Thursday, July 29, 2021

Molting Christo dramatically scarfs down an entire rat

This last Wednesday evening, we found Christo, the red-tailed King of Tompkins Square Park, perched in one of his favorite trees. He's going through his summer molt, which makes him look kind of terrible.

Christo is missing a lot of feathers from his head and face, so he looks extremely pale and ragged. You can see the rough-looking area around his eye in the photo below.

For comparison, this photo was taken in February 2020, and shows how Christo normally looks. He usually appears very sleek and has a golden-brown head.

This photo is from February 2019 and shows his dark wings and belly band.

If we didn't know better, we might think this was an entirely different bird.

Despite the changing feathers, Christo still has the same angular facial shape, which is one of his distinctive features.

As Christo scratches. little tufts of downy feathers fly out.

As we watched, Christo suddenly dove off the branch and into some bushes about fifty feet away.

He returned with a small rat.

Back up on the branch, Christo quickly scarfed the rat down whole. He usually tears up the prey and takes several bites, but not this time.

Down it goes!

After eating, Christo looks especially haggard, but he's okay.

The small rat was only suitable as an appetizer, so Christo returned to the buffet for a second serving.

You can see in the photo above Christo has seven tail feathers with one partially growing in. He will have twelve tail feathers when molting is complete in another month or so.

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.