Sunday, February 24, 2008

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Since checking up on a report of an injured adult Red-tailed hawk in Morningside Park, its has become clear that it is Cathedral Male. Myself, the Urban Park Rangers, two fellow bloggers and myself have all scoured the park with no trace of the bird. Their reports can be found at both here and here
Fearing the worst, I followed the female, watching her fly to all of the neighborhood perches in a slow tour. Starting out at Wadleigh and continuing on to the Cathedral, then to 301 CPN, then the Verizon building and finally the Projects on 105th and Amersterdam, she searched furtively but there was no sign of the male.

A group of pigeons started up,

but the female showed no interest. A Cooper's hawk that I've photographed being chased by the female, crested over the buildings,

Again the female was resolute.
In this situation I find it hard not to anthropomorphize. It seems clear that she was desparately searching for her mate. Based on my own observations, the Cathedral male, also known as Tristan (so named by the Cathedral School), is missing and presumed dead. At one point I watched her attack a group of crows on 114th. Through the trees it was impossible to get pic, but I could see the crows soaring above the hawk and then diving down to slam into the hawk. She deftly evaded and then departed...but watching their cavorting, it almost seemed a celebration.

Based on this, I would make a crow attack the most likely reason for the male's broken wing. I have watched the male take on crows numerous times in the past, as has the female, always able to hold their own and then some. I guess his luck finally ran out...its a hard fact of nature, but all animals live in a balance.

Till now there were 7 known Red-tailed nests in Manhattan (six now) with a new nesting pair being discovered on the LES. The prevalence of hawks and the young they raise here exist in a system that has reached its saturation point. With the 2 additional nests I suspect on Manhattan--that would have been 9--with an average of 2 eyass per year, producing 18 new hawks each season in addition to the 18 represented by the parents. Its clear to see why there seem to be hawks in every part of the city I travel to. My point here is that while I am sad that such a beautiful and noble animal is now gone, Manhattan is a saturated raptor place, and crows and peregrines draw out a balance with the hawks. What will happen to this territory remains unclear. No mating was observed between the hawks, so its highly doubtful the female will lay productive eggs this year. I also suspect its too late in the season to find another mature male, so this years nest will probably lie fallow. I will continue to follow the situation and look for the remains of the hawk, but til then I would like to commemorate the life of a bird who gave so much to us all. I will always have the fond memories, pix and of course my wildlife short about these very hawks "Harlem on the Rise!" I will remember him as a devoted father and fierce defended who fledged at least 7 young in his short time on this plane.

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