3/9, The 2018 Nesting Season

A new season of hawkwatching has begun as red-tailed hawks around Manhattan are working on their nests and showing signs that eggs will soon be laid.

Hawks will again be nesting in Morningside Heights at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Grant's Tomb locations. The only change is that the Grant's Tomb pair have relocated their nest to a different light stanchion on the tomb perimeter, possibly because of park path reconstruction below the old nest.

At both sites, the females were observed late this week spending time in their nests, quietly watching the skies. There was speculation that the Grant's Tomb female might already by brooding, but it seems more likely that she was "overnighting" and getting used to spending prolonged time in the nest in advance of actual egg-laying.

What effect the winter weather has had on nesting schedules is hard to guess. FWIW, last year both the cathedral and tomb nests apparently had females overnighting if not brooding by March 10. But also recall that the cathedral nest had an early failure and that they "re-clutched" in mid April.

Posted 3/09/2018 06:42:00 PM by Robert

7/26, St. John the Divine


What seemed a quiet Wednesday evening at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine turned out to be more interesting, with all three hawk fledglings putting in an appearance. Some confused flying about made it difficult to keep track but nevertheless, enough young hawks were seen to account for the complete trio.

First found was perched on the cross above St. Savior chapel, although soon enough it disappeared from view.

Adult supervision was provided up top the cathedral for much of the time.


Checking back in the cathedral close, a fledge was found on a Cathedral House chimney.


After which, another flew out of the nearby foliage and perched briefly on a rain gutter.


Probably should have turned around to see what the fledgling was looking at, as there may have been a sibling perched back there.


Followed by some moving about, and then two fledglings perched at the opposite end of the Cathedral House.


And then motion overhead, with two hawks headed toward the cathedral chapels. It seems a food delivery was made, as the parent didn't hang around much, but did circle quite a bit before departing.


A fledgling also departed the scene, but another was still in the area, up on the crossing buttress, eating a meal.

Posted 7/28/2017 12:44:00 AM by Robert

6/20, St. John the Divine


Visits to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in the early evenings over the past week and a half have usually found two or three of the red-tailed hawk fledglings in view, but almost always way up on or near the apse roof. The only exceptions worth noting were 1) once finding a fledgling perched on a cell phone antenna down at 109th St., the only time I've spotted one outside the three-block cathedral grounds, and 2) finding all three together atop the south crossing arch.

Friday, though, the kids finally did something different and were easier and more fun to watch. They came down to heights lower than 40 feet above the ground, and perched in trees.

While investigating a robin alarm in the Close, I spotted a young hawk perched in a tree near the pulpit in the central of the lawn. Angling for a better spot to take pictures, I instead had another hawk fly up to branch above me. And then another!


They "conspired" for all of 30 seconds.


Then one took off toward the Cathedral House.


And then the other headed off toward the Diocesan House.


Not quite all the way, as I found him on a shady branch overlooking the center walkway.


And then back over to the tree where the duo had briefly perched.


Where the other active bird was perched on a lower branch.


But within moments, both were flying around again. One landed atop the Synod House for a bit, but then both were out of sight and presumably down around the school.

Meanwhile, what of that first young hawk I had spotted? Still on the same branch.


But then it perked up and decided to move over to a shady spot overlooking the drive.


Where it stayed for the next 30-40 minutes.


Long enough for me to do a complete circuit around the cathedral property and come back to find him in the same spot.


But as the evening deepened and rain threatened, he too started on the move, calling for mama and then flying off.

Note: The use of the word "he" above is deliberate. Two if not all three of the young red-tails looked small and slim, suggesting that they are male.

Posted 7/21/2017 12:29:00 AM by Robert

Cathedral Hawk Nest History

Fledge 2 - The Fencewalker

(First posted 2012-11-08. Last updated 2017-07-13.)

The table and notes below detail the nesting history for the red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine from 2006 through 2017.

From 2006 through 2014, the nest was located in an alcove behind the large statue of St. Andrew on the apse wall. In 2015, the hawks moved the nest to the turret above the statue of St. Peter.

