Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Scoop on the Washington Square Red-tail!

The resident Washington Square Red-tail, newly mature, enjoys dinner.
Photograph by Peter Richter of

Remember a few weeks ago when new NYC Hawkwatcher Myisha Priest, sent in a sighting of a Red-tail in Washington Square Park? I hoped that some of the other hawkwatchers in NYC had some information on the hawk for her. I sent out the word and also asked her for more information. Below are the responses--

From Myisha--
I watched the hawk go to sleep in the tallest tree that is just off the pathway on the east entrance to the park, and also, while walking at night we got pooped on (really really big bird poop-- no pigeons, no way)in front of the big building near the north east corner of the park. It's on University near West 4th and it is facing east. We thought it was the hawk. The building is tall with lots of ledges.This might be a good place to look for a nest.

I'm so delighted to have seen the bird and have fallen in love completely. She looked right at me!!! It was such an unexpected pleasure. Now I can't take my eyes from the sky when I'm in the park. This may be why I haven't seen other birders! I'm going to start looking out for them. I'll keep you updated about any sightings.

Myisha, thank you! You've discovered some terrific and potentially useful information about the WSP Red-tail. Thank you for sharing the information about one of the bird's roost sites and a place to look for a possible nest come January. I love the fact that like a true dyed-in-the-wool hawkwatcher, instead of being annoyed at being pooped on, you decided on the likely species and you're excited because the hawk did you a favor in revealing her presence.

As to the excretion episode--would it have been late enough in the day that the Red-tail was roosting on the building for the night?

Also as you feel the hawk (fingers crossed a mate shows up) might consider the building for a nest site, be particularly vigilant of the area for if the hawks do build there, before long there will be much ferrying back and forth with building materials from the park or terraces with vegetation.

And as to spotting other hawkwatchers, we know at least three experienced folks have spent at least some time watching in Washington Square and there may well be others. They will be the ones with cameras or binoculars, and are like you, incessantly scanning the trees and the sky. Just march right up and ask if they're looking for the hawk too.


From Robert Schmunk, one of the chief watchers of uptown hawks Isolde and Norman and the creator of Rob discovered some photos of the Washington Square RT on flickr and has sent in the links.

There was a molting year-old in WSP in June.
(Note varying color of tail. Part red, part brown.)
Possibly the same bird seen there in May.

From Queen's Hawkwatcher and bloggist Peter Richter--

I spotted the Washington Square Hawk this afternoon around 4pm. [10/02/09] I saw it out of the corner of my eye as it had just snagged a squirrel from a tree on the northwest side of the park. It devoured the squirrel in a partially decayed tree, and hung out there for a while afterward. This park is a Hawk's paradise, there is probably more pigeons/squirrels per square meter than any other place in the city. Many people feed the pigeons and squirrels in the park, so they are very brash and somewhat ignorant to the dangers in their habitat. You can see some pics of the Hawk at

And from the very energetic watcher James O'Brien of
And so it did. This is an adult RTH, probably a resident. Great description...and I agree, more rats/squirrels/pigeons per sq ft that anywhere else in the City except Washington Heights!!!

Many thanks to everyone for the great information!

And a few more words for Myisha-- The hawk looked you in the eye did she? Yes, it is an unexpected pleasure. Always.

No matter how many times it happens there is delight in the connection- for the human anyway. Some of the urban hawks look humans in the eye regularly. And I often wonder what they feel or think while we're feeling delighted.

With the late Tristin of the Cathedral of St. John nest, I realized one day that he was iron clad sure to do it when I'd been coming everyday to watch his nest and then life interfered and I'd miss some days in a row. Invariably on the day I returned, I'd spot him, one foot tucked at his ease looking down at me, (get ready for some possible anthropomorphizing here) with an expression that plainly said, "Oh there you are. You're back. ". And then he'd go back to his business scanning the territory for prey or for intruders and not look me in the eye again until there was another absence.

There is much more there than they are given credit for.

And so Myisha, a warm welcome, and good hawking.

Donegal Browne


rbs said...

Donna, Neither of those pix that I linked are mine. They appeared on the Flickr photo sharing site over the summer and I happened to notice them. Please note that the original photographers retained all rights to their pictures.

Josef said...

Hi. I don't mind you using my photo but I think the photo credit to Robert is incorrect. If you click on the link to my flickr as you have in the post, you will see it is my photo at the top of this post. Thanks for the interest--Josef Pinlac

G Man said...

Check out this Red-Tailed Hawk on C.P.W.

Hilary said...

If you go to the park, look up at the hollow steel cross on top of Judson Memorial Church on the south side of the park. The hawk was there this afternoon (11/21) at approximately 2:00 p.m. And blogger Zach has pictures posted of a hawk in the same location.

I heard what I thought sounded like an American Kestrel and when I looked up, a smaller bird swooped down on the hawk sitting on top of the cross before flying away from the park. However, it happened very quickly, so please take the kestrel ID with the caveats that a) I went to the park not expecting to see raptors! and b) I did not have bins... The RTH was perched the entire time I watched (about 20 minutes), keeping an eye on the very busy park with breaks for preening.

Donegal Browne said...

Thanks Hilary!

Donegal Browne said...


I'm terribly sorry. I should have checked more carefully. As Rob has a Flickr site as well,in the heat of the moment, I assumed the site was his.

Once again my apologies.