3/1, It's Tough Out There

Watching a possibly injured young hawk inspecting tiny bits of roadkill for a morsel to eat, back on Christmas Day, was a reminder that life can be tough for wild animals. Sunday provided another example.

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail

While heading over toward Central Park for a quick end-of-the-day look for hawks around the Great Hill and North Woods, I instead came almost face-to-face with a juvenile red-tail perched alongside the sidewalk in the middle of the Frederick Douglass houses, between Amsterdam and Columbus where 103rd St. would be. Before I'd even had a chance to express any surprise, another hawk flew past, just missing the juvie and alighting in a tree about 175 feet away, close to 104th St.

Something seemed a bit odd about the young red-tail's appearance, but somehow I didn't realize until much later how very odd it was. But take a closer look at its face...

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail, Close-Up

I thought at the time that it's right eyebrow was strange, but the problem wasn't the eyebrow. This young hawk didn't have a right eye at all. And as best I could tell, it wasn't a recent injury at all. It's somehow survived for some while as a one-eyed raptor.

But at the moment I was mostly just thinking how very odd it was that this hawk was perching just a few feet off the ground, right next to a garbage deposit spot where people were walking by fairly frequently.

One-Eyed Red-Tail in the Projects

The board it was perched on was part of some half-assed structure half covering, or shoring up, a hole in the ground, apparently dug to repair some pipes. At least one rat could be seen scurrying around the hole and over to the garbage bins. Occasionally the juvie hawk would look down to see what the rats were doing, but mostly it was looking to the north where the adult red-tail was perched.

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail

So I was quickly getting the impression that the young hawk was more scared of the adult hawk than it was of any of the humans.

After a few minutes I wandered over to see who the adult red-tail might be.

Red-Tail in the Projects

My first thought was that it was Norman, but I eventually decided it was more likely Isolde. Dark eyes and extra large "epaulettes" were the deciding factors.

But Isolde didn't seem to be paying any attention to the juvie hawk. She seemed to be more intent on the ground below. A couple passers-by said that they had seen a rat scurry under a big dumpster alongside 104th St.

After walking back over to check on the juvie and the people who were watching him, I turned around and discovered that there was another red-tail in the area. The third, Norman, was perched on the chimney screen atop one of the buildings on 104th St. But within a minute he shifted across the street to a water-tower ladder.

The juvie was, of course, watching the adults.

One-Eyed Juvenile Red-Tail

And so things remained for about another 10 minutes. Juvie hawk perched very quietly. One adult hawk perched high up where it was in command of the entire scene, and the other adult perched lower and apparently ignoring the juvenile.

But finally Isolde showed signs of moving on...

Red-Tail in the Projects

But when she took off, she only flew as far as a fire escape across the street.

Red-Tail in the Projects

Another few minutes of the "stand off".

Red-Tail in the Projects

And then about 20 minutes after I first arrived, the juvie apparently decided that it might be time to make a getaway. It took off flying to the east above the sidewalk. But one of the adults was hot on its tail, and about 150 feet away there was a near collision as it gave the juvenile the heave-ho from the territory. (Of course, someone walking along just 10 feet below them didn't notice at all, so intent was he on his cell phone conversation.)

The juvenile then got to Columbus Ave and quickly sliced right and headed south, not to be seen again.

The adult flew up onto an air conditioner, perched for a minute..

Red-Tail in the Projects

Briefly switched to a tree, then flew back around to the area where the two adults had previously been. I followed and found one of the two on the roof of a project building on 104th St. and the other apparently gone.

The day's light was ebbing quickly and I decided to leave. But as I was headed east, both adult red-tails came flying over my head. One turned north at Columbus Ave., while the other landed atop a water tower at the corner. It stayed just a minute or so, log enough to gain the attention of a kestrel, who made four or five strafing runs to chase off the big intruder.

The red-tail took off again and headed north, but then alit on a cell phone antenna on 107th St. The other adult was there too.

Red-Tails on 107th St.

And another minute or two later they both took off, seemingly headed in the direction of the west end of the cathedral.

After that, no further sign of red-tails, but I did find the Cooper's hawk roosting in its usual spot near the cathedral.

Posted 3/02/2009 04:25:00 AM by Robert

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