Although any babies in the hawk nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are still too small to be seen from the street, there is copious evidence appearing that they are up there. The amount of whitewash on the stonework around the nest, and on the edges of the nest itself, has greatly increased in the past week. Enough so that one expects there is more than one nestling up there.
Following are various photos taken at the three red-tailed hawk nest sites in Morningside Heights during the past week.
First, the nest inside Riverside Park at 116th St., where we find the female settling down after a feeding on Monday...
With the male perching in a nearby tree as sunset approached...
And on Thursday at the 116th St. nest, mama checks over the baby(s)...
Up the street at Grant's Tomb, I was a bit confused on Thursday. We either had a situation where the male conducted a feeding of what seems may be a single baby in the nest, or else the male kept watch over the nest for an extended period approaching sunset after mama did the feeding.
In any event, parent 1 perches above the nest while parent 2 does the feeding...
And on Friday, mama guards the nest while the baby snoozes after a feeding...
And finally, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, mama Madeline kept an eye on things after finishing a feeding on Thursday evening...
Further suggesting that eggs no longer need to be brooded, the red-tailed hawks at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine left their nest unattended for about 40 minutes early Wednesday evening. That is, there was no adult hawk in the nest, but there was probably one watching from somewhere nearby almost the entire time.
At about 6:40, Madeleine got up out of the nest and flew off to the north, hooking left at 114th St. and disappearing behind the hospital rooftop. Shortly afterward, I found Norman perched not far from the nest, less than 50 yards away atop the ugly apartment building just built. A few minutes later, he dropped down to perch on the cross at St. Savior Chapel below the nest.
He hung out there for six or eight minutes, and then as Madeleine came flying by overhead, he followed her to the north. Again, they disappeared behind the hospital. But Norman hadn't gone far, as he headed for his favorite chimney cover on the west wing of the building. (One wonders if he can still watch the nest from up there.) Another minute, and he flew back over the cathedral and perched on Gabriel's horn.
And then about 7:15, Norman took off east, descending into the rooftops of southwest Harlem. For the moment it looked like no one was watching the nest.
But no, Madeleine returned within a minute or two, checked the nest contents over, and then settled down.
The trifecta of hatches at the Morningside Heights red-tailed hawk nests seemed to be complete on Monday evening. I checked the nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 6:15, initially seeing nothing but then finding that Madeleine had stood up on the side of the nest and was bent over something inside. It looked like a feeding was in progress.
The feeding lasted between four and five minutes, and Madeleine may have only given a hatchling seven or eight bites to eat. That will change as the baby hawk(s) get bigger and demand more. But for now the activity is sufficient to demonstrate that there probably is a baby hawk up there.
And then it was over, with Madeleine settling back down into the nest and out of sight.
On Thursday we saw that there had been a hatch at the hawk nest at Riverside and 116th St., and late Friday afternoon came word from its near neighbor to the north. In fact, we learned that not only did the Grant's Tomb red-tail nest have its own baby hawk, the hatchling looked big enough to be a week old. An additional report later in the weekend indicated that one of the neighborhood birdwatchers had indeed seen feeding behavior at the Grant's Tomb nest the weekend before.
But unfortunately for me, by the time I made it over to Grant's Tomb nest on Friday, baby hawk viewing was over. Baby was snoozing, and mama had perched on the side of the nest keeping watch.
I ended up wandering about the area, exploring for alternative viewing angles. There was even a spot in front of the tomb steps where you could look between the swings of a large eagle statue and through numerous tree branches, and see the nest at the top of the light stanchion.
At one point it did look like maybe mama was preparing to start another feeding. She was bent over something fuzzy along the side of the nest, although it looked like the carcass of some prey. But no, no sign of a baby hawk popping up for food, and late dinner did not ensue. Drat.
And again mama perched on the side of the nest where she could an eye on things.
Last Thursday marked 35 days since the mama red-tailed hawk at the nest in Riverside Park at 116th St. was observed preparing to spend the night in the nest, and that meant egg-hatching time was due if it hadn't happened already. I wasn't able to walk over to the nest site until late, arriving just after 7:00 p.m. just in time to see the red-tail settling down into the nest. Had I missed something interesting?
But five minutes later, as sunset began to color the light, she got up and started fussing around. And then she could be quite obviously seen tearing a bit of meat off some leftover prey.
And then bending down into the nest to give the tidbit to a waiting mouth.
So plainly there was a baby hawk in the nest with her, even if it was much too small to be seen from viewpoints along the park wall.
It seemed that one action of feeding was about all that was to be seen. The mama hawk stretched a bit.
