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Wednesday Evening at the Cathedral

I was up at the nest for about an hour or so after 6:00 p.m. It was a quiet evening with a cool breeze.  The parents spent their time off the nest and only one eyas was very active on the nest while I was there.

The eyas has changed greatly in the last two days.  It's beginning to look more like a Red-tailed adult, each and every day.

The male adult.

The female adult.

Growing up fast.

Look how much the wing feathers have grown in!

Monday Morning

Just as I arrived the female returned to the nest.





Later the male arrives with a pigeon but leaves with a squirrel!  Either they're caching food in the nest or he was taking out the trash.







The chicks on the nest.  They're buff colored chests are coming in now.



Keeping Watch

In the late morning and early afternoon, both parents kept an eye on the nest from various perches around the nest.

The female on a St. Luke Hospital building at 114th and Morningside Drive.

The female brings a twig to the nest.

The female (left) and the male (right) on the Archangel Gabriel statue.

Another view of the statue.

Flight Training

The eyasses are starting to do some basic wing flaps.  Soon this will turn into full scale flight training.

Red-tailed Hawks usually leave the nest after about 6 to 7 weeks.  If our estimates of the hawks ages are correct at somewhere between 3-4 weeks, they should fledge (leave the nest) in mid-June.  They'll then, most likely, spend a few days around the Cathedral before moving into Morningside Park.

During the first few weeks in the park, the parents will feed the fledglings.  But soon the parents will be teaching the young to hunt on their own.  In late summer, the fledglings will be able to take care of themselves and will at some point wander off in the fall or winter.





Baby Makes Three

The St. John the Divine nest has a deep slope that allows the eyasses to completely hide from view.  Since we discovered the second eyas on Sunday, there have been clues that a third eyas might be in the nest.

Today, the puzzle was solved. We finally got to see all three at the same time.  Once during a morning feeding and again in the early afternoon.

Update: Since June 1st, we've only been able to see two eyasses.



Meet The Parents

Friday afternoon started with a very hazy sky, which changed to light rain before clearing.  The eyasses are losing their downy appearance more and more each day.





The mother has been spending more time away from the nest.  Both parents spent a great deal of time with each other Friday afternoon.  Here they're on a railing at the top, northeast corner of 352 West 110th Street.  The male is on the left.

They stayed there for about 30 minutes.

They then returned to the Cathedral with the female making a brief stop on a water tower on the West 400 block of 110th.  The tower has a view of the Cathedral.

We lost track of both parents for awhile, and then saw the mother head over to the roof of the building that houses St. Luke's Emergency Room.  The top of this building has lots of pigeons. When she returned, St. Luke's had one less pigeon.

The father was visible on this decorative element that is directly above the nest.

I walked all around the Cathedral trying to find the mother, and finally found her.  She was on a similar fixture to the male's perch, 25 feet south, which can't be seen from 113th Street.  Unlike the Central Park nest sites, this location has plenty of places for the parents to hide.

Wednesday Uptown

It was a nice evening on Wednesday with temperatures in the 70s.  The warmer weather seemed to increase the activity of the mother and the eyasses.

If you come up to visit the hawks, the best view is not from Morningside Drive, but from 113th Street.  From Morningside drive, turn onto the south side of 113th Street, walk about 20-30 feet west and look up at the Cathedral.  On the top of the Cathedral in front of you (but below the roof line) will be two Saints together.  Go two Saints to the left, and you'll see the statue of the Apostle, St. Andrew.  He has his hand up to his face.  The nest is on his shoulder.  This side view is the best vantage point for looking into the nest.

If you have young children, the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary web site has a great coloring book online. 
Go to www.hawkmountain.org/education/HMS_coloring_book.htm and click on the Buteos link.  A very large PDF will download.  You'll then be able to print out a few nice coloring book pages.  (If your children want a colored page to copy from, click on the Back Cover link, and print it out.)







Tuesday at the Cathedral

I arrived late from work around 6:30.  We found the mother on a new perch about 10 feet above the nest.  The perch can't be seen from 113rd Street.

Most of the evening was quiet, with two brief bursts of eyas activity.

Another new perch, 10 feet above the nest. (I know it looks like the one we found on Monday, but it really is in a different place.)

Feathers continue to grow in.

The mother on top of St. Luke's.

The mother comes in to supervise the eating after the father delivers some food.

Monday in the Heights

It's been a lot of fun learning the habits of the St. John the Divine Red-tails.  Each day we discover a little more about where they perch, where they hunt, and the timing of their movements and feedings.

On Monday, we found a new perch for the mother.  It's a little higher than the nest, about 15 feet south of the nest.  The mother can swoop down in a second or two to the nest. It can be a little hard to see her from 113th Street, by she can easily be seen if you walk down Morningside Drive.

I had my camera on burst mode which takes a frame every 1/5 of a second.  She managed to make it from the edge of one frame and completely into the nest in less than 1/5th of a second.  The distance was about 4 feet.  She's quick. 

The newly discovered perch.

The other discovery was the difference in appearance between the two siblings, now that both are showing themselves more fully.  The difference of just a day or two in age is dramatic. 

