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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Brooklyn Hawk update

Big Mama and her old mate Split-tail

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

I just received and interesting e-mail from my friend, Joe. He does a lot of birding in the Green-Wood Cemetery, which is a short distance from Prospect Park. His note is regarding the nesting Red-tailed Hawks in the cemetery and includes a sad finding.


Hope all is well, I expect you are getting ready for the x-mas count. I'm helping Janet in her first year as leader of Green-wood. I was in Green-wood Saturday with Marge Hanover, a Green-wood regular, and we saw some Red-Tails that I thought you might be interested in.

Red-tails have been having trouble in Green-wood for the last 2 breeding seasons. The nest in Green-wood had a long successful record of fledging young for well over 15/20 years. Every year, like clockwork, the young fledged within a few days of June 5th. The last 2 breeding seasons have not produced any fledglings. Two seasons ago, which was a very wet, cold one, the two nestlings had just barely started to stand on the edge to exercise their wing muscles by the end of May. Very late in the season. [..] The young disappeared. The fledglings of all previous years remained in the cemetery by Fort Hamilton until at least October and are easily approachable. I looked and never found a sign of them. Neither did Janet. I don't think they fledged at all, certainly they did not survive long out of the nest.

This last breeding season, the pair was back on the nest. They had added material and we had a constant bird on the nest. All was looking good, then suddenly there was only one bird in the area and no one on the nest. I found the body of the female, going by size, in Dell water. Since then Green-wood has had almost no Red-Tails. Even this fall, when you expect wintering birds would arrive, no Red-Tails.

Marge and I were happy to see a high soaring pair by Fort Hamilton and McDonald this Saturday. They basically circled just over and across McDonald Ave, occasionally coming into the cemetery. We stayed in the area watching for a while and one of the times they were over the nest realized that one of the birds was immensely huge, even allowing for sexual size difference. Big Mama? Clean bird, heavy, well defined breastband. Tail very red viewed form the top, but from underneath showed a whitish tinge to the red. We started to go back over Ocean Hill when we came upon a third Red-tail low in a tree, about 15 feet up. We looked at him he stared back, unhappy but stayed until Marge's cell phone rang. He then flew off low the bare minimum, and landed about 40 feet away low in another tree. All the time looking like a cat, who doesn't want to been seen.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. I think Big Mama, if it was her and I think it was, is interested in Green-wood. Not that she would move, but she doesn't want the Green-wood nest occupied. She was not able to intimidate the established pair, but I think this third bird is one of her offspring, they do have similar breastbands and the same clean underwings. Perhaps it is the male from the previous year and without a mate, he is a little vulnerable to her pressure. Whatever the details, I think Big Mama is being imperialistic about Green-wood. The only parallel to my scenario is that the year before Red-Tails started to nest in Prospect, a young pair tried to construct a nest by 39th street and Fort Hamilton. They were driven off by the established pair by Ocean Hill. Should be an interesting season if I'm right.



Karen said...

I go to Green-Wood about once a week and it has been about a year since I've seen any hawks. You used to see them regularly soaring over the cemetery or munching on squirrels & doves by Dell Water (which is also a good place to see warblers in the spring).

BTW I was at Green-Wood today and there is a Snow Goose in the partially frozen Sylvan Water. It appears that its right wing is broken. I know that a wildlife rehabilitator could treat him, but first he'd have to be caught. Is there anything that can be done for him?

Rob J. said...

Hi Karen,

We were discussing the poor bird at the Christmas Bird Count dinner Saturday evening. Some folks at the Brooklyn Bird Club said that they'd look into finding a rehabber.


Karen said...

Slight clarification: of course I meant that the goose would have to be caught first, not the wildlife rehabilitator.

Marge said...

Hi Rob..Great site you have here. I bird at Greenwood alot and did the Christmas Pre-count with Joe Borker. I was unable to do this year's offical count. I have many counts under my belt though. Its been an awful summer & fall with no red tails at Greenwood. Even the workers at Greenwood know I bird there and they say. Marge, "where are our hawks." They were active in the early spring, then they were gone.

Joe & I were delighted when we finally saw the pair soaring over the old nest. The female was absolutely huge compared to the male. Joe said that had to be "Big Mamma".

I was in Greenwood yesterday 12/19. I went primarily to see the snow goose. It looks so sad and alone. It did not mingle with the other geese. I stayed in my car and observed for awhile. He/she nibbled the grass then went and sat on the ice. I do not know a rehabilitator, but would love to hear that someone would rescue him/her. (Sorry, I just cant ID the gender). Has anyone been able to locate a rehabilitator yet? I do hope this goose can be saved.

No sign of any red tails. I did get an accipiter from the corner of my window as I was driving. I am going to go to Greenwood on a regular basis throughout the winter. Im especially hoping a retail pair will re-establish themselves.

Ill keep you posted.

Rob J. said...


Thanks for the update. Regarding the Snow Goose, I've contacted the director of NYCAS, EJ McAdams. I've known EJ for years and am confident that he'll get a rescue moving along.


Katie said...

I saw a similar looking bird recently in our backyard in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. Perhaps a hawk?


Haya said...

Since the beginning of 2008, there's been a juvenile Cooper's hawk visiting our backyard! We live one block from Green-wood Cemetery, so we get a lot of birds and raccoons in our neighbourhood. Lovely bird!

-Haya Matsumoto

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