She possibly checked a couple other points in the nest bowl, and then settled back down with the new baby hawk.
It's time for baby red-tailed hawks to start hatching at the various (and numerous) nests in Manhattan, so on Wednesday, I checked on the two nests along Riverside Drive in Morningside Heights. At Grant's Tomb, we don't really know when eggs might have been laid, so first hatch there might already have happened or it might not occur until next week. But it doesn't look like it's happened, as there was no feeding activity while I watched.
What I did see was the female easing her boredom a bit. Not long after I arrived in the area, she got up and stretched.
After which she perched in the nest for a while she looked around. Down.
Down again. She seemed interested in the dogwalkers, and also in the late rush hour traffic headiing north on Riverside.
And give the photographer the feathery eye.
And at about 7:00 it was time to turn around and settle back into the nest.
Six blocks south, the head of the 116th St. female was visible in her nest, but again, no obvious sign of a hatch.
First hatch amongst New York City's red-tailed hawk nests is imminent, so it's time to review the nesting sites in Manhattan for the season. Last year there were thirteen known red-tail nests in Manhattan, and this year it seems there will be more. There were 26 known hatches at twelve of last year's nests, and apparently 24 fledges.
The following checklist of seventeen locations includes all of last year's sites plus four new spots where there has been new hawk activity reported in March and April 2016.
Three One of last year's sites is not yet confirmed to have nesting activity in 2016, while at least two of the new locations definitely do. One new site suffered a fatality and may or may not be used in 2016. Sites where I have seen hawk nesting activity or heard directly from someone who has are marked with a *. Last year's sites that are not yet confirmed to be in use this year are marked with a ?. Years indicate when a nesting area became active, not necessarily when the current nest was first built.
|*||Inwood Hill Park||bef. 2004|
|?||Highbridge/Swindler Cove||bef. 2007|
|*||Fairview Ave./Gorman Park||2014|
|*||J. Hood Wright Park||2012|
|*||CCNY-Shepard Hall||bef. 2006|
|*||Riverside Park at 116th St||2016|
|*||St. John the Divine||2006|
|*||Fifth Ave. at 96th St.||2016|
|*||West End Ave. at 84th St.||2008/2012|
|*||Fifth Ave. at 74th St.||1995|
|*||Central Park-Sheep Meadow||2014|
|West End Ave. at 72nd St.||2016|
|*||Tompkins Square Park||2014|
Working from north to south, the nest areas are:
Inwood Hill Park:
The nesting area in Inwood is one of the oldest in the Manhattan, possibly the oldest. Certainly it was well established by 2004. Except for 2013, the nest has been in one of two trees in the ravine just south of the playing field and close to Shorrakapoch Rock. (The one year elsewhere was probably due to great horned owls also nesting in the ravine at the time.) Inwood used to be the first nest to hatch every year, and in 2016 it should be among the first. First egg is believed to have been laid here about March 11.
Highbridge Park-Swindler Cove:
There has been a hawk nest in one of the trees near the north end of Highbridge Park for at least a decade, although not always the same tree due to off-season storms damaging and even knocking down the nesting trees. But the nests have all been in the same general area. During 2013-2015 the nest was directly above the park path just south of the intersection of Harlem River Drive, Tenth Ave., and Dyckman St., and directly across HRD from Swindler Cove Park and PS5. Activity here in 2016 is not yet confirmed, although it's not clear whether it's because the hawks — dubbed George and Martha due to the proximity to George Washington High School — have moved on or because the nest is in a difficult spot to monitor.
Fort George — Fairview Ave.-Gorman Park:
In 2014 and 2015, there was a nest on a fire escape directly above Fairview Ave. and just north of Gorman Park and 190th St., and both years three baby hawks were raised here. The nest was removed sometime after the 2015 season,
and the red-tails have not rebuilt there for 2016. However, a hawk was observed perched directly above the nest site in late March, so it seems that they could be nesting at a new location not far away, and the hawks moved downstairs, building a new nest a couple floors lower. The red-tail pair seem to be early nesters, as in 2015 they were apparently the second pair in Manhattan to have a hatch. The northwest part of the Gorman hawks' range includes Fort Tryon Park, and perhaps they have moved across Broadway to the larger park, and the adults can sometimes be spotted hunting in that area.
Washington Heights — J. Hood Wright Park:
Entering its fifth season, this fire escape nest site overlooks J. Hood Wright Park on Fort Washington Ave. For safety reasons, the nest has been removed each year after the baby hawks have fledged, but the adults keep returning and rebuilding. The first two years, the Wright Park hawks were late nesters. In 2014 they moved their schedule up and were one of the earliest, and in 2016 it was reported that the first egg had been laid by March 10.
