February 18, 2007

2/18, Hey Buddy, You're Missing Your R4

First hawk sighting on Sunday came in Central Park, although one might question whether it was a hawk. I entered the park at West 100th St. at 3:35 and five minutes later was walking along the north edge of the North Meadow. Something hawk shaped circled about very low and dived toward the ground 125-150 feet south of the police kiosk only to pop back up immediately. Unfortunately, I made the wrong choice in which direction to go as I tried to figure out where the bird had gone. A minute later, it repeated the activity to my right, on the other side of a low hill. By the time I got around to the other side of the hill...

What I found was a flock of 15 Canada geese foraging where the wind had cleared the snow off the grass. They didn't seem particularly perturbed like a predator had tried to pick one off. Hard to imagine a red-tail going after a full-grown goose, especially if it had buddies to prove protection.

Oh, well. Onward. Over to the compost hill. No sign of hawks on the Fifth Ave. rooftops. Down Lasker Hill and into the Ravine. Ah, some activity around the seed log as various small birds forage, and a couple people I wouldn't normally think to be birdwatchers (one stocky guy was in a Michelin man coat and wearing a do-rag) were pointing out the various birds to each other.

At 4:04, I looked up to see...

Juvenile Red-Tailed over Central Park North Woods

I know from past experience that it was going to take getting the onto a computer and some messing about with Photoshop to get any idea which hawk it might be. But at least I was certain it was a red-tailed hawk. But once at the computer, hmmmm, check out that tail.

Juvenile Red-Tailed over Central Park North Woods

Really close examination of the full-size image (click through to the Flickr website and then click the all-sizes button) reveals it's a juvenile and it's missing the R4 tail feather.

Seem like I've heard about a hawk like that recently. Indeed, Ben filed a report to the eBirds mailing list two weeks ago indicating that he had seen "Lola's playmate" flying about the Great Lawn area missing a tail feather. However, his post indicated it was the R5 rather than R4.

Checking back through the pix I took of a juvenile ted-tail in the North Woods yesterday and last Sunday, I can't really tell if it was missing a feather on the right side. And I have no recollection of a gap when I saw it flying about on Saturday (which doesn't mean much). But in any event, the obvious question, is there just the one juvenile in the park, or two?

Anyway. The juvie soared about overhead for a minute or so, twice almost hovering in what I assume was a stiff headwind. Then he dived down and to his right, heading somewhere on the northeast side of the Great Hill or over toward the Harlem Meer.

I hung about the Ravine a minute to take some pictures of the seed eaters. It was most of the usual suspects: sparrows, cardinals and a nuthatch.

Northern Cardinal in Central Park Ravine

There was also one red-bellied woodpecker who briefly joined the scene whom I hadn't seen in previous visits to this, ahem, neck of the woods. But he's too fast and I'm shivering, so no in-focus pix to share of him.

Now up the hill and into the North Woods. I wander about for 15-20 minutes, but no hawk sign. It's cold, and tomorrow's a holiday. At 4:35, it's been just an hour, but time to exit.


  1. Thanks for posting these photos on your blog.

    Here's a link to your flickr page with a comment showing that I may've been too specific in stating that the missing feather was R5.

    All the best.

  2. And see my response to your comment at Flickr. I think a fragment of the missing there is still there.