Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Bidding farewell to the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledgling

As we near the end of August, it's time to bid farewell to the Tompkins Square Park red-tailed hawk fledgling. At four months old, the hawk is self-sufficient and ready to embark on a life of its own.
Our last confirmed observation of the fledgling in the neighborhood was on August 18. It may still be in the area, or it may have decided to seek its fortune beyond the city. It's natural for the young hawk to disperse and migrate away from its birthplace, but to what location or how far away, we have no idea. We do know its parents, Christo and Amelia, have done their best to raise their offspring in an extremely difficult environment.
This is the fledgling atop St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A on July 27. At the time, it was actively hunting pigeons that were perched on rooftops across the street.
This is the fledgling on the church again on August 3. The church cross became a favorite perch for the young hawk.
One distinguishing field mark for this hawk is the trio of dark brown speckles on its upper left chest. This is not 100% reliable as the feathers move around, but the trail of dark spots is fairly consistent in the following photos.
A year from now, when this hawk goes through its first molt, it will lose all its juvenile feathers, take on its adult plumage, and will look completely different.
On August 15, we observed the fledgling on a much higher perch, the cross of Most Holy Redeemer church on E 3rd Street.
Just when we thought that might have been the last glimpse of the fledgling, we saw it fly to the roof of the Christodora building two days later on August 17. It stayed up there for over an hour, calling to Christo, who was perched in a tree within the park.
With dad in sight, the fledgling continued to make food-begging calls, but Christo didn't respond. You're on your own now, kid!
The fledgling obliged us with a closer look when it came down and perched on the cross of St Brigid's church on Avenue B.
Still screaming at Dad:
Without much warning, the fledgling took off and flew towards us. This particular individual has been notably quick with its take-offs compared to previous fledglings, who often give more warnings and clues that they're about to take flight.
We've noted this hawk being very quick and stealthy, which bodes well for its future as a successful raptor.
Our last confirmed sighting (to date) of the fledgling was August 18 when it perched on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra late on a hazy evening.
2021 proved to be a rough season for this hawk family, as they began with three chicks and ended with one survivor. After the success of 2020 when Christo and Amelia successfully fledged three offspring, we had high hopes for another happy year, but that was not to be. Hawks and other raptors have a low survival rate (around 25%) their first year, so we are grateful to know this individual has made it this far, and wish it the best of health and fortune in the next stage of its life.

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