As of the 2017 season, there had been 29 or 30 known hatches at the cathedral nest, and 26 young hawks had fledged (flown). What happened to most of the young birds once they "left home" is unknown and cannot be known. We do know that three or four fledglings suffered injury or sickness soon after leaving the nest and were rescued and taken to wildlife rehabilitation. Once of these rescues died, one was committed to a wildlife sanctuary, and the other(s) were eventually released.

Year Adults 1st Hatch Hatches Fledged Notes
2006 Isolde & Tristan Apr. 27? 2 (3?) June 12
June 16
1, 2, 3
2007 Isolde & Tristan Apr. 27 3 June 12 (46d)
June 15
June 15
2008 Isolde & Norman May 4 2 June 15 (42d)
June 15
4, 5
2009 Isolde & Norman 6
2010 Isolde & Norman Apr. 18 3 June 4 (46d) 7
2011 Isolde & Norman Apr. 26 3 June 12/13 (47d)
June 12/13
June 16
2012 Isolde & Norman Apr. 17 3 June 3 (47d)
June 6
June 8
2013 Isolde & Norman (?) Apr. 21 3 June 1/8 (41d/48d)
June 5 (45d)
June 9
8, 9
2014 Isolde (?) & Norman Apr. 22 3 June 4 (43d)
June 7
June 9
10, 11
2015 Madeleine & Norman June 15-20? 1 12, 13, 14
2016 Madeleine & Norman Apr. 18 3 May 27 (39d)
May 30
June 2
15, 16
2017 Madeleine & Norman May 17 3 July 2/3 (46d)
July 2/3
July 5
2018 Madeleine (?) & Norman (?)

The date given for first hatch is the first reported observation of either feeding behavior or other activity by the adult(s) that suggested that there was a baby hawk in the nest. This is likely a day or two after actual hatch. In one extreme case (2015), the first clue of the baby hawk's presence may not have been detected until 7-10 days after hatch.

First flight (fledging) of a baby hawk from the cathedral nest has usually been about 45 days after first signs of a hatch.


1 A previous nest on the cathedral was reported in the April 2, 2000, New York Times, but a week later the newspaper reported that the male hawk had died. No further info is known about that nest site except that it was visible from St. Luke's hospital.

2 Stick collecting and possible nest building at the nest site on St. Andrew's shoulders was photographed in 2004. However, a nest by Central Park's North Meadow (approx. 3/4 mile away) successfully fledged three babies in 2004. The 2006 cathedral nest may have originated as a "secondary nest" for the Central Park hawks.

3 Regular observations by photographers of the 2006 nest did not begin until mid-May. Two photos posted on the Urban Hawks blog suggest very strongly that there were three nestlings in 2006. The third was perhaps spotted May 27, about four weeks after hatch, but was never seen thereafter.

4 Tristan is presumed to have died Feb. 21, 2008, after suffering a wing injury and becoming grounded the day of a snowstorm. Norman first appeared on about Feb. 25.

5 One 2008 fledgling suffered lead poisoning a few days after leaving the nest — possibly from ingesting material from repair/replacement then occurring on the cathedral apse roof — and was taken to wildlife rehabbers. It was considered unreleasable and at last word had been turned over to a wildlife sanctuary.

6 No nesting activity was seen at the cathedral location in 2009, and other hawks were often seen in the area in late March. Did Isolde and Norman not use the site because of stress from the renovation scaffolding which remained in place until early May? Did they try to nest somewhere else? Both were seen sitting together atop the hospital chimney on April 19 for over a half hour, suggesting they had no eggs or nestlings to worry about.

7 Two 2010 nestlings died before fledging, one at about three weeks after hatch and the second at about five weeks.

8 A hawk found dead in Central Park's North Woods after Hurricane Sandy (Oct. 29-30, 2012) was thought to have been Norman. However, the 2013 male hawk looked like Norman. It is also possible that the deceased hawk was Isolde (see note 10). Or the deceased hawk may have been a "floater" who was in the area at the time.

