The action I saw today, was a parent and a fledgling, up and down West End Avenue from 70th to 76th Street, on building on both the west and east side of the street. I believe the fledgling I was watching was the second one to leave the nest.
The young fledglings and their father spent time on 310 West 72nd Street, 263 West End Avenue, the rear of 269 West 72 Street, the rear of 253 72 Street, and 253 West 73rd Street while I watched them this evening.
The parents and fledglings may still be using the nest for feedings, because I keep seeing the fledglings return to the nest.
The real fun of the evening was to see the fledglings cross West End Avenue and end up on the rear of 253 72 Street. A pair of Northern Mockingbirds and later a pair of Blue Jays, started to harass one of the fledgling. The father quickly came in and allowed himself to be attacked and pulled the attacking birds away from the fledgling. I've seen this behavior at lots of nests, and I enjoy watching the protective instincts of the parents.
Just like yesterday, the eyasses look healthy and seem to have enough experience flying and landing that they should do well when the parents bring them to trees and lawns nearby. The real question is, will it be the Lincoln Towers area or Riverside Park.
Things started slowly on 72nd Street. One parent was high up on 220 Riverside Boulevard and I saw a parent on 70th Street, east of West End Avenue and then at the bottom of Riverside Drive. But no fledglings.
Then out of the blue, one of them was on the ledge where the nest is. I thought, I know both of them have fledged. Was I wrong? It didn't take long to find out the answer. The fledgling had only made a brief stop on the nest and it made a strong flight across the street.
When I turned the corner to see where it went, both fledglings were on 263 West End Avenue, which is on the NW corner of 72nd Street and West End Avenue.
For over 30 minutes the two hawks explored the terraces and balconies of the East and South facades of the building.
In all my years trying to study these hawks, this is the first time I've seen a fledgling at this nest!
I wasn't able to find the fledglings from 310 West 72nd Street, but I did see both of the parents on top of 220 Riverside Boulevard. They were being harassed by two Northern Mockingbirds that have a nest on a penthouse at 71st and West End Avenue. The rotation of songs sung by one of the Northern Mockingbirds includes an American Kestrel call which confused me to no end until I figured out who was singing it.
I suspect the two fledglings are on top of the roofs of be buildings near the nest.
From my perspective, there still seems to be an eyass that hasn't fledged yet on 72nd Street, but it isn't clear if it might have left briefly and then returned. In any case, it was hidden on Friday afternoon, but appeared after a parent landed on the building's water tank.
I also heard the fledgling cry from one of the nearby building roofs briefly. So, I think everyone is accounted for after yesterday's big adventure.
This has got to be the hardest nest in Manhattan to follow, but it's been fun to have something to study it this year!
I didn't witness any of the excitement of the day, but I sure heard about it!
The bird that had been using the roofs of buildings on the two blocks near the nest, learning who to land and explore, decided to go over to 205 West End Drive. Mid-morning it landed on a car, had troubles landing in a tree and it was "rescued" by folks thinking the bird was going to get into traffic.
In general, you should only intervene after getting permission for a licensed rehabbed. Too many birds get "rescued" and then have to be returned to their parents. When in doubt, call your local Audubon Society or local rehabber before taking any action. Many birds get hurt by being handled by inexperienced "do gooders".
Luckily, the Wild Bird Fund, where the bird ended up, returned it to 31o West 72nd Street in the early afternoon, and the parents quickly came to be with the fledgling. So, with one bird on the nest still, everyone was accounted for.
It looks like the parents are looking to entice the fledglings into the gardens of the Lincoln Tower buildings. There is lots of green space, tons of food and the area has lots of traffic free lawns. I'm always surprised by where hawks bring their fledglings. I would have assumed Riverside Park was the destination for these young hawks.
On Wednesday evening, the eyass remaining on the nest was only being seen briefly and stayed for the most part on the nest on the eastern side of the gutter. One of the parents was seen on a building at 70th and Riverside Blvd.
