Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wild NYC, More on Do Redtails Grab Dogs from John Blakeman, and Hawkwatching Bill at Police Plaza Passes Along a Hawk Sighting

Here are a couple more photos from The Wild NYC Symposium. Here's Abby from the Tenafly Nature Center talking about and holding a Red-tailed Hawk. Also let me point out, the wonderful woman who pulled the whole symposium together to the delight of so many, Myisha Priest, sitting on this end of the sofa wearing the white earrings. It was a very special event for all involved.

And here is the discussion involving owls, with a Barred Owl on the fist. There really is something about a raptor, as the room was packed, outside the windows was packed with a changing parade of excited viewers, and there was no one who saw the birds who didn't have a little catch in their breath, or at least a small quickening of their heart when they laid eyes on the raptor visitors.

Unfortunately I don't have any photographs taken inside the theatre during the speaker's talks and the lively discussion that followed. I was one of the speakers on the stage. Somehow I thought that me sitting up there popping off flash photos would be more than a little distracting.

Speakers included myself
, Meredith Comi of The NY/NJ Baykeepers, and Leslie Day author of "Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City".

Did you know that one single mature oyster purifies 50 GALLONS of water a day? I didn't either. Boy, do we need more oysters in the world and that's what the Baykeepers are up to.


The other day, I heard a women say that neighbors in her area have problems with Red-tails grabbing their dogs and carrying them away. Also that Red-tails, even those in captivity, don't know one person from another.


The lady, shall I say judiciously, is in error. (Well, she's ignorant on the matter.)

No, red-tails NEVER attack pet dogs of any kind, from the smallest little pooch breed on up to the largest wolf-like types. They certainly don't fly off with them, even if they come across a dead one. All dogs are too heavy.

Red-tails are just plainly too smart to attack such an animal.

And yes, my red-tail sure knows people. All falconers know this with their birds.

Interestingly, a red-tail, if it wanted to, could attack a small dog and kill it. But they just don't do this, at least in urban areas with human pets.

But here in northern Ohio, one of my apprentice falconers (now a master falconer) watched a wild haggard formel drop down onto a sleeping gray fox, sinking its talons through the eye sockets and killing the animal. It did this after studying the sleeping animal for some time, calculating how to quickly dispatch the fox.


John A. Blakeman

Meadow Environments LLC


Thank you.. Which of course leads to more questions. :-)

Did the Red-tail eat the fox?
Or was it a dispatching of competition kill?
Or perhaps are they wired, when opportunity presents itself, to kill predators that would kill fledglings?
Or do we know at all?



The haggard's kill of the sleeping fox was an atypical aberration, for sure. The bird spent a good time surmising the sleeping fox and calculating just how it could easily dispatch the mammal.

But exactly why it undertook this excursion into severe confrontation, albeit on the hawk's, not the fox's terms, is unknown. I don't think that protection of young or anything of the sort was a motivation. I do know this. Red-tails are drawn to fur of any kind, for which they have a strong experiential attachment to the flesh beneath. I would imagine that the sitting haggard saw the lush fur of the sleeping fox and that prompted a killing calculation. The bird may well have killed other smaller mammals it caught sleeping or resting.

We falconers (who see this more closely than anyone) know that experienced red-tails know to kill by sinking talons into the crania of their larger prey, often through the eye sockets. This old hawk would have been expert in the matter.

We don't know if the bird ever came back and fed upon the carcass. It may well have.


John A. Blakeman

Thanks John. Very perceptive. We do know that experienced Red-tails are quite willing to bide their time for the right moment.


Speaking of the Red-tail and the fox, one thing just occurred to me which hadn't previously. As we know that Red-tails can tell individual people apart given opportunity, perhaps they can tell other individual animals apart as well. Perhaps the hawk had something personal against that particular fox? Maybe it isn't as crazy as it sounds.

A while back on the blog, some of you may remember, I was called by a friend about a Red-tailed Hawk feeding on a fresh road-killed skunk. I wasn't far away and made it to the spot in a few minutes. The Red-tailed Hawk, not being able to take the heavy skunk into a tree, had been flushed by a fox who proceeded to pick up the skunk, run across the road with it, and disappear into the woods.

