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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Green-Wood Cemetery fledges

The kids are out of the nest in Green-Wood Cemetery. When Marge checked in on them on Friday, her feeling was that the older of the two would fledge over the weekend. This morning the nest was empty and we couldn't spot either young Red-tailed Hawk climbing around in the crown of the linden tree. While Marge circled the area on the north side of the nest tree, I walked the hill on the south side.

It might take a few minutes, but I can usually locate camouflaged Red-tailed Hawks by following the distress sounds of songbirds. The cemetery, however, is a virtual aviary of breeding Northern Mockingbirds, so differentiating "real" bird alert calls from faux alarms is nearly impossibly. It became a game, after a while, naming the imitated calls and songs. At one point, Marge and I were standing beneath one mockingbird when he suddenly switched from a cardinal call to a cricket chirp. If I could count the number of bird species in Green-Wood Cemetery just by the mockingbird vocalization, I could probably match my big bird-bike day total of 123.

We had nearly given up searching when Marge commented, "They usually spend a lot of time on the ground right after they fledge". Those words had barely left her lips when she said, "Look, there's one right there!" On a low tombstone, just west of the nest tree, stood one of the fledglings. She appeared to be the older of the two remaining offspring as she had already molted all of her facial down. She flew a short distance to a large statue of an angel and perched briefly on the head.

We watched her for several minutes, moving from gravestone to monument, then up into a London Planetree. She remained there for about 15 minutes, preening, while Marge and I looked for her nest mate.

A robin was calling from within a tulip tree on the hillside beneath the nest. I was convinced that it was a real robin, this time, and hurried to the spot. The younger red-tail was perched in the tree opposite the robin. The location was in a directly glide path from the nest and about 15 feet above the ground. She had the confused look of a nestling away from home for the first time. While we were watching, she took a few tenuous steps, then hop-flapped to a higher branch. With much more downy feathers still scattered about her face, I'd guess that she was the baby of the brood. Fluffy feathers on either side of her crown created a weird, horned appearance. It looked like hair styling by the 1980's band "A Flock of Seagulls".

I try not to name the offspring of the resident Red-tailed Hawks, but Marge likes Lucy and Ricky. My reason is that they are very difficult to identify as adults, plus they don't stay around for very long. Also, I'm afraid that if I name them, I might begin to get too attached. I already spend a lot of time and mental energy on the Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery pairs. I'd end up spending more time with my raptor family than my human family. Isn't that how it starts out for those people who end up living in a house with 97 cats?
by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"


Marie said...

What's wrong with 97 cats? :-)

knithound brooklyn said...

97 cats, knitting endlessly while little kids walk by fearful and whispering that the house is haunted!
Yea, I know all about it.

Rob Jett said...


Mona said...

hi rob, i was hoping to find an email on your blog but i guess i'll have to do it this way. in the past week i've stumbled across two pigeons, just lying, face down, necks awkwardly twisted, on the sidewalk - one i think i saved in cp the other i had nothing to move it with. are they hurt? resting? dying? i've never seen this before in the past five years i've lived here and now twice in one week. seems very strange. they're completely alive, looking at me, winking even but just motionless. sorry to spam your comments but was hoping you could help me. thanks!

ks said...

I heard that one of the fledglings was found dead in Green-Wood.

Is this true?

Rob Jett said...

Unfortunately, yes. Read about it here:

Rob Jett said...


I've never heard of or even seen that kind of behavior. Unfortunately, the city doesn't "deal" with hurtin' pigeons, so help needs to come from individuals. You might try doing a search for "pigeon fanciers".

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