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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Green-Wood Hawk Update

Sorry for the lack of postings. I took some time off earlier in the month and am trying to catch up.

Here's a brief update on the juvenile Red-tailed Hawks in Green-Wood Cemetery.

I've been back to Green-Wood Cemetery three times since Bobby released the juvenile Red-tailed Hawk that had been injured. While I've been able to locate the "original" juvenile from the cemetery's nest, I haven't had any luck finding the foster child.

Summer sounds around the cemetery are now dominated by cicadas, mockingbirds and robin alert calls. There are also small pockets of House Wrens and Chipping Sparrows. I spotted several fledgling chippings in the short grass being fed by their parents. Bobby, the head of security, reported to Marge that he saw the banded young Red-tailed Hawk near the Dell Water. That area is about 1/2 mile southwest of where he was released and at the opposite side of the cemetery. My search for the banded hawk would be concentrated in the area below the nest (Hill of Graves), the Dell Water and the route in between.

The young female hawk was easy to find each time I went looking. She still spends most of her time near the Hill of Graves and her nest tree. She also still whines a lot for free handouts from Junior and Big Mama. There has also been a male and female kestrel hanging around the hill just to the west of the nest tree. Trying to find the hawk within the cemetery's nearly 500 acres is like looking for the proverbial needle, but other birds make it a little easier.

Robins are the most vocal warning system when a predator is present. Mockingbirds make less noise, but actively attack the source of danger. Blue Jays are just generally noisy birds, but will sometimes actually locate a hawk. I spent a lot of time just walking slowly and listening for the alert calls of these birds.

During one outing the robins lead me to Junior, who was sitting in a maple tree near the Pierrepont family memorial eating an American Woodcock. I'm not sure if woodcocks breed in the cemetery or this was just an unfortunate migrant passing through. The last time I went searching for the missing red-tail I headed directly to the Dell Water. There were no signs of the hawk at that location, but as I was leaving, heard several jays calling incessantly from the ridge behind William Niblo's elaborate Gothic Revival tomb. I followed the sound until I found three Blue Jays and a single robin screaming their warnings about an unseen predator. Their attention seemed to be focused on a large Japanese Cedar (
Cryptomeria japonica), but no matter how many times I walked around the tree, I could not see any hawks. Finally, I decided to clap my hands, hoping to flush whoever it was that was upsetting the songbirds. It worked, but to my surprise, it wasn't a Red-tailed Hawk, but an adult Cooper's Hawk that flew from the cedar. As the large songbird predator took off, she stayed low to the ground and stuck wove in and out of dense stands of trees.

It is possible that the banded juvenile Red-tailed Hawk is already independent enough that it is hunting on its own. I don't think anything bad has happened as security and the landscape workers would have notified us. The young raptor could have also made his way into Prospect Park. I'll continue checking every Red-tailed Hawk that I see for a band on its leg and will keep you posted.

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