Only one eyass remained on the nest today. From the parents behavior, the other one may have been on the roof of the building. The parents made some very tight circles over the roof, typical of parents checking on a fledgling. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
I tried my luck again at the 310 West 72nd Street nest and wasn't disappointed. After about twenty minutes of nothing, as the afternoon temperature started to drop, the mother arrived at the nest and the two eyasses woke up. She helped them eat and left. The eyasses then were active for about twenty minutes.
I made another visit to 310 West 72nd Street. The eyasses look great. I thought there were three, but it might be only two on the nest. While recording, a local showed me pictures of a fledgling from last year who showed up on her terrace last year. She was stunned to hear it was a youngster.
These young hawks should be leaving the nest soon. There tails are a bit short, but they should grow in within a few days. It will be great to have some young hawks in Riverside Park this year.
For the third year, the 310 West 72nd Street is active. I think there are three eyasses this year. It's a tough nest to watch as it is in a fairly wide rain gutter just below the roof line on the east side of the north face of the building. An adult visited twice. "Trash" was taken out around 3:30, followed later by a feeding around 4:45 p.m.
The female was high on the 310 West 72nd Street nest when I arrived. But I couldn't tell for sure if the nest had hatched. This is one of the most difficult nests in Manhattan to observe. It might be June before we figure out how the nest is doing.
The remaining fledgling at Grant's Tomb is still too healthy to catch. It flew easily between the current nest to the old nest and back this afternoon. Until it gets weaker or hungry/thirsty it can't be caught. So, the Urban Park Rangers just have to wait. They're consulting with an experienced rehabber and they are monitoring the bird ever day.
The fledgling cries when the Peregrine Falcons go by and cries while looking at its mother's favorite perch. Just like a crying human baby, the sounds are difficult to listen to. They make you want to do something. But in this case "The Crying Game" is really "A Waiting Game". The bird needs to wear itself out and come to the ground and let itself be caught.
So, for now doing nothing is the best thing that can be done. Sadly, the fledgling needs to let itself be caught, something we can't do for it.
I suspect the fledgling will get captured on Saturday or Sunday.
Update: From Susan Kirby via Twitter on Saturday: "Third Grant's Tomb red-tailed #hawk fledgling rescued and on way to #WINORR. Thanks, Rangers Rob Mastrianni and Dan Tainow, and Bobby Horvath. Love this baby!"
I arrived at Grant's Tomb after the rehabilitator had already left with one of the fledglings, so what I'm going to say is all second hand. A few days ago the male crashed into a window hard enough to break the glass. He hasn't been seen since. The female got into an accident with a car, and appears to have rodenticide poising.
This leave all three fledglings with no one to feed them. So, Bobby Horvath of WINORR came to capture the fledglings. He got one, but two can fly too well to be captured at this point. It will be a challenge to capture these two! Good luck Bobby!
Here are picture of one of the fledglings that needs to be put into protective care.
I finally had a chance to run over to 310 West 72nd Street this afternoon. It took about 20 minutes for a hawk to be visible. Then two, and then three. I had seen an early photo of the nest and thought there were only two, so three eyasses was a nice surprise.
The nest is in a wide rain gutter, so the hawks have a "runway" to explore. It was fun to watch them go up and down the "runway". Just before a rain shower, an adult arrived to check in on the kids.
I took a trip up to Grant's Tomb to see the eyasses before they fledged. The three looked great. No sign of the parents, but that's not surprising this late. I'm sure they were nearby.
I finally had a chance to visit Grant's Tomb this season. The nest is now in front of the Tomb and is much more visible than the old nest. There are two eyasses this year. I didn't get to see a feeding, but I did get to see a Peregrine Falcon from the Riverside Church nest, hassle one of the parents.
