6/4, Maiden Flight

The cathedral red-tail nestling became a fledgling Friday evening at 7:43. Presumably it was 47 days after hatch, which is late, but maybe the extra time gave it a little more muscle than most fledges start with.

The young hawk definitely seemed more active and even more curious than during recent visits. Perhaps more important was a combination of the two, as if it had figured out that it could learn more about what was going on beyond the nest's edge if it, well, left the nest.


I arrived about 6:00, just when the nestling went from quiet mode to active. It seemed to be trying to get out where there might be a better view of the rooftop above. Was it looking for mommy?

Wing Test

It quieted down for a while, but about 6:30, it delighted the small crowd of hawkwatchers with more flapping activity.

Wing Test

Out there on the edge of the nest, but no further.

Wing Test

Think about it some more.

Scanning the Skies

But no. Settle down for a bit. Preen for a while. Think about it.

Then 7:00 and again, out to the edge to scan something in the sky.

Wing Test

Is someone we know flying by?

Wing Test

Watch some more.

Scanning the Skies

Flap some more.

Wing Test

And then quiet down again.

Those last two bursts of activity were pretty good ones, lasting a minute or two each and including several episodes of stepping out to the edge of the nest, flapping and jumping back. Mix with running over to the other side of the nest to check the south view.

But now the nestling got interested in the carcass remaining from whatever it had eaten earlier in the day. It spent the next 20 minutes or so pecking at leftovers.

Hawkwatchers began to figure that it was late in the day. The sky was gloomy and the light was bad with the impending possibility of a storm. Closing in on 7:30, three of the six watchers called it a day.

But a few minutes later, the nestling perked up again. More trips to the edge of the nest. More flapping

T Minus 6 Minutes

More scanning the sky and tracking something flying by.

T Minus 4 Minutes

This burst of activity was really stretching on. The nestling's attention was plainly focused on something or things outside the nest, and it wanted to go see them.

T Minus 4 Minutes

Ten minutes of this excitement, a false moment of semi-quiet.

T Minus 30 Seconds

And then the nestling hopped over to the south side of the nest, stretched its wings and... flew away.

It was flapping strongly, and holding altitude. But guidance was a problem and it hooked left quickly and began following Morningside Drive northward. It cleared 113th St and hooked a little more to land somewhere on the corner of the roof of St. Luke's Hospital. A solid 90-yard maiden flight.

(No pix of the flight because as the saying goes, you can take pictures or you can actually watch where the bird is going, but good luck trying to do both. The pic just above was the very last one taken of it in the nest.)

The fledgling had cleared the stone railing around the hospital eave and disappeared from view, but the local robins began to freak out, and then a mockingbird showed up to complain. Fifteen minutes later, the fledge poked its head up.

Listen to the Mockingbird

Immense curiosity about that noisy beggar perched a few yards away. But the fledge soon learned that the mocker did not want to be its friend and after getting buzzed a few times, dropped back under cover behind the railing.

No sign of either hawk parent as sunset approached.

Posted 6/04/2010 10:07:00 PM by Robert

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On 6/05/2010 2:27 AM , Janet said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful photo essay!

On 6/05/2010 10:40 AM , outwalkingthedog said...

Your patience & devotion has given us all a gift in this fantastic story. Good luck to the new flier.