Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Riverside Church Juvenile Peregrines

Over the past week I have had a front row seat for the antics of the juvenile peregrines over at Riverside Church. As they grow, they have begun to master the aspects of flight that will make them one of the most feared raptors. Surprisingly their behavior, such as games of tag or follow-the-leader, are almost identical to the behavior of juvenile kestrels. At this point, the juveniles are testing the boundaries of their range, and on Sunday I saw them go from the north west corner of Central Park at 109th St., all the way to CCNY Shepard Hall on 138th! Thereby, bisecting not one, but two red-tailed hawk territories. My guess is that these youngsters are close to moving off their parent range to attempt to make it on their own. One of the young falcons has begun its first molt in the primary feathers, making it only a few weeks younger than the one seen palemale. Till then, I will continue to marvel at the dexterity, confidence and power that makes these birds the ultimate high-performance animals that they are!
Here they are most recently on 116th St. above Morningside Park. They are using the updraft to hover on the wind. At one point, I watched this juvenile actually flying backwards as it sought to land on the roof's railing.

It was joined by its siblings...

and a game of tag ensued!

Their reflexes and agility were a sight to behold...at times they would rocket down into the Park, diving after some unseen prey.

Eventually, one of the falcons stooped right past us. Here it is lining up the dive and then turning just past the Carl Shurz Overlook. My camera's autofocus just couldnt keep up!

The bird passed some 10-12 feet from us as it dove down, weaving through the trees with its legs out, as it ambushed a sibling cutting through the lower level of the park. It was an amazing experience to be so close to such a fast moving bird and to see it continue on past. I hope Adam got that on camera!
Here it is after pulling out of the dive and circling back to gain altitude.

One of the parents then showed up.

Then two cormorants flew by...big mistake. Immediately one juvenile lit out after it, gaining quickly!

I could not see what happened next, but the juvy over took the cormorant and both then flew down below the treeline. At this point it seemed that all the action had moved south, so I wound down to the Cathedral to see if there was anything going on there. I was shocked by what I saw! Not one,

but two,

of the peregrines has landed on the Cathedral and were just hanging out!

At no point did any redtail come to make a defense of the territory. This represents a clear collapse of the redtails nesting area...and does not bode well for the future. It also means that the one remaining juvy redtailed hawk from this years brood is still probably in the north part of Central Park.

Coming next...Firebirds!!!

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