Hamilton Heights — CCNY/Shepard Hall:
There has been a nest located on the shoulders of a gargoyle high up the east side of CCNY's Shepard Hall, overlooking St. Nicholas Terrace and St. Nicholas Park, since 2006 if not before. It's a tough nest to watch because of the height and the building being near the edge of the Hamilton Heights bluff. The best angles may be from way down below along St. Nicholas Ave. In any event, often one never hears whether baby hawks have hatched or fledged here. Thus, 2015 was the first time that some of us actually spotted nestlings in the Shepard Hall nest, and they were apparently the first Manhattan hatches of the year. The adult hawks here were once known as Nick and Nora, but I believe both male and female have died and been replaced since that time.
Morningside Heights — Grant's Tomb:
This is the second year for a hawk nest at Grant's Tomb, on Riverside Drive about a block above 122nd St. The nest is atop the light tower at the northeast corner of the monument retaining wall. But this was a problem site last year, and the problems could easily repeat in 2016. The one baby hawk known to have hatched in 2015 had to be rescued after fledging prematurely, apparently because its parents had gone missing. The hatch was somewhat late (mid May), and the baby hawk was still in the nest after the young peregrine falcons fledged from the scrape at nearby Riverside Church. At that point, the adult falcons amped up their claims to the territory and apparently harassed the adult hawks until they fled the area. In 2016, the female at the Grant's Tomb nest — by the way, there's no way to tell if she's the same female who was here last year — was brooding by March 19, which means that any baby hawks here should fledge before mid-June, before the baby falcons usually fledge. Whether that will alleviate the conflict with the falcons will have to be seen.
Morningside Heights — Riverside Park at 116th St.:
New in 2016 is a red-tailed hawk nest inside Riverside Park just north of the entrance at 116th St. and Riverside Drive. At first it was thought that this was a "replacement" for the 2015 Grant's Tomb nest, but much to hawkwatchers' amazement, the case is that two hawk nests are located within seven blocks of each other, and with a peregrine falcon scrape in between. The hawks at this new nest seem to be young, as at least one of them shows eye-coloring suggesting so and that this is probably its first nesting season. First egg at 116th St. was laid about March 11.
Morningside Heights — Cathedral of St. John the Divine:
Although there was a nesting attempt in 2000, hawks are only known for certain to have nested at "St. John the Unfinished" since 2006 (with apparently a one-year gap in 2009). Despite construction of a new apartment building just 50 yards from the nest site, they returned for another go-round in 2015 but did shift to a new location about 30 feet from the old. The current nest is at the east end of the cathedral in the turret above the big statue of St. Peter on the apse wall (look for the statue holding a set of keys), overlooking Morningside Drive and Morningside Park. The male hawk is believed to be Norman, who first arrived in 2008, while the female as of 2015 is Madeleine. Last year was not successful at the cathedral nest, with the first clutch of eggs failing, and the only baby known to have hatched in the re-try second clutch apparently dying shortly before it was old enough to fledge.
There used to be a red-tail nest on Randalls Island just outside Icahn Stadium, but the hawks abandoned the site before the 2014 nesting season. Probably this was because of harassment from the peregrine falcons who nest atop the psychiatric center to the south.
East Harlem — 96th St. at Fifth Ave.:
Although uppermost Fifth Avenue has been within the territory of the hawks at St. John the Divine, there have been signs the last few years of other hawks trying to claim the area. Stick collecting was noted on a fire escape on Third Ave. at East 100th St. in 2015. In mid-March this year came a report that hawks were trying to nest on an air conditioner around the corner from Mouth Sinai hospital, but their attempt there failed, an egg having been laid before the nest was ready for it. Then in early April it was confirmed that a female hawk was nesting on an air conditioner on East 96th St. just off of Fifth Ave.
Upper West Side — West End Ave. at 84th St.:
Red-tails have nested in the vicinity of Riverside Park and 79th St. since 2008, with the first pair of hawks preferring trees near the river close to the Boat Basin cafe. On inheriting the area in 2012, the current pair opted to nest inland and north, choosing a spot high up on a fire escape on the back side of a West End Ave. apartment building in the 80s. This nest has had a run of bad luck, with only one fledgling in 2014 and none in 2015.
As of early April, activity has not yet been confirmed here for 2016. As of April 12, this nest has been reported active, with the female brooding eggs since the start of the month.