310 West 72nd Street has to be the hardest nest to view in the city. It's in a gutter at the top of the building and one can't really see into the nest. But I was able to view an exchange of the two hawks, so I it would be safe to say the nest has eggs.
This afternoon, I got to see both parents on the nest and the eyass. It was nice to see all three hawks.
(A few folks have asked me about when the rescued eyass. I trust the folks at WINORR to make the correct choice about what to do with the eyass. There are so many factors involved, I wouldn't even try to second guess the experts.)
After reports of one, then two, eyasses on the Grant's Tomb nest, it became apparent that there were three eyasses on the nest this week. I caught up with them and both there parents this evening.
The 116th Street nest was relaxed until food was delivered on Saturday afternoon. Gone are the relaxed careful feedings of the mother, having been replaced by a grab for food by a youngster who can feed itself. Boy, do they grow up fast!
The hawks at 116th and Riverside have begun "branching", so they should be leaving the nest soon. Good luck little guys!
The 84th and West End Avenue nest has one eyass this year. This has been a difficult nest over the years with eyasses dying on the nest and a low birth rate. Hopefully this year's eyass will do well, fledge and have a good summer in Riverside Park.
The two eyasses are looking a great deal older than the last time I saw them. Fluffy gray bodies have given way to brown wings and orange chests. There mother was just finishing up a feeding when I arrived.
Thanks to some great detective work by Melody Andres, we now know that both the Grant's Tomb (1) nest at 123rd Street and Riverside Drive and the 116th Street and Riverside Drive nest (2) are both active with two different pairs of hawks. These are close by to a Peregrine Falcon scrape (3) at Riverside Church, and close to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine nest site (4).
I had always thought Manhattan Hawk and Peregrine nests were like a checkerboard, with each taking different squares, but these three nests are so close together that it defies all that I had believed about nest positioning in the city.
116th Street and Riverside Drive
The last time I visited the West End Avenue/Riverside Park nest, it looked like there had been a hatch. Today, it was clear based on a little head that kept showing up. We'll figure out how many in a week or two.
A brief visit to the nest caught the female feeding, but it was unclear who and how many. I suspect the nest has just hatched and will need a visit in a week or two.
We have so many Red-tailed Hawk nests in New York City, I can't follow all of them anymore. But I did get to a few this weekend. I visited Sheep Meadow and Fifth Avenue on Saturday and all is good there. And I visited St. John and Riverside/West End on Sunday.
(For news of the uptown nests, visit the Morningside Hawks Blog.)
The St. John nest is in a new location on a turret above the statue of St. Peter on the rear of the Cathedral. It's one saint to the left of St. Andrew, where the nest has been for a number of years. Construction of two new apartment buildings most likely encouraged the move. The new nest is not protected from the rain, so it will be interesting to see how things turn out.
The nest on West End Avenue looked fine. The female was visible for a few minutes about every twenty minutes.
I went exploring today to CCNY and West End Avenue.
No sign of eyasses at CCNY. The nest shows no slices, but does have a fresh set of leaves in it. Too confusing to figure out what's up.
The West End Avenue nest has a single eyass. It turns out it had had three eggs, two of which has hatched, with one eyass dying shortly after hatching.
I've been trying to tie up loose ends about this season in Manhattan, and West End Avenue is one of the nests I hadn't heard news about. When I arrived shortly after a visit by the male, the female looked to be feeding an eyass briefly. It then sat down fairly low on the nest.
My guess is that we might have one egg hatched with other to follow. But I would suspect it will be much easier to figure out in a week.
The Riverside hawks are back at the same location as last year, a building on West End Avenue. The nest looks good. While I was there today, the hawks were looking at the nest and seemed to be saying "its just right" and ready to go. But they don't look to be nesting just yet.
Only one eyass remains on the nest at West End Avenue/Riverside Drive. It's unclear if we had a death or a premature fledge. Given the dates when it disappeared, a death is most likely. We'll know later in the season depending on how many fledglings end up in the park.
