Thursday, November 05, 2009

Midtown Hawk Collision

I just read an interesting posting on the New York State Birding list regarding a Red-tailed Hawk in Midtown Manhattan.

The following was posted by Rob Bate:

"Tracy Meade and Stuart Cocheran just witnessed an adult Red-tailed Hawk crash into a building at 31st St and 7th Ave in Manhattan and fall about 10 stories to the sidewalk below. In an attempt to protect the bird on the busy midtown sidewalk, and pending the contact of more professional help, Tracy approached close to the bird with her overcoat. Apparently only stunned, the Hawk opened one eye and escaped under a parked car. After a few moments the hawk, revived , came out, spread it's wings and was able to fly off over 31st Street toward Madison Square Garden and the Hudson River, fightening pedestrians and pigeons alike as it rose up."

"It is hard to understand why it crashed, the building is mostly stone with smaller windows, not a glass face building reflecting the sky. Perhaps it was doing a Peregrine impression, trying to take a pigeon out of the air and missed it's mark."

The application "Google Earth" has a feature that allows one to render 3D models of the buildings in a satellite image. Take a look at a bird's eye view of Midtown Manhattan. Madison Square Garden is at the center of the image. The southern edge of Central Park is visible at the top right. Bryant Park is a small patch of green below that, at 42nd Street. I'm not sure what the buildings are in the lower left, but they seem to have a fair amount of trees around them, perhaps the hawk was attracted to pigeons in that area. It seems pretty obvious that birds have to deal with a complex gauntlet of structures whenever they pass through the city. Also, outside of Central Park, the island of Manhattan only has very small, scattered green spaces where our growing population of Red-tailed Hawks try to eek out a living. I'm surprised that there aren't more hawk collisions.

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