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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Brooklyn Hawk Release

Late yesterday afternoon Marge and I met wildlife rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath at Green-Wood Cemetery. They had just come from Manhattan where they released two mended Red-tailed Hawks. In the back of their car they had two more patients who were ready to be discharged. In fact, the two raptors seemed more than ready. They were restless to the point of hostility towards their temporary keepers.

With winds gusting to 40mph yesterday, I decided that the natural windbreak behind the "Hill of Graves" would be a good release site. Bobby had a small male juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, as well as, a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk for release. For reasons that are unclear, the vast majority of the raptors he and Cathy receive over the winter are young males. Cathy theorizes that "boys" tend to get into more trouble without the oversight of their mothers. It sounds feasible (and funny), but there could also be a simpler explanation - there is a higher percentage of male hawks being hatched.

Marge has never had the honor of releasing a rehabbed hawk. When Bobby removed the young red-tailed from the carrier and asked who wanted to take it, I suggested Marge. Some people get a little nervous once they see the raptor's talons closeup. Not Marge. Maybe it is her tough Brooklyn upbringing, but she acted more like someone was handing her a puppy, not an agitated predator with razor-sharp claws. Here is the video of her releasing her first Red-tailed Hawk:

The hawk headed towards a cedar tree and perched near the top. Within minutes Big Mama appeared and flew to a branch at the opposite side of the tree. The young bird took off with the huge, resident Red-tailed Hawk in hot pursuit. We spotted her mate, Junior, a short distance to the north. Their aggression towards the juvenile interloper in their territory seemed strictly symbolic as they never actually engaged in any physical attacks. After a few minutes they left the young red-tailed alone and flew off to the west.

The juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk seemed surprisingly small and delicate. Its bill and feet were noticeably smaller than that of a comparably sized Red-tailed Hawk. In fact, Bobby wasn't able to band this hawk because he didn't have a small enough ring. Injured somewhere in Coney Island, the hawk was picked up by a Russian gentleman. He had kept it locked in his bathroom for two days before a friend convinced him that keeping a wild hawk was not a smart decision. When Bobby received him, he was undernourished and showed signs of head trauma.

Bobby's friend, Peter, would be releasing the red-shouldered and was warned that the angry hawk was a "biter". By the looks of all the fresh wounds on Bobby's hands, he had found out the hard way. Despite his words of caution, Peter decided to hold onto the hawk sans gloves. To make Bobby even more nervous, he feigned kissing the hawk on the bill. Notice at around the 15 second mark in the following video how the hawk jerks forward as if he were trying to bite Peter's hand:

The Red-shouldered Hawk flew up over Ocean Hill where Peter watched him soaring in wide circles as he headed south, towards Coney Island. I just hope he stays safe and far away from Russians with dubious motives.

1 comment:

cathy hovath said...

nice videos Rob .Glad you guys could share the day with us ! My theory isn't so far fetched . I never get females in for rehab for starvation . They have broken bones from coliding with a vehicle or in trouble from eating a poisoned rat . Never hungry , just saying !

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