins Square. The hawks appear to be pretty much done building their nest, so it's ready when ever they are.

I caught up with the pair a few times this last week and watched as they shared food, mated, and defended their territory against intruding young red-tails who are hanging around the area.

Below, Christo joins Amelia on a branch of one of the American Elms in the park.

Amelia and Christo

We've enjoyed a few warm sunny days this week and I love how the late afternoon sun brings out the orange tones in the hawks' plumage. Below, Amelia rests on a locust branch as the sun begins to set.


She's joined by Christo, who swoops in for some mating.

Sexy time for Christo and Amelia

Sexy time for Christo and Amelia

Sexy time for Christo and Amelia

Sexy time for Christo and Amelia

Sexy time for Christo and Amelia

Four seconds later:

Amelia and Christo

That is Amelia on the left and Christo on the right. You can see Amelia is significantly larger than him, and her coloring is also a bit darker.

Amelia looks to me like she could lay an egg any minute. For those keeping track, below are egg-laying dates from the last seven years, going back to Christo's first nest on the Christodora building.

  • 2020: March 4 - Christo and Amelia built their nest in a Honey Locust tree in Tompkins Square (same as this year)

  • 2019: March 13 - Christo and Amelia built their nest in a Ginkgo tree in Tompkins Square

  • 2018: April 20 - Christo and Amelia used the Ginkgo nest. The nesting season started late for the pair because Christo's first mate, Dora, had to be taken to a rehabber, and Amelia entered the scene in early April

  • 2018: April 3 - Christo and Dora built their nest in the Ginkgo tree and they were seen brooding and doing a nest-exchange the day before Dora was rescued, indicating they had an egg

  • 2017: March 14 - Christo and Dora built their nest in the Honey Locust tree (same as the current season)

  • 2016: Around March 20 - Christo and Dora had their nest in the Ginkgo

  • 2015: On or before March 26 - Christo and Dora hastily built their nest on a 12th floor air-conditioner of the Ageloff Towers at Avenue A and 3rd Street. This was after being evicted from the Christodora, where they attempted to rebuild their nest from the previous year

  • 2014: March 29 - To the delight and surprise of everyone, Christo and Dora settled in the neighborhood and built their nest on a 7th floor air-conditioner of the Christodora at Avenue B and 9th Street.

Discounting the year 2018, when the situation was abnormal for the hawks, they seem to be on schedule for egg laying any time before the end of March.

In the mean time, we've been able to observe Christo catching food for Amelia, which is one way they bond. Christo's favorite food is rat, but Amelia prefers pigeon, so it's been interesting to watch Christo work hard to obtain his mate's favorite dinner. Although Christo is an expert at catching rats, he's not as skilled at catching pigeons. Amelia, however, excels at catching pigeons off rooftops, and seeing her in action is pretty spectacular.

The other evening, I watched Christo take a dive at some pigeons on a rooftop from his perch atop the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church at Avenue A and 10th Street. He failed his first attempt, but then set his sight on a target within the park.

Christo sets his sight on a pigeon

Locking his gaze on the prey, he took off.


Christo shot down from the cross to the lawn north of the Temperance Fountain and nailed a pigeon on the ground.

Christo catches a pigeon

After a few seconds, he took off with the pigeon and flew it to a tree on the central lawn.

Christo catches a pigeon

He called to Amelia to come get her dinner, but she didn't immediately respond.

Christo catches a pigeon

Christo took the pigeon to several different trees within the park, continuing to call for Amelia, but she didn't answer. After a while, he started to eat the pigeon himself.

Christo calls for Amelia to come get dinner

Christo on his flag pole throne:


Christo posing in the late afternoon sun:



I still get excited when Christo flies right past me at eye-level.


As the sun went down, Christo hunted for rats from atop one of the street lamps in the park. He usually makes one last dinner run before dark.


Just as I was leaving the park for the night, I saw Amelia land on the cross of St Nicholas out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, Christo swooped in to mate with her. I was two blocks away when this happened.

Mating on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra

Three seconds later:  😄

Amelia and Christo

See more recent hawk photos here.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Christo and Amelia making final touches on nest

There's not much to report yet on red-tails, Christo and Amelia, in Tompkins Square. Their nest is nearly complete and they've been keeping close to the park and defending their territory against other hawks that fly through. 

Here is Amelia breaking a stick from a tree:

Amelia collecting sticks

Amelia collecting sticks

Amelia collecting sticks

Amelia collecting sticks

She flies a stick back to the nest:

Amelia with a stick

I've been seeing Amelia do most of the nest construction, but Christo works on it as well. As usual, he likes the seed pods from a favorite redwood tree. We saw him collect pods and add them to the nest last year in late January.


I'm not sure what the significance of the redwood pods are, but there is a theory they may be an insect repellent. Christo has taken the pods from the same tree each year except for 2015, when his nest was on Avenue A and 3rd Street - perhaps too far to carry the pods.


Here he is delivering the redwood pods to the nest.


One afternoon while nest construction was going on, I found a young Cooper's hawk hanging out on the other side of the park.

Cooper's hawk

A brave squirrel dashed across the branch right in front of the hawk. The squirrel is nearly as big as the hawk, so was not likely prey, but this was a bold move nonetheless.

(Photographer's note: there's always a perfectly misplaced branch to get in the way!)

Cooper's hawk and a squirrel

Here is a better view of the Cooper's hawk after it moved into the sun. Its crop is bulging, so it was likely chilling after a meal.

Cooper's hawk

After a while, the hawk took off, flying right over my head.

Cooper's hawk

Later, after nest construction was done for the day, Amelia rested in front of a waxing moon.

Amelia by moonlight

This evening, I watched Amelia sit in the nest well after dark, a sign that egg laying time is soon.