6/3, CCNY/Annunciation Park

Annunciation Hawk Nestling 2 - 6160

The last couple years, Manhattan hawkwatchers have wondered about the apparent dearth of red-tailed hawk nests between St. John's cathedral and the GW Bridge. On Tuesday, I received a report from area birdwatchers Jeff and Lynn that there was a very active nest near CCNY, but several blocks south of the old nest on Shepard Hall.

Late Wednesday afternoon, I visited the site at Amsterdam and 135th St., across Amsterdam from the Annunciation Playground. The nest is located on the top landing of a fire escape of a six-floor apt. building. For a half hour or more, just one nestling was visible, despite the report that were two.

Annunciation Hawk Nestling 2 - 6154

The nestling was relatively quiet. Some staring and preening and just a little wing flapping. It was a warm and very muggy day.

Annunciation Hawk Nestling 2 - 6176

After I'd been watching the site for an hour, Mama swung by for three quick visits over the span of 10 or 12 minutes.

Annunciation Hawk - 6151
Annunciation Hawk - 6155

But except for preening for a couple minutes on her last check-in, mama was not going to stay around. At last sight, she was flying south and into the Manhattanville Houses, where one expects there might be good hunting.

Belatedly, I finally spotted the other nestling and apparently the older sibling of the nest. It had been lying down and sleeping on a window ledge, its wing and tail feathers just barely visible. But at last it got up and looked around.

Annunciation Hawk Nestling 1 - 6183
Annunciation Hawk Nestling 1 - 6187

And the it was time for me to start heading home lest I get accosted by the police for violating the curfew.

The two nestlings look about six weeks old, with the sleepy one apparently the oldest based on the feathers around its eyes. They could fledge any day, and one hopes and prays that they make it safely across Amsterdam Ave. into the trees around Annunciation Playground and PS 161.

Posted 6/05/2020 02:14:00 AM by Robert

5/23, St. John the Divine

Morningside Hawk - 6056

A day after I commented that it seemed that the red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine had not figured out yet that their eggs were not going to hatch, it seemed that they may have done so.

Three checks on the nest between 6:35 and 7:15 p.m. showed that it was empty. But a hawk was briefly seen flying over Morningside Park at 6:40, and then at 7:00 both of the hawks were circling over Morningside Drive, south of the cathedral.

One hawk, looking well fed, then flew off south toward the Douglass Houses. The other may have gone to perch in the close on the south side of the cathedral.

Posted 5/23/2020 08:43:00 PM by Robert

5/22, St. John the Divine

Angel and Hawk - 5944

Friday marked 42 days since I first observed a red-tailed hawk brooding in the nest at St.John the Divine. Since then, brooding is almost all I have seen. Even a week ago when the temperature was in 80s and there'd be no need to hunker down in the nest to keep a baby hawk warm, the adult hawk in the nest was hunkered down. As incubation time for red-tails is roughly 31 days, it seems highly likely that the nest has failed. The hawks just haven't figured it out yet.

Despite the lack of posts to this blog, I have visited Morningside Drive two or three times a week since April 10. Almost every time, the head of a hawk has been visible poking up from the nest. Only a few times have I seen more than that, such as Friday, when the hawk resident in the nest stood up, looked around, and then settled back in the nest. On one other occasion a few weeks ago I also noted a hawk standing up and engaged in what looked like a brief period of egg rolling.

The hawk photo above was taken Wednesday evening, one of the two occasion in the past six weeks that I have observed two hawks in the nest area. The hawk in the photo appears to be the male, as its throat is white and last year's male (Wyatt) had white throat feathers. Also, the hawk did not appear to have a brood patch as a female would have after tending eggs for a month.

However, the hawk that stood up in the nest Friday evening had white throat feathers. So either I had spotted the male doing nest duty, or else the female is not last year's female (Madeleine), who had brown throat feathers. Only some more observations will tell, but the hawks this year have not cooperated with the timing of my visits.

Well, if the hawks won't cooperate, there is other neighborhood wildlife who will.

Morningside Raccoons - 5928
Posted 5/23/2020 12:19:00 AM by Robert

4/10, St. John the Divine.

Hawk in Nest? — 4806

The red-tailed hawk nesting season in Manhattan is in full swing, and because of the mild winter, it's possible one or two nests have already had a hatch. The status of the nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is, however, not so clear.

Word reached us in mid-March that a sick or injured male adult red-tailed hawk had been rescued from Morningside Park by Parks Dept. rangers and that it died the next morning. Initially, this was presumed to be Wyatt, who had been the male hawk at St. John's for the past two years.

But we learned in the past at St. John's (i.e., 2008) and from more recent histories at other city nests that a replacement adult hawk can appear within a matter of days.

Because of several issues, I only made my first visit this season to West 113th St. on the afternoon of April 10. But once there the indications were that a hawk was brooding in the nest. From a good but distant viewing spot a couple blocks north, a hawk head could just be seen poking up, and it was not in the same place 30 minutes later. There were also a couple sprigs of fresh greenery that had been added to the edge of the nest within just the past few days.

