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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Three Generations of Hawks

I've been observing Brooklyn's resident Red-tailed Hawks for over twenty years. In recent years my notes have been mostly limited to the pair that calls Green-Wood Cemetery home. There has been a nesting pair within their 478-acres continuously for at least 25 years. That's not to say that the same pair has been nesting in the same tree over that period, just that it is a highly prized territory for this very urbanized predator. If for whatever reason there becomes a vacancy in the cemetery it is quickly occupied by another pair of hawks.

Back in 2005 Big Mama and her mate, Junior, moved from Prospect Park to Green-Wood Cemetery. It was around the same time that the cemetery's previous resident pair were found deceased. Many years and lots of offspring later Big Mama injured her leg, then disappeared. I assumed that a dead red-tailed found by rangers in a nearby neighborhood was her. A raptor can't survive without the use of both sets of talons. A few years ago another pair began nesting in the pine trees along Cypress Avenue. This season Green-Wood's resident pair successfully hatched three offspring. I believe that this is only the second time I've observed triplets in Brooklyn (the first was in 2009 in Prospect Park). A couple of weeks ago all three left the nest, but are still hanging around the general vicinity of the nest tree. Which brings me to the point of this posting.

Last year our unnamed pair raised two offspring. Of those two, one can still be found hunting around the cemetery. Its favorite spot is around the three ridges that border the Sylvan Water. It usually takes Red-tailed Hawks around two years to acquire their namesake red tail feathers. Until that point it is easy to differentiate an adult from an immature bird as their tail is a banded light-brown and dark-brown pattern. Normally Red-tailed parents aren't very tolerant of their previous kids presence once they have a new brood to raise. Our cemetery parents, however, don't seem to mind at all and can sometimes be seen soaring together. Perhaps it is because of the abundance of food in the area. Once this year's trio become more independent and start hunting on their own there might be some conflicts that will result in someone being forced to leave ... or worse. In the meantime, it's nice seeing three generations of one family of Red-tailed Hawks in Green-Wood Cemetery.

One of our resident adults soaring above the cemetery.

Last year's offspring. Notice the red tail feathers beginning to emerge.

One of this year's triplets in a tulip tree a short flight from the nest tree.

A big thanks to Jim Demers and Evan Rabeck for the use of their Green-Wood Cemetery photos.

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