Cathedral Hawk Nest History

Fledge 2 - The Fencewalker

The table below details the nesting history for the red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine since 2006.

As of the end of the 2016 season, there had been 26 or 27 known hatches at the cathedral nest, and 23 baby hawks had fledged (flown). What happened to most of the young birds once they "left home" is unknown and cannot be known. We do know that three or four fledglings suffered injury or sickness soon after leaving the nest and were rescued and taken to wildlife rehabilitation. Once of these rescues died, one was committed to a wildlife sanctuary, and the other(s) were eventually released.

Year Adults 1st Hatch Babies Fledge 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 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 - 17

The date given for first hatch is the first reported observation of feeding behavior. This can be a day or two or even three after actual hatch. In one extreme case when there was only a single hatch, the first clue of a baby hawk's presence may not have been detected until 7-10 days after hatch.

Notes

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) 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 suggest very strongly that there were three nestlings in 2006. The third was perhaps 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 first appeared on about Feb. 25.

5 One 2008 fledgling suffered lead poisoning a few days after leaving the nest — possibly from ingesting material from repair/replacement then occurring on the cathedral apse roof — and was taken to wildlife rehabbers. It was considered unreleasable and at last word had been 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 sitting together atop the hospital chimney 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, but despite promising signs 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, about a week 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 are said to have recovered and to have been released later in the year.

12 Despite construction nearby, red-tailed hawks returned to the cathedral in 2015 but likely due to increasingly cramped conditions in the St. Andrew's nest alcove shifted to a new nesting site about 30 feet away, in the turret above the statue of St. Peter. Stick collecting in that turret was previously 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 almost two months 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 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, and 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. In fact, it was rather adventuresome and ambitious. It probably hatched several 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 appeared to have suffered a spinal injury that paralyzed her legs. She was euthanized a week later as her condition continued to deteriorate.

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

Posted 11/08/2012 10:01:00 PM by Robert

Wyoming Mystery Hawk

Mystery Hawk

I haven't been able to get out and about in the city the last couple months. The photo above may be the most recent hawk I have seen.

The photo was taken the weekend of Aug. 18 in the Wind River Range in Wyoming at an elevation of about 10,000 feet and just a few miles from the Continental Divide. As it circled overhead several hundred feet away, it seemed huge, bigger than a red-tail. It wasn't until getting a few poor photos onto the computer that I could be sure it wasn't an eagle.

If it's not a red-tail, I've yet to figure out what this hawk is. Other large(r) Wyoming hawks are typically described as preferring more open territory, either prairie or farmland.

I did get a nice long look at a big ferruginous hawk the weekend before this photo was taken. It was in the kind of territory that you'd expect to encounter one, and about 2000 ft lower in elevation than the pic above.

Posted 10/26/2012 10:52:00 PM by Robert

8/6, Lions and Lambs?

Monday evening in the cathedral close found a decidedly odd sight. One of the young red-tailed hawks was perched on the pulpit fence, looking around.

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Wandering around on the grass below, at times just a few feet away, was a decidedly nonchalant squirrel.

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It wasn't a case of a young and dumb squirrel, as at times there three or four of them on the lawn within swooping distance.

Apparently the hawk was digesting an earlier meal and was just casually, albeit actively, watching the area.

DSC_0053

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This went on for close to 20 minutes before the young hawk made a crude attempt to catch a squirrel. Then back onto the fence for a few minutes. Another crude attempt. Onto the fence for a couple minutes.

Then a more serious swoop at a squirrel in the open lawn, but the squirrel ducked into the bushes and the hawk sailed by, shoulder level but 6 or 7 feet away. He made another half dozen dives at the squirrels over the next 10 minutes, one almost successful, and perched overhead once.

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An attack on the pigeons who were hanging about in the alley behind the old orphanage was followed by quiet as an angry robin stopped chirping and a nervous squirrel quit whining.

Posted 8/07/2012 10:38:00 PM by Robert

8/2, Still Around

Although I visited the cathedral grounds and Morningside Park several times in the past couple weeks, I hadn't spotted one of the young red-tailed hawks since July 19. A kestrel on the roof of 1MSD, sure, but no hawks. Perhaps, I thought, they'd all made their way over to Central Park. But the first Thursday of August found at least one of them still spending a bit of time in their original haunts.

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One youngster was busy hunting in the cathedral close, at first looking for squirrels or mice in the tall grass near the Peace Fountain. Over the next few minutes he turned his attention to the squirrels and pigeons near the old orphanage, and then was gone.

Much later, after I'd made a pass through the park, I headed back west toward Broaday. But while ready to cross Amsterdam I noted that the top of a nearby apt. water tank seemed a little tall.