Update 6-15-2003: I received an email that one of the eyasses did die after two days of rain a few weeks ago.
The Riverside Park hawks have eyasses that are old enough that they can easily be seen now. It makes it much easier to watch the nest. Tonight there were a number of visits by both parents, and a Northern Mockingbird harassed both of them.
Last year, the location of the Riverside nest ended up being uncertain. This year, it's clear where it is located, on the west side of a West End Avenue building on a top floor fire escape. (The neighborhood is a little worried that someone will disturb the nest given it's location, so forgive me if I don't give complete directions.)
The male visited twice and an eyass was seen very briefly (after 6:40 on the video). Neighborhood hawk watchers have seen two heads pop up. The eyass count is just a guess at this point. We'll have to wait a few more weeks to have an accurate count.
These hawks are the pair that replaced the poisoned pair from the boat basin.
Every breeding season in New York City, we have lots of nests that work like clockwork. This year, this seems to be Washington Square Park, Fort Washington Avenue, Inwood Hill Park, Fifth Avenue, CUNY Uptown and St. John seem to be in this category this year. (I haven't had a chance to see what's up on Randall's Island, but that I suspect is fine.)
Then we have mysteries or mishaps. The Highbridge Park nest had problems, and a new one was built recently. In Central Park three pairs of hawks, one at the south, one in the northwest and one in the northeast, are all trying to get established.
The most confusing though is Riverside Park. After a few seasons of tragedies, last year two new hawks failed to make a nest although they tried on a number of fire escapes. This season, two hawks have been reported in the 90's of Riverside Park. I went to see them today, but came away with more questions than answers.
I got to the new female hawk at Riverside. She copulated with her mate while I was photographing. While we've had a number of hawk deaths this season, her presence reminded me that the Red-tailed Hawk population of New York City continues to increase.
Within the last few weeks there have been four dead Red-tailed Hawks found on the Upper West Side: three in Central Park, and one in Riverside Park. The hawks were:
- A juvenile that was in the North Woods of Central Park
- Lima, Pale Male's mate of a year
- An older hawk in the SE corner of Central Park
- The female of the Boat Basin nest in Riverside Park
While necropsy results are still pending, the likelihood that rodenticides were the cause of death is an urban reality.
As hawks have made a comeback in New York City over the last twenty years, we're seeing the issues hawks face living in the Big Apple.
I know from personal experience that we have lots of allies in this effort, including the Parks Department, the Central Park Conservancy, the Department of Health, NYC Audubon, and others. While we figure out how to turn our anger over these deaths into action, we need to be careful not to attack our allies.
This is an incredibly complex issue. A few hundreds raptors in New York City aren't going to limit the rat populations. Controlling rat infestations utilizing methods that have the least potential for negative impact on wildlife is going to take years of incremental change. We'll need the help of all our allies as we tackle long term issues, such as improving sanitation and reducing poison usage.
It isn't publicized enough, but behind the scenes, there are many people working to protect raptors in the city. So, rather than attacking our friends over these deaths, we should approach the Riverside and Central Park staff, not with the question "Why did you kill our hawks?", but with the questions "How can I help you protect our hawks? And what support do you need from me?"
I haven't been up to Riverside Park since last summer, so I decided to make a visit. The female has a new mate to replace the one poisoned last year. He's banded and when possible, I'll try and read the numbers.
The female was rebuilding the nest when I arrived. She brought at least three branches to the nest before going off to join her mate on the Normandy building.
I was in Riverside Park tonight, not only to visit the hawks but to discuss outstanding hawk safety issues with John Herrold, Riverside Park's Administrator.
John Herrold had news of the necropsy results and it looks as though the second generation poison brodifacoum was the cause of death, and not bromodiolone which was used near the Boat Basin Café. This would point to buildings along Riverside Park which use brodifacoum rather than the park itself. (Changing poisoning habits outside the park will be much more difficult than influencing park policy, I'm afraid.)
