Red-tailed Hawk Central Park NYC


Big Apple, here we come! Mrs RH has business there next week. Sometimes, if I have behaved particularly well for an extended period – 2 years on average – I am invited to go along on her US trips. Providing I can grab a cheap fare as well. Well, sorted! NYC is my absolutely favourite capital city. Along with Marsh Harbour, obvs. And maybe Paris. Not London, we live there. Too close to home. 

Northern Mockingbird, High Line, NYCNorthern Mockingbird NYC High Line

I never go shopping, but I have specific must-dos. Route 66 on 9th for the best breakfast ever. Walking the wonderful new High Line park, extended since we were last there. The Staten Island Ferry out and straight back for the best free ‘Manhattan view plus water ride’ experience. The Tramway cable car to Roosevelt Island to visit the beautifully restored Blackwell Farmhouse which dates from 1796 and is arguably NYC’s oldest surviving residential building (not many people know this). Then a brisk walk to Lighthouse Point for a winter picnic. This is where, one day, I plan to catch a fish – any fish – on the fly in the East River. I’ve debated packing a small travel rod & reel this time but it is not an ideal time of year, frankly, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure in what will anyway be a hard task…

A Herring Gull provides irrefutable proof that there is piscine life in the East River even in winter
Life in the East River NY

Mallards in Central park: a male and a LEUCISTIC femaleMallard (m) NYC Central Park Mallard (f) - leucistic NYC Central Park

And to people’s complete bemusement (sample comment: “Are you quite mad?”) I go birding. NYC is a great place for it, being on a major migration flyway. Central Park is fantastic, especially the Ramble, the Reservoir, and the lesser known wild areas at the top end – the Loch, the Ravine, Harlem Meer. Prospect Park Brooklyn is another great place, with wild woodland and lakes for many water bird species. There’s a wildlife refuge at Jamaica Bay which looks worth exploring too, though it’s a bit of a trek. Anyway, here are a few Big Apple birds that are found on – or at least recorded for – Abaco (some very rarely, it has to be said).

Ring-billed and Herring Gulls on the Staten Island FerryRing-billed Gull NYC Staten Island Ferry Ring-billed Gull NYC 2 Staten Island FerryHerring Gull NYC 2 Staten Island FerryHerring Gull NYC Staten Island Ferry

Male & female Hooded Mergansers on the JKO Reservoir, Central ParkHooded Merganser (m) NYC JKO Reservoir Hooded Merganser (f) 2 NYC JKO Reservoir

Male House Sparrow (Central Park) & female (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)House Sparrow NYC Central Park House Sparrow (f) NYC Prospect Park

Rock Pigeon, Central ParkRock Pigeon NYC

Eurasian Starling (High Line Park)Starling NYC High Line Park

Canada Goose on ice (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)Canada Goose NYC Prospect Park

American Robin (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)American Robin NYC Prospect Park

Poor photo of a Coot (Harlem Meer, Central park)Coot NYC Central Park Harlem Meer

Ultra-shy Red-winged Blackbird (Prospect Park, Brooklyn)Red-winged Blackbird NYC Prospect ParkI can only get away with crap photos like this because it’s my blog & your decision to put up with it

Bufflehead, JKO Reservoir Central ParkBufflehead NYC JKO Reservoir Central ParkA bird recorded once or perhaps twice for Abaco in the last 60 years. I have better photos than this, but this one best illustrates your chance of seeing one on Abaco – vanishing…

Hairy** Red-bellied Woodpecker (The Ramble, Central Park)Hairy Woodpecker NYC The Ramble Central Park

Red-tailed Hawk NYC (Prospect Park Brooklyn)Red-tailed Hawk NYC Prospect Park BrooklynThe RTH header image was taken in the Ramble, Central Park

** As Woody Bracey has been quick to point out, this is in fact a Red-bellied Woodpecker, not a Hairy Woodpecker. Unlike the HWP, the RBW is not recorded for Abaco. HOWEVER I do have a HWP photo from Central Park somewhere, and if I can find it I’ll substitute it and make it right!

All photos, good, bad and indifferent: The Author




Red-tailed hawks are one of the commonest and largest  BUTEO species in North America, the Caribbean and further afield. There are fourteen widely-distributed subspecies. Their omni-habitat flexibility helps to maintain their prolific populations. They are equally at home in forests, grassland, open country, desert and even cities, at most altitudes. Red-tailed Hawk CP 7Red-tailed Hawk CP 1

This red-tail is preparing for flight. It had been sitting upright (see above), scanning for prey. Suddenly it hunched forwards, poised for take-off, the light of late afternoon sun catching its leg feathers. Moments later it raised its wings and was gone in an instant – the next photo an unusable blur of feathery speed.Red-tailed Hawk CP 6Red-tailed Hawk CP 3


1. The RTH displays SEXUAL DIMORPHISM in size – females average 25% heavier than males

2. Immature birds have yellowish irises. As the bird matures the iris darkens to a reddish-brown hue

3. They are easily trained to hunt: most hawks used for (tightly regulated) falconry in the US are Red-tails

4. They use tall trees, high rocks, utility poles or buildings as perch sites to scan large areas for prey

5. City hawks helpfully prey on rock pigeons and rats. ROSIE lives in Washington Sq NYC & has a web-cam

6. One urban RTH, known as PALE MALE, became famous as the first Red-tail in decades to successfully nest and raise young in Manhattan. He was immortalised by MARIE WINN in her book Red -Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park [RH Note: Good read]

Red-tailed Hawk CP 4Red-tailed Hawk CP 5


1. The fierce, screaming cry of the RTH is often used as a generic raptor sound effect in TV shows & films

2. Eggs are incubated primarily by the female. The male helps out when the female leaves to hunt or stretch her wings. The male brings food to the female while she incubates

3. RTH young are known as eyasses (“EYE-ess-ez”), a falconry term for a raptor still in its downy stage

4. About 6 / 7 weeks after fledging RTH young begin to capture their own prey. They reach breeding maturity around 3 years of age

5. Red-tailed Hawks can live for more than 2o years – the oldest recorded was 29

6. RTH feathers are considered sacred to many American indigenous people. The feathers of the RTH are regulated by the “Eagle Feather Law” which governs possession of feathers and parts of migratory birdsRed-tailed Hawk PPB 6Red-tailed Hawk PPB 5Red-tailed Hawk PPB 1AFTERWORD These photos were all taken recently in New York, in Central Park (The Ramble, a birding hotspot) and in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. They are therefore a bit of a cheat in a website based mainly on Abaco. But I have never managed to photograph a RTH on the island, so these pics are illustrative of what I might have photographed had I (a) seen a RTH (b) had my wits about me (c) for long enough to find my camera (d) to photograph it before it flew away (e) and sufficiently well to be able to use the result [Header and due credit to Wiki]

See also NICOLEs excellent birding website at http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-red-tailed-hawk.html

(PS apologies to those who have neither aunts nor uncles. I have no wish to be amitist or avunculist. Have you a cousin you can try?)