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A fledgling, presumably the same one, had settled in for a good sunset preen atop 509 West 110th.

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Posted 8/02/2012 10:13:00 PM by Robert

7/19, Still Lurking

Between work and the heat, I skipped a few days of looking for hawks. Thursday evening by the cathedral I first found Phil the peacock watching over the domain.

Phil

Then bumped into Jim and Harry, the two blue peacocks, casually blocking traffic on the exit road from the close. And then despite the lack of robin chips or alarms from other small birds, spotted one of the red-tailed hawk youngsters lurking in a shady spot under the gloomy skies.

In the Shade

He was there for another 10 or 15 minutes, preening and looking around.

Lurkin'

Then made a couple quick flights, zipping over to near the Peace Fountain then coming back to somewhere high in the same tree, before disappearing from sight.

With no further sign of activity, it looked like it was time to depart. As I thought about it, Phil came strolling past.

Strollin' /p>

Posted 7/20/2012 04:38:00 AM by Robert

7/15, Poster Killer

Just one red-tail fledge in the cathedral close early Sunday evening.

DSC_0148

Checking out the bushes by the pulpit and the surrounding lawn.

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That rolled up poster leaning on the fence doesn't have long to live.

Poster Destroyer

The fledge spend 10 minutes working over the paper, then strolled about a bit. Flew off when some tourists got too close, but returned to lurk on an overhead branch.

Lurking

As the sky got gloomier, he eventually flew off into the trees to the east.

Posted 7/15/2012 10:54:00 PM by Robert

7/12, Chasing Squirrels

On Thursday, two of the cathedral red-tailed hawks fledglings spent much of the day practicing hunting in the south close. James watched them when the light was good, but I found them still out in plain sight in the early evening.

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Both attacked miscellaneous stuff on the ground and made several futile swoops after squirrels. On the few occasion when one seemed to have something, the other had to come see what it was.

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Even if it wasn't edible.

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After about 15-20 minutes of this, one of the duo disappeared into the trees in the eastern side of the close. The second, though, remained in the pulpit area for some time.

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Posted 7/15/2012 10:49:00 PM by Robert

7/11, Lurking in the Shadows

Wednesday evening again found two of the young cathedral red-tailed hawks in the south-side close. But there were only a few minutes of swooping about before one exited, turning a U-ey around the Synod House and heading east along 110th St. The second, however, found a shaded branch over the sidewalk alongside the Synod House and stuck around.

Lurking in the Shade

The only problem was that soon after he picked the spot, the area blue jays finally chimed in with their displeasure.

Lurking in the Shade

Well, there was also the matter that the same tree had a squirrel nest in its upper branches, and someone up there started dropping twigs on the hawk below.

Lurking in the Shade

The overhead noise abated. The young hawk was happy in its perch and looked like it was good to stay there for a while.

Lurking in the Shade

Posted 7/12/2012 03:31:00 AM by Robert

7/10, Two in the Close

There were definitely two red-tail fledglings in the cathedral close on Tuesday evening, as both were visible at the same time. They even made one or two practice swoops at each other.

A first check of the close found only Phil the white peacock out by the lawn.

Phil

Returning an hour later, robin chips suggested a hawk in the area. Finally, there's a hawk in plain view, looking every which and the other.

Cathedral RT Fledgling

What might he be checking over there to his left?

Cathedral RT Fledgling

A sib, and both must have spotted a parent overhead. Both gave full cry for a half minute before quieting back down.

Cathedral RT Fledgling

Both watched Phil meander through the area. He passed below the fledge on the branch and wandered within a couple feet of the hawk fledge perched on the short fence. But after 8 or 10 minutes, the two fledges started moving about.

Cathedral RT Fledgling

There was a bit of flying from one side of the lawn to the other, a swoop on a sib, a swoop past the peacock, and then quiet. Both were perched somewhere near the Peace Fountain or the Synod House as dusk gathered.

Posted 7/10/2012 10:03:00 PM by Robert

7/9, Quiet in the Close

Finding the cathedral red-tail fledglings has been difficult of late, as there are numerous places to look and the area's small birds don't seem to be issuing helpful alarms as much as before. Monday evening after making a complete pass of the area, I took a second look in the cathedral's south close as I headed out. There was a quick glimpse of an adult perched on the roof of the Synod House but whoever it was took off immediately. A couple faint squeeps suggested a youngster was about, but where. Finally one popped out of a tree near the Peace Garden, and finally there were some squirrel alarms but no robin alerts. The fledge switched positions a couple times before landing up a nearby tree. Unfortunately, the evening light was already going.