What looks to be the older eyas.

What looks to be the younger eyas.

St. John the Divine 2006 Red-tailed Hawk Nest

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (or St. John the unfinished, since it is only partially completed) sits above Morningside Park just northwest of Central Park next to St. Luke's Hospital.

The Cathedral has had Red-tailed Hawk nests in the years past, but I hadn't heard any news about a current nest from any of the Central Park birders. 

I had gone up to St. John the Divine looking for a nest earlier in the spring.  I was trying to find out where the Red-tails in the North Woods were nesting but I didn't have any luck finding the nest.  (St. John the Divine is the largest Cathedral in the world, so I'm not surprised I didn't find it!)

Out of the blue, Bill Green emailed me early last week, that there was a Red-tailed Hawk nest on the Cathedral.  Tuesday it was raining very hard, so I had to wait until Wednesday to go up and see the nest.

The nest is located on the east end of the Cathedral, just behind the altar.  (This is true east, not Manhattan street grid east.  If you're used to thinking the grid is due north, the nest is NNE.)  This is a new location, as the old nest was on the western side of the building. 

Dog walkers in the neighborhood told us that construction of the new nest began last year. (Update: James O'Brien found pictures of the nest site with just a few twigs in 2004, so construction on this nest began at least two years ago.)

The nest sits on the shoulders of a statue about 100 feet up.  The Red-tailed Hawks can enter from either side.  An ornamental top above the statue protects the nest from rain and the nest seems well built and very stable.

Almost as soon as I arrived on Wednesday, a Red-tail appeared.

The Red-tailed Hawk looked stunning behind the hand of the sculpture.

Imagine my surprise when I saw there was an eyas in the nest.  The adult female wasn't just sitting on the nest. She was already a mother!

What a nice surprise, given the nest failures lower in Manhattan on both the Fifth Avenue and Central Park South nests earlier this year.

The father arrived later that evening, and perched on what we would learn was his favorite spot in the late evening, an ornament at the SE corner of the St. Luke's Hospital building at 113th and Morningside Drive.


On Thursday I returned.  James O'Brien, who I had told about the nest, joined me on Thursday.  (James blogs at yojimbot.blogspot.com.  For his perspective on the nest, take a look at his blog.)

It was interesting to see how much fresh material was on the nest.

She kept looking down and then...

An eyas appeared.

I was able to get a few baby pictures.


The father sitting on the St. Luke's Hospital perch.

Note the light belly band and the lack of color on his shoulders.

The mother has color on her shoulders and a darker belly band, although as Red-tailed Hawks go, she's rather light colored.


When I arrived on Friday evening, no one could be seen.

The mother then appeared but very quickly left the nest.

An eyas soon popped up and began to flap around.

Cute little guy.

John Blakeman was kind enough to give me an estimate of the eyas' age, 14-18 days.


This is really one of the most beautiful nest locations I've ever seen.


On Saturday, I spent the late afternoon at the nest.

One of the adults was on the sculpture of Gabrielle blowing a trumpet soon after I arrived.


Nice wings little guy.

The father perches about 20 feet from the nest.

The chick seemed very well fed with feedings every few hours.


Two adults and a baby.

The father just before he flies off.

The mother.





On Sunday, I spent six hours in the afternoon and evening looking at the nest.

When I arrived the mother was on the nest.

She soon left and after thirty minutes, two eyasses were visible.  Yes, two!

They looked great together.  The nest looks to have a very deep bowl.  I wonder if the eyasses need to reach a certain developmental stage in order to be able to climb to the edge.  Will we find another one in a few days?  Who knows?





Mid-afternoon the mother arrived with food.

She stays for a while and then leaves.

We find her perched on a building a few blocks east on 110th Street.

We lose sight of her but she soon returned with some food.  She perches on a cross 20 feet below the nest on a side chapel that is behind the altar.

She enters the nest from the left.

She appears to be eating with the eyasses, although it could be that she is helping to feed one of them.




The father returns to his St. Luke's perch.

All is quiet for over an hour in the early evening and then a chick appears.

The mother is on a building on 110th just below Morningside Park.  She adjusts her stance to let the wind blow through her feathers.  Was she drying off after the early afternoon shower?

The mother returns and sits on the hand of the statue. . .

. . . before hopping into the nest.

What a wonderful five days of birding. 

I don't think these birds need to be named.  But if it turns out folks want to name them, I think we should ask the children of the Cathedral School to do the honors.  These Red-tails are their neighborhood birds, not ours.

I spent a lot of time on 113th Street these last five days, and if you live in Morningside Heights, you should be proud of your neighbors.  I met the nicest people.  They shared their knowledge of the hawks, asked great questions, welcomed me and had the manners you would expect to see in a small town.  It was nice to discover that Morningside Heights is a real neighborhood.

If you go up to see the nest, don't expect instant gratification.  There are long periods where the parents can't be seen and the young are sleeping.  Expect to spend an hour or two.  If it's too boring, you can go to Morningside Park, do some birding and come back.  You will need binoculars, but you don't need a telescope.