Mr. Herrold talked about how concerned and knowledgeable his staff was about the hawks. It was good to hear that Riverside Park had the hawks on their radar.
Mr. Herrold did a great job of listening. We spoke of improving relations between Riverside Park Hawk watchers and the park, possibly having a meeting every March to allow hawk watchers to express concerns for the upcoming season and to meet his staff. Knowing names and faces before a crisis goes a long way.
We also talked about the dumpsters and I learned that the inappropriate dumpster has been removed, dumpsters with lids brought in for the Boat Basin Café, and plans are underway to purchase a solar powered compactor for the marina. So, this issue seems to be close to resolution.
We also talked about poisons in the park. Here he feels, that except for poisons placed near the dumpsters, which believes was done in error, the park has been greatly improving its approach to rat management. He believes that over the last five years serious efforts have been made to reduce rodenticide use, by introducing traps, limit garbage, etc.
I asked if he could evaluate the period poisons prohibited around a nests to possibly have them start when nesting begins and also to evaluate the use of underground application of loose poisons rather than using bait boxes. He said he would look into it.
So, it looks like a positive dialog has begun.
The fledglings looked great. Both are being well feed by their mother and one even played on the ground today. So far, so good.
The first eyass fledged on Wednesday according to veteran hawk watchers at Riverside Park. The other eyass also appears to have fledged on Thursday. Last year the parents, continued to feed the fledglings for a week on the nest, so the youngsters continued to sleep in the nest after they fledged. This year, this no rush attitude continues. Although both birds are reported to have fledged, one was hanging out in the nest on Friday.
While there is much joy over the fledging, there is still concern over the father's poisoning by over application of poisons south of the Boat Basin earlier this year. Although there have been positive discussions, I don't think we've cracked the bureaucracy of the Parks Department yet.
Balancing hawk safety and rat control is difficult but three major areas of concern have yet to be addressed by park administrators.
- Proper sanitation is the first priority in preventing rats. If you don't feed them, you won't have them. The dumpster at the Boat Basin is a breeding ground for rats. It is a large dumpster designed for yard waste and not garbage and is sitting in a pile of mud most days. The rats have a field day (or should we say field night) feasting on the garbage here. The dumpster has a gate opening at the back with a two inch gap. The rats just run in and out of the dumpster all night.
While everyone acknowledges the problem and the need to build a proper waste transfer area with a compactor, the Park administrators are claiming a lack of funds. There must be enough income from the café rent to siphon off a small portion to fix this deplorable situation. If not, why isn't this a priority for the Riverside Park Fund?
- The current Parks Department policy is to restrict poisoning during the period of time starting from when eggs hatch until the fledglings disperse in the late summer. I believe the experiences both at Riverside and in Astoria Park warrant a review of this policy and an extension of the restrictions to start a month earlier when the mother begins sitting on eggs. We've had too many poisoning of nesting parents in city parks recently.
- A commitment from Parks to evaluate and consider banning their practice of the underground baiting of rat borrows using second generation anticoagulant poisons. I believe this practice is contrary the recommendations of the EPA, who advises the poisons always be placed within 50 feet of buildings, and in bait stations, unless used against gophers or voles in agricultural settings, where it may be used underground.
Underground baiting allows rats to ingest extremely large doses of poisons before they get sick or die resulting extremely toxic rats.
There is no proof that using baiting stations properly deployed, which are much safer for non-targeted animals, children and pets, are any less effective than loose, underground applications of poisons.
Until we get a positive commitment from Parks to address theses three areas, I don't think we should celebrate. If you are interested in writing, here are some key contacts:
The eyasses at Riverside Park are doing well and should be fledging soon. Thanks to all of the people who supported the single mother. Up to now things have been doing very well, considering the death of the father.
