The hazards of being a hawk in New York City

Kestrel at a hole in a cornice

American kestrel (Falco sparverius)

Hawks are making a big comeback in New York and other big cities. But two Manhattan birds show how hard it can still be.

An Upper West side red-tailed hawk was widowed, probably by rat poison, and now has to try to raise her fuzzy eyeasses alone, DNAinfo reports. It’s such a tough job the Parks Department is leaving dead animals out for her. The trouble is that she’d prefer to catch and eat fresh meat.

Why is Parks being so generous for a wild animal? They laid out rat poison boxes near the boat basin while the couple was sitting on eggs, despite the warnings from Urban Hawks and other birders that it was endangering the raptors. Rat poison has been an ongoing problem for raptors in the city; they eat the pigeons, rats and squirrels who have had the anti-coagulants and it accumulates in their system.

Meanwhile, the kestrel trying to build a home in a cornice on Second Avenue has a problem. She now can’t fit in the nest cavity, so the first round of eggs is doomed. Either she gained too much weight and girth in egg-laying or the cornice shifted again in recent storms, East Village nature photographer Dennis Edge says. Photographer Francois Portmann says he’s seen the bird perched at the entrance over and over, flapping her wings and obviously in distress. They hope she’ll find another home nearby.

I recently saw a kestrel behaving oddly on First Avenue, bobbing its head and tail on a branch only 15 feet about the ground (well, a bush full of sparrows).

Meanwhile, it’s not all bad news. Dennis has spotted a Merlin a few times in Tompkins Square.

raptorowl Where to SEE HAWKS, OWLS & OTHER RAPTORS


Kestrel at a hole in a cornice

American kestrel (Falco sparverius)

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