Saturday, June 01, 2013

Brooklyn Red-tailed Hawk Update

It has been a while since I've checked in on our Brooklyn Red-tailed Hawk nests. Pam Langford has been keeping me up to date on the new nest at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Early in the Spring I watched Nelly and Max (formerly of the "Nelly's Lawn" nest in Prospect Park) constructing a nest in a pine tree within the Brooklyn Botanic Garden adjacent to the Japanese Garden. Subsequently, they decided that nest wouldn't do, so they moved. Pam eventually located them in another pine tree. This one is at the back edge of the parking lot for the Brooklyn Museum and right up against the hillside that looks down into the Cherry Esplanade. Pam has a wonderful sequence of photos of that nest on her Flickr page here.

This morning I walked over to Big Mama and Junior's new nest in Green-Wood Cemetery. It is located in a large conifer at the intersection of Prim Path and Vernal Path in the area known as "The Flats". The tree is huge and offers lots of large branches for their offspring to climb around on as they build their muscles and prepare to fledge. I posted a map with the location in this posting here.

When I arrived Junior was standing guard on a large branch below the nest. The nest is impressive in its size and construction, so I was surprised to observe only a single offspring. Robins were making desperate alarm calls from all the trees surrounding the nest tree. I understood their concern because I've seen red-tails raiding their nests for young birds. Red-tailed Hawk chicks grow very fast and require a lot of food, baby robins just happen to be abundant and, apparently, nutritious. One can't fault the hawks, and perhaps it is why robins have multiple broods each breeding season, to make up for the expected losses.

I walked around the nest tree for a few minutes looking for the best perspective to watch the nest. It was brutally hot in the full sun and I opted instead to set up my tripod in the shade of a beech tree, rather than the best view. There was just a single, fuzzy-headed nestling on the nest. I walked around checking various views to make sure that she didn't have any more developed siblings who may have already begun to venture out onto branches away from the nest. Like the nest at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, she appeared to be an only child.

Looking up at the nest from about 60 feet below, the young hawk's size is deceptive. Her head is still mostly covered by white down giving the impression of a very small bird. It wasn't until she stood up that I realized that she is very far along in her development. Her wings are fully covered in adult plumes as is her back. Her tail feathers are still relatively stubby. She'll require a week or two more growth before she'll be able to fly. Before I left the cemetery, I was able to shoot a short video of her stretching her wings out and exercising with a little flap-hopping routine.

Red-tailed Hawk Nestling from RJ on Vimeo.

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