The Riverside Park pair of Red-tailed Hawk eyasses is really close to fledgling. I wouldn't be surprised if one is off the nest by Memorial Day. Today they did lots of wing flapping and branching. Their tails look a little too short and some feathers haven't grown in on their heads, but otherwise they look pretty close to being ready for their first flights.
The Urban Park rangers have been doing a great job of helping the single parent mother feed the eyasses, by putting out food. I think this made a major difference for the outcome of this nest. The Rangers have also put up posters with simple do's and don't about how to respect the hawks. The posters remind dog owners to keep their dogs on leash.
There aren't enough Urban Park Rangers or Parks Enforcement Police to enforce the leash laws in Riverside Park, so it is helpful if the hawk watching community talks to owners of dogs who have their dogs off leash. This doesn't have to be an adversarial discussion. Last year, the mother would swoop over any loose dog that was chasing squirrels the week before they fledged. So, the issue is not only a hawk safety issue but also a dog safety issue.
The eyasses at Riverside Park are in that awkward stage where their flight feathers are starting to grow in. It's a good time to watch then, as you can figure out how wing and tail feathers work as they grow in.
The mother continues to hold her own, and is being supported by an Urban Park Ranger who is helping by leaving rodents near the nest.
The Riverside Park eyasses look great and the two of them are large enough for hawk watcher to get good looks at them often.
Tonight, I was thrilled to watch the mother accept food that had been placed out for her around the nest. Her accepting this food makes easier for her to be a single mom.
Eighteen days after warning John Herrold, Riverside Park Administrator that the placement of poisons at the Boat Basin Café was negligent, he responded with the most disingenuous reply. He wrote,
"Dear Mr. Yolton,
Thank you for you messages regarding the Red-tail hawks in Riverside Park. We share your concern for them and I apologize for not responding sooner. Please rest assured we have been actively engaged in working to care for the hawks.
We in Riverside Park are especially proud to have these beautiful creatures living in the park, and take great care to protect them. We are deeply saddened by the death of the male hawk on Sunday.
We will keep you informed as to new developments. Thank you again for your message and concern.
On April 11th, I had warned John Herrold that his staff was negligent by putting out poisons at the Boat Basin Dumpsters in late March. He took no action until he was contacted by Commissioner Benepe days later. His failure to acknowledge that he ignored my email and then his stating "We in Riverside Park are especially proud to have these beautiful creatures living in the park, and take great care to protect them." infuriated me.
Absolute B.S., when you've most likely just killed one of them.
Please call and email his office and ask why he did not mitigate poison usage around the nest this year and what his action plan is to prevent this kind of accident from ever happening again. His email is [email protected] (or [email protected]) and his office can reached at (212) 408-0264. If you contribute to the Riverside Park Fund, please consider withholding any donations and let the fund know your reason, until this issue is resolved.
The eyasses you see below deserved two parents.
There were at least two active eyasses on the nest today. (At this stage, they're too small to know if it's two or three.) If you go watch them, be aware that you can only see them from the ridge by the highway at this stage. All I can say is they're more fun to watch than Easter Bunnies!
Two hours of hawk watching yielded five seconds of eyass footage Thursday. The winds were over 30 MPH, and for the most part I think the mother just wanted to keep them safe and warm, which meant hidden.
I could see the mother settling down, as I approached the Riverside nest, so I think I had just missed a feeding. So, I had to be patient and wait for a glimpse of an eyass (hawk nestling). Just before nightfall, I saw two brief glimpses of an eyass, possibly two. They're easiest to see on the video.
The father was near the nest for about half an hour.
Thirty M.P.H. winds made it difficult to observe and photograph the nest Sunday afternoon, but there were positive signs that one or more eggs may have hatched. The mother ate on the nest and appeared to be sharing food. It wasn't conclusive and she may have just been "eating for one", but it did look like she might be feeding. We'll know for sure in a few days.
The father joined the mother on the nest but there wasn't an exchange. Another sign one or more eggs may have hatched.