9 The first 2013 fledge was very early and was plainly a nestling who fell out of or was bumped from the nest, landing directly below in an alcove between cathedral chapels. It stayed in the alcove for seven days before venturing out. Meanwhile an elder sibling made an actual flight from the nest.

10 A sick adult hawk was rescued from the cathedral grounds on June 4, 2014, and taken to wildlife rehabbers, but despite promising signs died of frounce on June 18. Due to the relatively small size of the bird, it was thought to be the male, but a necropsy by state wildlife officials revealed it was a female. As Isolde had not been not considered "small" by hawkwatchers, was this a different female and if so when did she replace Isolde? Or was Isolde the hawk killed in late 2012 by Hurricane Sandy (see note 8)?

11 One fledgling from the 2014 nest was rescued from the cathedral grounds on June 18, 10-14 days after leaving the nest, and found to be suffering from frounce, the same disease that killed its mother. Also, in mid-July a fledgling red-tail was rescued in northern Central Park and found to be underfed and underweight. Odds are that this hungry fledgling was one of the cathedral birds. Both of these fledglings are said to have recovered and to have been released later in the year.

12 Despite construction nearby, red-tailed hawks returned to the cathedral in 2015 but likely due to increasingly cramped conditions in the St. Andrew's nest alcove shifted to a new nesting site about 30 feet away, in the turret above the statue of St. Peter. Stick collecting in that turret was previously observed during spring 2014. It is not known when the new female hawk, Madeleine, arrived except that it was before mid-February 2015.

13 The 2015 hatch was almost two months late. There was apparently a failure of the first clutch of eggs, which were laid in late March and should have hatched by the first of May. Following a series of matings observed in early May, the female laid a second clutch. Hatch date is estimated. Feeding behavior was first noted June 25, but subsequent observations indicated that the single baby hatched well in advance of that date.

14 No reports were received that the single 2015 baby hawk fledged the nest, nor was a fledgling ever reported in the area around the cathedral. The nestling was last reported seen on July 24, and an observer on Aug. 1 said the nest was empty and that there was no baby hawk in the area. Fledging had been expected roughly Aug. 5, so it is believed that the bird died in the nest at age roughly six weeks.

15 Although the first 2016 fledge appears to have left the nest early, it did not look overly young to have done so. In fact, it was rather adventuresome and ambitious. It probably hatched several days before the first observation of a feeding occurred, and so age-wise was entering the "fledging window".

16 On June 1, 2016, an injured fledgling red-tailed hawk was picked up by NYPD at or near Manhattan Ave. and 109th St., about 3-4 blocks from the cathedral nest. Presumably this was the first fledgling. Although X-rays indicated there were no broken bones, the fledge appeared to have suffered a spinal injury that paralyzed her legs. She was euthanized a week later as her condition continued to deteriorate.

17 The first clutch of eggs laid about March 12 failed. Matings were observed early/mid-April and a second clutch laid about April 15.

Posted 7/13/2017 03:36:00 AM by Robert

7/7, St. John the Divine

Although it was apparent that the third young hawk had fledged the nest at St. John the Divine by late Wednesday, it took until late Friday to spot all three of the new fledglings lurking about the general area.

First hawk in view, though, was mama Madeleine, who was perched up top the cathedral, keeping an eye on the kids.


First fledge to be found was perched in the turret about the statue of St. James the Great, an "hour" clockwise of the nest site turret.


That fledgling pretty much stayed put the entire time I was in the area.

Next in view was a fledgling in the turret above the statue of St. Andrew, an hour counterclockwise of the nest, and directly above the nest that the hawks used through 2014.


When they turn their back to you, they can be hard to see.


That fledging dropped down into the turret, perhaps to pick at some leftovers, and thereafter was very, very hard to see.

Finally the third fledgling was discovered perched atop a chimney at the Cathedral School.


It did move around a bit, although did not actually leave the chimney.


The evening ended with a quick walk up to Grant's Tomb, where a fledgling was spotted buzzing a young woman tending kids at Claremont Playground.

Posted 7/08/2017 11:59:00 PM by Robert