Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk antics

This nesting season is proving to be a successful one for our Tompkins Square Park red-tailed hawks. The three fledglings continue to explore the park, chase squirrels, and practice their impressive swooping skills. Yesterday morning, one cruised past my ankles and dodged through a maze of pedestrians and cyclists as it stealthily skimmed the pavement, sneaking up on a flock of pigeons. After the trauma of losing a fledgling last year, it's wonderful to see the whole hawk family healthy and active.

Two of the three Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk fledglins

The above photo shows two of the three fledglings. The one on the left is significantly larger than the one on the right, suggesting these may be female and male (females are usually larger). The one on the left has more yellowish color in its chest, indicating it is the younger of the two (the yellow color turns white as they age).

Here is some video of the pair chilling out and studying their surroundings:

This photo was taken on a different day, so I'm not sure if it's the same two fledglings, but it does appear that one is bigger than the other. I speculate that there are two females and one male, but can't be certain.

Red-tail siblings playing in the grass

Red-tail siblings playing in the grass in Tompkins Square

Here is video of the pair playing around in the grass:

This video shows my favorite moment so far this breeding season. As the two fledglings play on the grass, dad Christo flies overhead (out of frame) screaming. Both the fledglings and the squirrel react to the sound. It's one of only a couple of times I've been able to capture Christo's voice on video.

On a different day, two of the siblings share another play date on the lawn.

Red-tail siblings playing on the lawn

Red-tail siblings playing on the lawn in Tompkins Square

Fledgling red-tailed hawk running in the grass

Chasing a squirrel:

Fledgling red-tail chasing a squirrel

Fledgling red-tail chasing a squirrel

Fledgling red-tail chasing a squirrel

Fledgling red-tail chasing a squirrel

Fledgling red-tailed hawk frolicking in the grass

Dad Christo calls the kids for dinner. He has a fresh pigeon.

Christo ringing the dinner bell

One of the kids responds and swoops in for the meal.


Christo watches over the fledgling while it eats.

Christo and one of his kids

Back to playing on the lawn.

Fledgling red-tail in Tompkins Square

Fledgling red-tailed hawk in Tompkins Square

Fledgling red-tailed hawk in Tompkins Square Park

Early on a recent morning, two of the fledglings were frolicking on the central lawn. At the time, no one was around and it was a safe place for them to be.

Hawk siblings having a discussion on the grass

Looking for trouble

Fledgling hawk in Tompkins Square

Fledgling hawk out for a walk

Unfortunately, the fun ended when someone took their dog out on the lawn and scared off the birds. This happens daily and is extremely frustrating. The lawn is fenced off and there is signage saying no pets allowed, but there is always someone who refuses to respect the environment. On this day, several people asked the dog owner to use the state-of-the-art dog run, which is just a few feet away, but the person responded with arrogance and defiance, then verbally assaulted those who tried to point out the hawks and the reasons for keeping dogs out.

Personally, I'm tired of fighting with people about this. The selfishness and disregard for the wildlife in the park is both disappointing and infuriating. This park is severely understaffed, so it's almost impossible to get any help when needed. The majority of people I've encountered are thrilled to see the hawks and are respectful of their space, but there is a minority of people who ruin it for everyone. 

Fledgling red-tailed hawk takes flight

It's my hope that the fledglings learn quickly to be wary of people, and grow strong enough to avoid danger. They're a lot like toddlers at this stage - learning to fly, hunt, and navigate their world. Everything is new to them and it won't be long before they take off to explore the world beyond the park and the city. Until then, enjoy every moment.

In related hawk news, Cornell's resident red-tailed hawks, Big Red and Arthur, had four successful fledges this year, a first for the web cam stars. This interesting article details how having an additional chick (they normally have three) affected the hatch and fledge times of the entire brood.

In the end, ". . . the hatch of the first egg to the fledge of the fourth nestling, the 2022 nesting season was 92 days long, securing its status as the longest nesting period in Cornell Hawks history." The fourth chick fledged after spending 52 days on the nest.
To compare, Christo and his first mate, Dora, had their longest nesting period in 2014, when the first hatch occurred on May 8, and the third chick fledged on July 2 after spending eight additional days on the nest after the first two fledged. The third chick spent 53 days on the nest. We have accurate dates for 2014 because we were able to use a web cam.

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