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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

Excerpt from "The Red-tailed Hawk Journals: A City Birder in Brooklyn":

Monday, March 11, 2002

As I approached the nest near 3rd Street I noticed that just about every squirrel nearby was hunkered down in the trees and squeaking out their short, humorous warning call. It quickly became obvious why they were upset. The female Red-tailed Hawk was in the nest doing some serious housekeeping. She gnawed on a small branch growing up through one side of the nest but was unable to completely remove the annoying piece of wood. Since my last visit they've add much material to the nest and it's beginning to look like a more substantial structure.

As I watched the female arranging some of the sticks I heard the male make a high, short chirping call from somewhere close by. I eventually spotted him perched in a maple tree about fifty yards from the nest. As he called I noticed that he had a white rat under one foot (probably someone's lost pet). He called a few more times and then flew into the nest and offered the rat to his mate. They held both their heads down and I assumed that they were sharing the rodent but after a few minutes the female flew from the nest carrying the uneaten rat. I noticed the bulge of a full crop so I figured that maybe she wasn't hungry.

She came to rest in a large oak tree a short distance from the nest and just stood there with her "gift" on the branch a few inches to her right. The male flew over, perched in an adjacent tree, and faced her from about a yard away. And they just sat there.

I wondered what was going through their minds. They seemed almost disinterested in each other but their close proximity and the fact that they were face to face was curious. After about fifteen minutes the male hawk flew into the same tree as the female but remained on the opposite side of the trunk from her. A few minutes later he flew over to her and they sat, shoulder to shoulder, with the white rat offering draped over the branch.

I suppose she was impressed with the gift because after about five minutes the male hopped up on her back, consummated the relationship and then flew off in search of more food.

The female stayed at the nest for a long time but eventually joined the male in search of food. Hopefully, she'll be laying eggs soon.

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