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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Red-tailed Hawk nest in the Ravine

I spent about an hour watching the Red-tailed Hawk nest in Prospect Park. In addition to my scope and tripod, I brought along my backpack chair. With my tripod arranged at its lowest setting, I parked myself in the low, beach chair at the base of the “viewing tree“. My spot is pretty well camouflaged but, if anyone walking on the path below noticed me, I was likely passed off as a typical, eccentric New Yorker. I probably even howled at the moon.

Male of Ravine hawk nest pair

The pair together

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The hawk sitting on the eggs was very difficult to observe. She was either deeper into the nest or was just positioned closer to the east side of it. I could barely make out her head but could see her rusty-red tail sticking up on the left side of the nest. Her mate stopped off at the nest three times in one hour. There was never any food delivered or places changed. He would stand over his mate looking into the nest for a few moments then depart. At one point he sat down next to her and watched with great interest as she repositioned her eggs.

This pair is very different from Big Mama and Split-tail in one respect. They are very discreet. My old pair were likely urban-raised hawks as they would frequently perch and hunt in the open. It was not unusual to spot Big Mama perched low in a tree near a busy road or sidewalk. The pair from the Ravine nest are very difficult to locate. Looking for them in trees is rarely successful and I have to rely on the alarm calls of birds and squirrels to find them.

While I was sitting at the base of the oak tree near the nest a Brown Creeper landed next to my head. If I look back in my journals I’m sure this had happened several times. When I’m watching the hawk nests, I’m sitting motionless near the base of a tree. I suppose that it’s inevitable that I’m mistaken as a part of the trunk. It would have been interesting if it landed on my body. A friend of mine is a technician for the telephone company. He’s frequently has to climb the telephone poles to perform repairs. Occasionally, squirrels chasing each other up or down the poles mistake him for part of the pole and run up his body. One time, he said he was working on a line when a squirrel climbing the pole decided to take a break on top of one of his boots. He stood still until the squirrel eventually moved on.

Here are some flowers seen around the park today.


(Photo credit - Rob J)

Tulip pollen

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Anemone blanda

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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Prospect Park, 4/9/2006
Ring-necked Duck (2, Upper pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2, Ravine nest.)
American Coot (1, Lower pool.)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher (Ambergil.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3, Ravine.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3, Ravine.)
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker (Fairly common in Ravine area.)
Eastern Phoebe (3, Ravine.)
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Ravine.)
Brown Creeper (2, Ravine.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (1, Ravine.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Several, Ravine.)
Hermit Thrush (2, Ravine.)
American Robin (Common in Ravine area.)
European Starling
Palm Warbler (4 or 5, Ravine.)
Northern Cardinal
Dark-eyed Junco (1, Ravine.)
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch (1, Red Maple near Nethermead Arches.)
House Sparrow


Beverly Whelan said...

This is more a question than a comment. First, though, the photos are magnificent. How high do hawks nest? I've been unable to find the nest of a particularly aggressive hawk who has been wreaking havoc with the wildlife and actually leaving the carcasses. He seems to kill for other than food. I have watched him with binoculars and he doesn't even fear the dog.

Rob J. said...


I am a little concerned by your question. If you have any thoughts of harassing or harming your local hawk let me point out that it is a Federal offense covered by the "Migratory Bird Treaty Act".

Hawks, unlike humans, only kill for food or defending their territory from threats. I wouldn't characterize their behavior as "wreaking havoc with the wildlife" but merely playing their role within it. Sometimes they may leave their prey uneaten because they are chased off by another raptor (or mammal). Red-tailed Hawks can be pretty brazen around dogs but are not interested in a confrontation (or eating them). That said, nest sites for Red-tailed Hawk vary widely. They range from 15' to 70' in height and from cacti to high-rise.

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