Fox are opportunistic and I wonder if it's possible that a particular fox might make a habit, given opportunity, of boosting the prey of the raptors in her territory. Which might cause an experienced very bright individual hawk to make an opportunistic attack on that particular sleeping fox.

From Bill down at 1 Police Plaza who sent in a Red-tail sighting a while back--

Haven’t written to you in some time as I have yet to spot another hawk down here at 1 Police Plaza.

However my buddy just took these photo’s on Ovington Avenue in Bayridge, Brooklyn. Thought you might like them. Evidently the pigeon got away!

Thanks Bill. Your buddy caught a moment that doesn't happen very often and he was ready with his camera besides. Those are great reflexes!

If you look at the photo above it appears as if the pigeon is actually banking toward the Red-tailed Hawk who is perched on the chain link fence.

Did the pigeon fly right into him? Did the wing go out to bar a get away? However it was managed the hawk may have one foot on the pigeon, who no doubt, is attempting to get away.

Presto, chango whatever the technique was on the pigeon's part, it worked, and she's on her way-- though having gotten a little rumpled in the feather department during the process.

Donna Browne


Anonymous said...

I live close by Ovington Avenue in Bay Ridge and know there is at least one hawk in the neighborhood (along with several outraged, squawking crows).

Perhaps what draws the hawks to the vicinity are two rooftop pigeon coops, one of which covers almost the entire roof of the apartment building. When the owner of this pigeon coop flies his pigeons there must be at least 70 in the flock. This must look like a buffet to a hawk.

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Anon,

Oh yes! 70 pigeons on the fly? Indeed a buffet for a Red-tailed hawk. Thanks for writing in with the information.

What kind of perches, (Building ledges? Trees? Fences?, have you seen the hawk or hawks using?

I couldn't be completely decide if the hawk in the photograph was young, as in still having a brown tail or whether it was red. Have you noticed which it is in the hawk you've observed?

Ah yes, the Crows. They have an extremely bad opinion of Red-tails and would very much like them to move on. They do feel it's their business to give the "business" to Red-tails in hope they'll move on. Or as happened to Pale Male and First Love as very young hawks, harass them to such an extent they'll become so hassled they'll accidentally fly into buildings and have to go to rehab.

Do let us know when and if you see your local Red-tail(s) and if you get a chance I'd love to see a photograph of the coop and or those pigeons flying. They too are beautiful birds and hold a special place for me.

Anonymous said...

The only perches I've seen the occasional hawk on is my fire escape (with the suet feeder). I don't know what kind of hawks these are but none of them appeared to have a red tail. So perhaps the hawk is either an immature Red-tail or a Cooper's hawk. Aside from the fire escape, the only other times I've seen any hawks is when they were being mobbed by angry crows.

However, the bird that wreaks the most terror is the little kestrel which zooms down in a dive bomb. All the birds--pigeons, house finches, sparrows, monk parrots--disappear in a flash.

I don't know where the pigeon coop guy gets his pigeons but almost all of them are either white or russet colored. A few of his pigeons might be friendly with the local pigeons because more and more neighborhood pigeons seem to be sporting a bit of white or russet color among their predominantly greyish feathers.

Donegal Browne said...


You have a fascinating group in your neigborhood. I'd like to hear more about it.

I've got some questions so contact me directly clicking on the "contact me" link in the right column on the main page. And yes, the crows are extremely helpful in spotting raptors, aren't they?

I'm so pleased you have Kestrels, another bird I have a soft spot for. They're disappearing in non-urban environments by leaps and bonds. For whatever reason- an increase in accipitors and/or their hunting techniques, fragmented habitate, or something not thought of yet, we're loosing a major smart tough raptor who's take-em-all-on character doesn't mind ( or even realize) that all that she comes in a tiny package.

Another favorite characteristic is their mischevious sneaky hood-winking brain. They often even fool the big smartie pants corvids.

By the way, who avails themselves of the suet feeder?

Actually the varied group on your fire excape, reminds me it might be time to do a blog on the identifying characteristics of the raptor species most often seen in our urban areas.

Thanks Anon!