Upper East Side — Fifth Ave. at 74th St.:
Possibly the most famous hawk nest in the world, located on a high-end Fifth Ave. co-op apartment building overlooking the Central Park Boat Pond. After a few years of relatively rapid turnover in the resident female (a disappearance, a case of rat-poisoning, and who knows what else), things seems to have settled down. Of course the constant is that Palemale has ruled this area of Central Park for over 20 years. Since 2013, the female has been Octavia. After a long dry spell, there have been baby hawk hatches here each year since 2011. This year, Octavia laid her first egg about March 11.
+ For more about this nest, follow the PaleMale.com website and Urban Hawks blogs.
Upper West Side — Central Park West-The San Remo:
There is often a fair amount hawk activity along upper Central Park West in winter. Then in 2014 a new pair of adult red-tails were seen hanging around the Beresford apartments at 81st St., and they unsuccessfully tried to nest there in 2015. (They may have been the same duo who unsuccessfully tried to nest at 92nd St. in 2013.) As of the beginning of April, it looks like this pair of hawks — whom some people refer to as Fred and Ginger — decided to move a bit farther south. Hawkwatchers have watched them trying to nest on a ledge at the San Remo apartments between 74th and 75th streets.
Upper West Side — West End Ave at 72nd St.:
There has been word of a new red-tailed hawk nest on the back side of an apartment building at West End Ave. and West 72nd St. The site is on the inside of the block and so not visible from the street.
Central Park — Sheep Meadow:
After a couple years of adult red-tail activity around the Grand Army Plaza area at the southeast corner of Central Park, a pair of hawks built a nest in 2014 further north inside Central Park in a tree on the east side of the Sheep Meadow (roughly about the line of 68th St.). Despite all the human activity on the lawn below once the weather got warm, they successfully raised a couple sets of babies there. However, it seems that the nest was destroyed during a storm following the 2015 season. In 2016 the hawks flirted with some ledges on the Plaza Hotel and nearby buildings, but as of March 30 the word was that they were working on a nest back in the Sheep Meadow area.
Greenwich Village — NYU-Washington Square:
This downtown nest was first constructed in 2011 on a window ledge at NYU's Bobst Library, outside the university president's office and overlooking Washington Square Park. This site has vied with the Fifth Ave. nest for Manhattan's earliest hatch site. The male since the nest was first built has been Bobby, who was named after the Bobst library. There was a new female in 2015 whom was named Sadie, replacing Rosie who disappeared sometime late 2014. The first egg was confirmed in the nest on March 14, and it was reported at the start of April that three eggs were laid.
+ For more about this nest, follow the Urban Hawks and roger_paw blogs.
East Village — Tompkins Square Park:
Tompkins Square was for several years a reliable spot to find juvenile hawks during winter. In 2014 it finally received its own nesting pair of adults, who originally built on an air conditioner on the Christadora building at the corner of Avenue B and East 9th St. They shifted to another air-conditioner site at Avenue A and 3rd St. last year due to Christadora renovation. In 2016, Christo and Dora have moved back north and into the park itself, building their nest atop a tree just inside the park entrance at Avenue B and 8th St. The first egg was laid about March 15.
+ For more about this nest, follow the Goggin Photography blog.
A pair of red-tailed hawks were busy preparing to nest in Chinatown near the Manhattan Bridge during March, but the female died at the end of the month at Collect Pond Park in the courthouse area from eating a poisoned rat. This pair of hawks had started a nest a billboard close to the bridge, but after human interference they were seen at points all over the neighborhood.
The male continued to work on their second nest overlooking Collect Pond Park, and it is not impossible that he will find a new mate. As of April 11, the male has been reported to be accompanied by a new female. However, the second nest was wiped out by a storm at the start of April, so it's on to the third nest attempt. But the threat of secondary rat poisoning seems to be quite high in this neighborhood, and hawkwatchers remain very concerned about this location.
+ For more about this nest, follow the Goggin Photography blog.
Saturday afternoon I checked on a few of the uptown hawk nesting sites, but only at J. Hood Wright Park did I find hawks at home. Happily, even as I was walking down Fort Washington Ave towards the nest, I found the mama hawk was inside looking back.
Although a switch-off on this nest was reported almost a month ago, it seems there has been no hatch yet. As I watched the nest for close to an hour, the female did not get up to do a feeding. In fact, she only got up once, and that just to shift position and perhaps do a quick rotation of the eggs.
As sunset approached, the male hawk quietly appeared. Taking a break from watching the nest, I turned around to find he was perched in a tree near the center of the park.
He, too, seemed content to stay where he was. He made no move towards the nest, but just remained atop the tree, scanning the skies and occasionally staring hard at the George Washington Bridge, perhaps watching one of the peregrines who nest there.