5/23, Baby Hawks in Four Uptown Nests

Saturday afternoon I checked on four of the upper Manhattan red-tailed hawk nests and saw nestlings in each one. In a most pleasant surprise, I found one at the CCNY nest, which may be the first time I've ever actually seen a baby hawk at that location after years of looking.

The afternoon began with the Highbridge Park nest near Dyckman St. Martha was perched on the west side of the nest, where she could provide some shade to the babies within while she preened. From a viewpoint along the mountain bike trail, I was able to see one baby hawk through the nest twigs.

Highbridge Hawk Nest - 1338

Looking closer, I could see that it was looking back.

Highbridge Hawk Nestling - 1368

But in that first photo, note how although the baby hawk is on one side of the nest, Martha appears to be fussing about on the other side. Indeed, there was a second baby hawk just barely visible on that side.

Highbridge Hawk Nest - 1430

As I made my exit, Martha threw me some shade.

Throwing Shade - 1442

Up and over Fort George Hill and down into the Dyckman Valley area, I found the Gorman Park mama hawk perched at the very top of the fire escape above the nest, with all three of the baby hawks active one flight below.

Hawk and Nest - 1488

You can see their wing feathers are growing in nicely, but their head feathers haven't really begun to show yet. They look to be about a month old and not ready to fledge for maybe another two weeks.

Hawk Nestlings - 1460

Time for some flapping.

Hawk Nestlings - 1467

Hawk Nestlings - 1469

Everybody look up at mama.

Hawk Nestlings - 1481

And one last look back at the Gorman Park nest as I made my way south along Broadway.

Hawk and Nest - 1502

Up in Washington Heights proper, I reached the J. Hood Wright Park red-tail nest. There two of the babies were sitting high, while mama was doing something toward the back of the nest. Maybe feeding a third nestling, or perhaps herself.

JHW Hawk Nest - 1525

Mama would fuss about, and then turn around. I kept wondering if she was going to fly out of the nest.

JHW Hawk Nest - 1561

But she was staying put, even when one of the nestlings flapped his wings in her face.

JHW Hawk Nest - 1578

Just keeping an eye on things.

JHW Hawk Nest - 1584

JHW Hawk Nest - 1587

Over there, too.

JHW Hawk Nest - 1597

One baby stood up, where we could get a better look at each other.

JHW Hawk Nest - 1626

jHW Hawk Nest - 1636

And mama gave me a couple looks, too.

JHW Hawk Nest - 1638

Although last weekend's visit suggest to the JHW Park nest suggested there were three babies up there, I wasn't able to get a clear look Saturday to confirm that there really are three. A couple pictures suggested that the third might be toward the back, but the mother was generally blocking the view of that part of the nest.

Onward and southward to check on one more nest before the shadows got too dark. Coming down St. Nick Ave. toward 141st St., I could see a hawk was sitting up in the nest at Shepard Hall at CCNY. It was big and brown and I initially assumed it was one of the adults.

CCNY Hawk Nestling - 1684

But no, it was a baby hawk preening. Wing feathers thick and dark, a nice belly band, and the tawny breast typical of a young NYC red-tail. Its head was brown but a little light, showing that the head feathers haven't quite grown in yet.

CCNY Hawk Nestling - 1693

Nevertheless, it was apparent that this baby hawk was older than the Gorman Park nestlings, which I had assumed were the first to hatch in Manhattan this year. The CCNY baby hawk looks like it could be more than five weeks old, which means that fledging time might be as soon as the end of this coming week.

My timing at CCNY had been lucky. A couple minutes after I first reached 142st St., the visible baby hawk laid down, and from along St. Nick Ave. it looked like the nest was empty.

Posted 5/24/2015 02:58:00 AM by Robert

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