1/11, Brown-Tail on the Great Hill

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

Decided to check out Central Park this afternoon, but got a much later start than planned so hopes of seeing a raptor were slim. Nevertheless, I made three sightings, although it seems likely they were all the same bird.

First sighting came at 4:00 at the corner of Manhattan Ave. and 103rd St. The area pigeons were swirling around overhead for minutes on head. Finally I saw a red-tailed hawk fly in to land on top of one of the project houses to the west. It stayed only a minute or two and the headed south. The pigeons then settled down.

A few minutes later on Central Park West, a hawk came zooming north on a descending glide. I found it soon thereafter perched on the southwest side of the top of the Great Hill. It took off before I could the camera up and flew down in the direction of the ravine. Drat. the episode was too quick for me to get a sense of whether it was adult or juvenile red-tail.

After checking out the ravine, I headed up toward the Blockhouse, as that seems a likely spot to find a raptor going to roost in the dense tree cover. Some peering around, and oh, drat again. Something large dived out of a tree and headed down toward Lasker Rink.

But this time luck improved, as I found perched just the other side of the hilltop, overlooking the rink, was a juvenile red-tail.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

He didn't seem bothered by my presence, even as I did a full circuit underneath his tree. Maybe he was getting a second-hand high from the pot smoke that was coming from somewhere nearby.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

I wondered if this was the same somewhat small juvenile red-tail that I spotted at the north end of Morningside Park two days ago.

Five minutes later, he took off, shifting to a tree about 50-60 feet north.

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

There his looking around continued. He seemed to be paying attention to what might be on the ground, and I noticed his crop didn't look full. Looking for a bedtime snack?

Great Hill Juvenile Red-Tail

A few minutes past sunset, one of the North Woods weirdos appeared and was jumping around and making noise not far away. Soon thereafter the hawk off, heading downhill and perhaps toward Harlem Meer.

Postscript: About an hour later as I walked past the pond in Morningside Park, I discovered a great blue heron hanging out with the two geese and dozen ducks.

Posted 1/11/2009 07:48:00 PM by Robert

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On 1/14/2009 8:41 AM , graefin said...

Can you tell me if an adult red-tail and a Cooper's (juv or adult unknown) can share territory? I'm interested because for the past two winters, a red-tail has been hanging out here. He (or she) has been absent for the past several weeks, and just recently, I've seen a Cooper's here (very, very unusual). Now the red-tail is back, and I'm wondering if it's to defend his territory?

On 1/14/2009 3:04 PM , Robert said...

A big part of the answer will depend on whether there's a nest in the area.

If the red-tail is an adult, then I would expect it to be part of a mated pair. Pretty soon they'll be going into nesting mode, and that point they will start defending their territory aggressively. The Coopie might hang in there for a bit but eventually it will decide that life would be easier somewhere else.

There was a Cooper's hanging about near the Cathedral nest late last winter, but I saw the adult red-tails making occasional "bombing runs" through the area of thick trees where the Coopie would hide. It survived the attacks because it could perch in tight branch cover that the red-tails couldn't get into. But after a few weeks and the weather got warmer, the Coopie left.

On 1/14/2009 3:58 PM , graefin said...

Thanks for the response. How do you define "area"? I've been wondering just how far their territories span, as I think the same hawks are showing up in different locations.

The red-tail in question is probably just over a year old. Last winter, he still had his stripes.

On 1/14/2009 8:58 PM , Robert said...

The range required by a red-tail varies depending on the amount of potential prey. We've spotted the cathedral red-tails as much as a half-mile north, a mile east, and a half-mile south of their nest. We didn't use to see them to the west but in the last year or so they seemed to have wandered that way more often, albeit at risk of encountering the peregrine falcons who reside to the northwest.

If the red-tail you're watching is about to turn two, keep an eye to see if it hooks up with a companion and starts a nest. It could happen this spring, or it might be another year.