Pigeon du jour - July 14th, 2012

I spent four and a half hours in Washington Square Park visiting the Red-tailed Hawk family on the 14th. It might have been a record for me (especially considering it was so steamy out). But what choice did I have? The Hawks were so active and fascinating so how could I tear myself away?

I believe I only saw one of the fledglings (they resemble each other so much, it's not often easy to tell them apart).

The fledgling I saw was quite the cry baby:

The fledgling perched for so long, I looked in other parts of the park for other Hawks.

I heard Blue Jays calling out angrily so I went to see what they were fussing over. When they are that worked up, it usually means they are harassing a Hawk. Sure enough, I spotted Rosie near their location:

Rosie was seated on a branch above the sidewalk at the northern border of the park. She was sitting where the tree line is in the photo below:

A crying fledgling flew from the park, over us, then to a building across the street.

Rosie left her tree and flew west, away from the fledgling. Perhaps to avoid it?


The fledgling came into view. It was seated on a building at the northern side of the park. A rat was underfoot. I don't know if the little Hawk caught the rodent itself or not:

It flew back into the park, rat in its talons:

Rosie returned to the general area where she was perched earlier:

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I turned around and lo and behold, there was Bobby, perched on the corner of a building a block west:

A Peregrine Falcon appeared and began to dive-bomb him, yelling all the while:

Bobby had enough and flew toward the park and out of sight:

Rosie flew off her building and returned to the park.

I found her in a tree:

I searched for Hawks again. Fifteen minutes later, I saw an adult on a Bobst Library roof structure:

It flew off its perch so I was Hawkless again. After searching another fifteen minutes, a nice lady approached me and said there was a Hawk sitting on a lamp post further east. She pointed the Hawk out to me. Thank you! I guess it was pretty obvious I was looking for Hawks what with my big camera lens and tree-scanning.

The Hawk flew to the ground as if in hunting mode. I walked over to investigate but didn't see where the Hawk went. I saw a huge bird in the distance so I went in its direction further south. 

All of a sudden I saw Rosie across the street from the park. She was just above the sidewalk in front of Bobst Library. I managed to see a millisecond of flurried activity. She had caught a pigeon either from the sidewalk or from a bicycle rack. It all happened so fast and I had only seen it in the corner of my eye.

 She carried the heavy prey across the street and to the park. She was chirping the whole time. I only ever hear her make this chirping sound when she has prey. Perhaps it's her special call to the kids to announce she has food? I say that only because I don't recall hearing her make those chirping sounds before the kids fledged. 

Two men on different occasions stepped onto the lawn with their cell phone cameras poised to take photos of her. They walked as if they were prepared to stand rather close to her. I called out to them and asked them to please not get too close to her. They were pretty cool people and were like, "Yup, no problem, I won't" and stopped in their tracks (a good 25 feet away I guess). Phew! 

Rosie got to eat in peace:

Her meal lasted half an hour.

Wiping her beak clean:

She investigated a squirrel nest and sat right in it! She cozied herself in it for several seconds. Hilarious!

She eventually flew back to the western side of the park. 

I returned there as well and saw her preening and relaxing.

I searched for other Hawks and spotted a fledgling closer to the northwestern corner of the park:

Its poop on the path below. Imagine getting hit with that? Much worse than pigeon crap (which unfortunately I've had fall on me three times in the 20+ years I've lived in NYC):

Baby cakes:

The fledgling flew off the tree, along the path, then out the northwest corner exit:

She turned left, southward, at the intersection. 

Flying along the street, headed south:

Back in the park, on a branch facing north:

Off again, heading north:

I knew I was seeing the same fledgling because it was the one with the slight feather divet in its chest (the other fledgling's chest is perfectly smooth):

She caught a pigeon!

The details of the pigeon catch were sketchy. I was zoomed in on her at the time so from my perspective, it looked like she caught the pigeon while it was seated on a branch. Another person said she caught the pigeon in mid-air as the flock flew into the air (probably in panic at the sight of her descent toward them), and yet another person said she snatched the pigeon from the path. But no matter, she caught a pigeon all by herself and took it to a nearby tree:

It was still alive and flapping in an effort to escape but the Hawk had a firm grip on it:

Carrying the pigeon to a tree at the northwest corner of the park:

She brought it to the biggest and oldest tree in the park. It's called The Hangmen's Elm:

It's the oldest recorded tree in Manhattan (roughly 333 years old).

It worked studiously to nearly-decapitate the pigeon. I've seen the Hawks decapitate or nearly decapitate lots of their prey (mostly the rats) first before eating.

She only nibbled a bit at the pigeon. The bulk of the bird was left on the branch for a future meal.

She spied and watched something in the distance. I knew from experience that her behavior indicated she was watching another Hawk.

It turned out to be Rosie. The fledgling flew to her:

After several seconds she bullied Rosie off the tree:

Rosie landed on a low building north of the park:

She headed east:

And landed on a terrace at Two Fifth Avenue:

A Mockingbird showed up and yelled at her, dive-bombing and bumping into her:

Rosie had enough and flew off the terrace and toward the park. I was pretty fatigued (but exhilerated from all I saw) and took the opportunity to go home.