Growing Up Fast At Riverside
Sleepy Eyasses At Riverside

Riverside Q & A

Some Answers To Common Questions About The Riverside Nest

Q: When will the three eyasses (young hawks) fledge (leave the nest)?
A: Although the eyasses were first seen on April 30th, they looked a day or two old. So, the most likely hatched earlier, on April 28th.  The nesting period for Red-tailed Hawks is generally between 42 and 46 days.  This would put the likely fledge date somewhere between June 9th and June 13th.

Q: Once they fledge, what will happen?
A: The fledglings will fly off the nest, and fly from tree to tree.  They will also spend some time on the ground.  This is normal.  The fledglings don't start their life with lots of common sense.  Care should be given to give the fledglings as much room as possible.  Keep your distance and keep dogs on leash.

For the first few weeks, the fledglings will be easy to find as they beg for food.  The parents will feed them initially.  Over the summer the hawks will learn to hunt for themselves and at the end of the summer they'll leave "home".

In 2005, I followed a pair of hawks who nested on Central Park South on the Trump Parc building.  I published a book, Trump Parc Red-tailed Hawks, which can be viewed online. It gives a good picture of what's ahead for the eyasses.

Q: Should we worry about the safety of the hawks on the nest?
A: There isn't much to worry about.  These hawks know what they're doing.  We should do our best to avoid getting too close to the nest, avoid behaving like paparazzi and avoid making too much noise.  And of course, anything we can do to limit second generation rodenticide use around Riverside Park would be helpful.

If you're a photographer, do all you can to avoid interfering with the hawks.  Use a good telephoto, use a tripod rather than flash, and avoid getting too close to the hawks. 

Q: Should we worry about the safety of these eyasses once they fledge?
A: We shouldn't worry, but we should keep an eye on the young hawks from a safe distance.  As they move around it's important not to chase after them, but to slowly follow them.  I've seen too many young hawks "moved around" by over eager hawk watchers.

Young hawks have generally done well in the city, but they can get into trouble.  Accidents do happen and Frounce, a fatal, but generally treatable disease caught from pigeons is a widespread problem in New York.  The Urban Park Rangers have jurisdiction in the park and are trained to deal with raptors.  Call them if you see one of the hawks in trouble.  Young hawks do spend time on the ground, so be careful not to sound a false alarm.

It's important to remember that birds have a high mortality rate, up to 70% in their first year of life.  Keep your expectations low and you'll be a happy birder.

Q: Are these birds related to Pale Male and Lola, the media stars of Fifth Avenue?
A: It's very unlikely.  The parents are young, either three or four years old.  Since, Pale Male and Lola have not had a successful nest for the last five seasons, they can't be direct descendants.

Although media attention has been on Fifth Avenue, New York has numerous Red-tailed Hawks.  The number of hawks in New York City is over 100.  In Manhattan, I currently know of seven pairs.  Three of these had successful nests this year.  If you add up these hawks, their young and the know first year birds in Manhattan you have over 20 hawks.

Given the number of hawks in the city and the greater New York area, it is unlikely these hawks are descendants of Pale Male and Lola.

Q: What is the history of this pair?
A. This pair first appeared in Riverside Park in late 2007.  They established a nest that winter over the northbound entrance ramp to the highway around 80th Street.  They had three eyasses in 2008, who tragically died due to secondary rodenticide poisoning. Each eyass tested positive for two types of anti-coagulant rodenticides, brodifacoum and bromodiolone. 

Both of these poisons were recently restricted for over-the-counter sale by the EPA.  However, they are still available for use by certified pesticide applicators.

The EPA's records show that rat poison has been detected in a range of animal carcasses - mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, squirrels, deer and 27 species of birds. Few states actively track the cause of wildlife deaths, but in California, residue of the rodent poisons has been found in 27 of 32 kit fox carcasses. The small fox is an endangered species. In New York the poisons were found in 43 of 53 great horned owls and 45 of 78 red-tailed hawks.

These poisons are unfortunately still used outdoors by licensed exterminators in New York City.

In 2008, after the deaths of the eyasses, the hawks built a nest where the current one stands today.  This initial nest fell down over the winter.  After toying with a nest at 93rd Street, they returned to the boat basin, rebuilt their nest and are now are raising three eyasses.

Q: What about the mother's beak?
A: The mother's beak, which broke earlier this year, is fully recovered.

Q: Do they have names?
A: These birds are wild animals, not pets.  Personally, I feel naming wild animals just leads to anthropomorphizing the animal's behavior.  But you're welcome to call them whatever you want.  Whatever happens, I'll still be calling the adults, Adult Riverside Female and Adult Riverside Male.