I've gotten a few letters about how excited individuals were about the Washington Square Hawks. I think it's important to say that until we see how these hawks do in Washington Square, we should have limited expectations about how things will turn out.
In general, 70% of all birds die in their first year of life. It's a hard fact of nature. Birds have a high mortality rate. Most birders learn this their first or second year of birding. For me, it came when I was watching a mallard and her ducklings. I was photographing the ducklings and an elderly birder came up to me and said "Don't get too attached to them, there will be one less ever few days." She was right. Mallards start with a large number of ducklings, maybe a dozen and as much as they try, they slowly get taken by turtles or other birds.
Since that day, I start with low expectations when watching a nest. It makes birding easier.
Whenever we have a new nest I do my own estimates about the conditions of the nest location and the parents. I ask:
- Is the nest in a safe place?
- Is their enough food and is it safe?
- What will fledgling be like?
- What will the area that the fledglings grow up in be like?
- Are the parents young and inexperienced?
At Washington Square, two issues worry me.
- The food supply includes rodents that have been exposed to second generation anticoagulants. Both the parks department and the health department have been using Contrac, which has an active ingredient of Bromadiolone, in and around the park.
I don't know if the other major cause of death for young hawks, frounce is present in the pigeon population in Greenwich Village, so it's unclear if this will be an issue.
- The park is the smallest area other than the Houston Street nest (which didn't end well) we've seen for the fledglings to mature. The density of the park patrons and number of unleashed dogs is a serious concern. There most definitely will be some conflicts.
So, my guess is we have a below average environment for these hawks. If one or two make it until the end of the summer, we should be happy.