Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Tompkins Square hawk action after dark - Amelia makes interesting vocalizations

Late Monday afternoon, I found Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk pair, Christo and Amelia, taking in the last of the sun as it gave up the sky to a bank of gray clouds.

Christo & Amelia perched on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra on Avenue A

As they perched atop the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church on Avenue A, something caught their attention.
 
Christo & Amelia perched on the cross of St Nicholas of Myra on Avenue A

Amelia took off first, flying over my head and into a tree. Christo followed, screaming loudly.

Christo takes off screaming

Christo flies overhead screaming

The pair perched in the same tree, both of them screaming, obviously upset. Then I saw the cause of their distress: an immature red-tailed hawk perched lower in the tree. Intruder alert!

An immature red-tailed hawk perched in a tree in Tompkins Square Park

A few days prior, I saw Christo and Amelia flying around the park, chasing this immature hawk. Could it be the same individual? It's possible, but I can't be sure.

Immature red-tailed hawk soaring

This particular hawk completely ignored the screams of the adult hawks, as did everyone walking by on the street.

Immature red-tailed hawk perched in a tree

The hawk's position in the tree made it impossible for Christo or Amelia to easily get to it, and the younger hawk seemed to know this and remained perched and relaxed.

Immature red-tailed hawk perched in a tree

Eventually, Christo flew off towards the middle of the park and Amelia flew away as well. The sun had set and it was getting dark, so I figured they were going off to roost for the night.

As soon as they were out of range, the young hawk swooped down and caught a rat that was foraging on the ground with some pigeons.
 
Immature red-tailed hawk catches a rat behind a fence

This photo isn't great because it was so dark, but you can see the size of the rat as the hawk flies off with it.

Immature red-tailed hawk flying with a rat

The hawk quickly took the rat to the closest tree, but kept its wings and tail spread, mantling its prey in a defensive posture.

Immature red-tailed hawk perched in a tree with tail fanned.

I looked around and could see Amelia perched in a nearby tree, watching.

Amelia lurking in a nearby tree.

I expected Amelia to come steal the rat, wondering of maybe she allowed the intruder to catch the prey so she could take it away. I have not seen Amelia doing this before, but I did observe Christo and Dora taking prey from a Cooper's hawk in the park back in 2015.

The young red-tail must have suspected Amelia could take its dinner, so the hawk kept its back to her and its wings and tail spread wide.

Immature red-tail with wings and tail spread.

It awkwardly ate the entire rat this way, resembling a huge turkey up in the tree.
 
Immature red-tail with wings and tail spread.

You want a piece of this?!

Immature red-tailed hawk eating a rat at dusk.

Amelia watched the hawk from her perched but never attempted to take its meal. The intruder was definitely mindful of her presence, but if it was really afraid of her, it would not have eaten the rat right in front of her. This hawk acted remarkably confident.

Immature red-tail looking out for Amelia.

When the meal was over, I expected the hawk to fly away and go roost because it was well after sunset and hard to see anything without the help of the lights within the park. To my surprise, the intruder flew right into the tree where Amelia was and perched right beneath her! 

I think Amelia was surprised as well, and she dropped down on top of the interloper. In the photo below, Amelia is on the right and the young hawk is on the left with its tail raised. They scuffled along the branches for a few seconds before Amelia regained her composure and chased the other hawk into the middle of the park where Christo was waiting. All three brawled in a tree, before flying off where I lost them in the dark.

Amelia and immature red-tail tussle in a tree after sunset.

During all this activity, Amelia made a sound I'd never heard her make before. I've heard her make the classic adult red-tailed hawk scream plenty of times, and the chirping sound they make when feeding young in the nest, but this was different.

A few weeks ago, I caught Christo making some squeaky sounds I'd never heard before. This time, I managed to catch a brief recording of Amelia making the sound. You can hear her in the first ten seconds of this recording, followed by the sounds of white-throated sparrows. She sounds like a squeak toy.


I wish all of this had happened in daylight so I could have captured video, or even better photos, but the birds are wild and they do what they do when they do it.

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