Due to lack of observations of the adult hawks' behavior, it's up in the air as to when a hatch might occur. Assuming there is a new male hawk, then a hatch before April 20 seems highly unlikely, and it could be well into May. A hatch before then would indicate that Wyatt is okay and that the deceased hawk was an unfortunate intruder.

ETA: An adult hawk with Wyatt's throat coloring was photographed hunting on the north side of the Frederick Douglass Houses (West 104th St.) by a neighborhood hawk watcher on April 8. As it flew off to the north, it is assumed to not be one of the West 95th St. hawks.

Posted 4/10/2020 10:02:00 PM by Robert

Cathedral Hawk Nest History

Fledge 2 - The Fencewalker

(First posted 2012-11-08. Last updated 2020-06-09.)

The table and notes below detail the nesting chronology for the red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine from 2006 through 2020.

During this time, the hawks have nested in two locations at the east end of the cathedral. In 2006-2014 (but skipping 2009) the nest was in an alcove behind the shoulders of the large statue of St. Andrew on the apse wall. In 2015-2020, the nest was in the turret above the large statue of St. Peter. There was also a failed nesting attempt somewhere at the cathedral in 2000.

As of the end of the 2020 nesting season, there had been 31 or 32 known hatches at the cathedral nest since 2006, and 28 young hawks had fledged (flown from) the nest. What happened to most of the young birds after they "left home" is unknown and cannot be known. We do know that four or five fledglings suffered injury or sickness soon after leaving the nest and were rescued and taken to wildlife rehabilitation. Two of these rescues had to be euthanized, one was committed to a wildlife sanctuary, and the other one or two were eventually released.

The adult hawks nesting at the cathedral have not been the same pair over the duration that this history details. There have been at least two females (Isolde and Madeline) and at least three males (Tristan, Norman, and Wyatt).

Year Adults 1st Hatch Nestlings Fledges 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 & Wyatt 18, 19
2019 Madeleine & Wyatt May 4 2 June 19 (46d)
June 19/20
20, 21
2020 Madeleine (?) & Wyatt (?) 22,23,24

The date given for first hatch is based on 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 to be 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 observed until 7-10 days after hatch. It is possible that the first evidence of a nestling in 2016 was also a few days late.

First flight (fledging) of a baby hawk from the cathedral nest is usually 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) was reported to have 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 strongly suggest that there were three nestlings. If so, the third was 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 was first observed on Feb. 25.

5 One 2008 fledgling was rescued a few days after leaving the nest and was diagnosed with lead poisoning — possibly due to ingesting material from repair/replacement then occurring on the cathedral apse roof. After a few months at rehabbers, it was deemed unreleasable and was subsequently 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 perched atop "Norman's chimney" at St. Luke's hospital 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. Despite promising signs, it 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 were reported to have recovered and to have been released later in the year.

12 Despite construction of the very nearby apartment building, red-tailed hawks returned to the cathedral in 2015. But likely due to increasingly cramped conditions in the St. Andrew's nest alcove, they shifted to a new nesting site about 30 feet away, in the turret above the statue of St. Peter. Stick collecting in that turret had been 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 six to eight weeks 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 was so large that it must have 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, while 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. Instead, it seened rather adventuresome and ambitious. It may have hatched a few 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 apparently suffered a spinal injury that paralyzed her legs. She was euthanized a week later as her condition continued to deteriorate.

17 The 2017 first clutch of eggs apparently laid about March 12 failed. Matings were observed early/mid-April and a second clutch laid about April 15.

18 The 2018 male has different throat feather coloring from the male of 2017 and prior years, i.e., his throat feathers were white. It is not known what happened to Norman.

19 Although it appeared in late March 2018 that the female had started brooding a clutch of eggs, in mid-April there were signs that there had been a nest failure. The hawks were observed mating on April 20, suggesting that they were making a second try. But thereafter there was no sign of the female brooding a second clutch of eggs.

20 Although the first sign of hatch in 2019 appears to have been late, it also seems to have been no more than that, just simply late. Other Manhattan nests started reported hatches beginning about April 20.

21 The second 2019 fledgling was found grounded the afternoon of June 20 in the cathedral service area just north of the nest. It had some head trauma and was taken to veterinary care and rehab. Unfortunately, this fledgling also suffered from lead poisoning. Its condition deteriorated while it was at the rehabbers, and eventually it had to euthanized.

22 An adult male red-tailed hawk was rescued close by in Morningside Park on March 14 but was reported to have died from injuries the following day. Although this may have been Wyatt, some evidence suggests the hawk may instead have been an interloper in the area.

23 Photos on May 22 and 23 of what is presumed to have been the female hawk show different throat feather coloring from that of Madeleine.

24 A brooding adult was observed in the nest on April 10 and as late as May 22. From May 23 on, no observations showed any hawk at the nest. Despite some very slight evidence of a possible hatch about May 10, it seems more likely that there was no hatch at all and the nesting failed.

Posted 9/18/2019 01:30:00 AM by Robert