Cathedral RT Fedgling

That youngster moved about a bit more and then disappeared in the direction of the cathedral's biblical garden. I hung about a bit longer in case he might re-appear and after a while was rewarded with the sight of a fledgling again appearing over by the Synod House. Hmmm, I don't think that was the same one. Dusk was descending as the second youngster descended to the lawn to investigate a paper bag. As a couple squirrels crept up on him, he decided it was safer back in the trees. When I left he was lurking near Amsterdam Ave.

Hawk Silhouette

Posted 7/09/2012 11:36:00 PM by Robert

7/6, King of the Parking Lot

Friday evening at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine revealed only one of this year's red-tailed hawk fledglings. He was perched on a corner spire of St. Ansgar chapel, guarding the parking lot.

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He looked fed and satisfied, and spent the entire time I was in the area either preening or casually looking around.

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A few glimpses across the street at the hospital roof, but if there was another fledge lurking up there, it wasn't visible to us groundlings.

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Posted 7/07/2012 08:59:00 PM by Robert

7/5, Taking It Easy on 113th St.

Not only was finding a young red-tail fairly easy on Thursday evening, but all three of the cathedral fledglings were present and accounted for. It was the first time in close to a month I'd been able to account for all of the trio.

The first fledge was first seen on the roof of the cathedra's unfinished north transept. I wondered if he had just finished eating as the first glimpse or two suggested some feathers in the air.

Cathedral RT Fledgling 1

But quickly enough his interest seemed to be on finding a higher spot to perch.

Cathedral RT Fledgling 1

To think is to act. A few moments later he was on a stone rail halfway up the nave.

Cathedral RT Fledgling 1

He only stayed there for a couple minutes. First he took off to the east, and perched atop the cathedral's St. Ansgar's chapel for a minute, but then turned around and tried again for a high spot on the nave. Couldn't make it and reversed direction and flew across the street to land on the roof of the hospital.

Fledgling 1 at the Hospital

Hold it. So there's one young hawk on the hospital roof, but who's that looking over my shoulder.

Cathedral RT Fledgling 2

A second fledgling perched on the roof of St. Boniface chapel.

While I was maneuvering to make sure that there were indeed two fledges in view, the first flew back across the street and landed next to its sibling.

Cathedral RT Fledglings 1 & 2

First fledge on the left and second on the right.

But wait, there's more. The third of this year's cathedral hawk clutch was 'upstairs' in a turret watching its two sibs.

Cathedral RT Fledgling 3

A few minutes later, the higher fledge flew over to the roof of the hospital, perching on a roof between pavilions until quietly disappearing from view some 5-10 minutes later while I kept an eye on the two lower fledges.

The two lower hawks seemed content where they were, apparently fed and just chilling out for the evening.

There was some preening and scratching.

Cathedral RT Fledglings 1 & 2

Watching the ground below.

Cathedral RT Fledglings 1 & 2

Watching the skies above.

Cathedral RT Fledglings 1 & 2

And finally after 20-25 minutes a shift of position.

Cathedral RT Fledglings

As 8:00 approached, the two fledges in view perked up. First they did a little exploration of the chapel roof. Perhaps there were some food morsels tucked away in a gutter.

But then one took off west, heading for a perch overlooking the nave, and a few minutes later the other followed. For a few minutes one perched on a finial overlooking Amsterdam Ave. but soon crossed 113th St. As sunset approached, two of the fledges were lurking about hospital roof some 11-12 stories above the emergency room entrance.

Posted 7/06/2012 03:28:00 AM by Robert

7/3, Crying on the Rooftop

The robins were no help finding any of the cathedral red-tail fledglings on Tuesday evening. Instead, after over an hour of hunting around the cathedral grounds and Morningside Park, it was the cries of a fledgling that finally revealed one of the three young birds.

At first sight, he was perched atop one of the statue turrets above St. Martin chapel.

Fledgling in a Turret

But then he dove down toward the roof of the Cathedral School. Ah-ha, Papa Norman was there and the fledge was hoping for a meal delivery.

Norman Visits

Alas, Norman took off 15 seconds later, leaving the young hawk to cry and beg and otherwise make a lot of noise for no payout. At times, the sounds seemed to be in stereo, making me wonder if another fledgling was perched somewhere close by, but if so, I couldn't spot it.

The fledge in sight maneuvered around the school roof, one end to the other and in between and perching at multiple spots, and making one short visit across the street to a treetop in the park. The robins in the park chased him back.

Shoo, Robins, Go 'Way

Still, the crying continued.

I'm Hungary!

After it seemed he had finally settled down, perching on a chimney, I made my exit.

Posted 7/03/2012 10:52:00 PM by Robert