March 25, 2015

Wild About: Red-tailed hawks

Wild About is a celebration of the flora and fauna commonly found in our cities. Instead of fact sheets, this space will showcase books, art, music, societies, and whimsical objects about urban-adaptable plants and animals. If you would like to see your favorite urban-oriented plant or animal featured, please email us at info(at)localecology.org.

Image: Red-tailed hawk via GVSHP (source)
Usually segments in this series are posted on Tuesdays but I wanted tonight's red-tailed hawk event hosted by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to be fresh in your minds. The program details follow.

The Red-Tail Hawks of Greenwich Village and the East Village
A lecture and slideshow with Gabriel Willow
Wednesday, March 25
6:30 – 8:00 P.M.
Free; reservations required
Washington Square Institute, 51 East 11th Street,
between Broadway and University Place
[Please note this venue is not wheelchair accessible.]
If you have ever seen the group of people in Washington Square Park with their binoculars, cameras and zoom lenses focused on the top floor of NYU’s Bobst Library, then you’re probably aware of the pair of red-tail hawks that built a nest on a window ledge, and have made Washington Square their home and hunting grounds. Similarly, a pair of red-tails has built a nest on the Christodora House adjacent to Tompkins Square Park. Both pairs have successfully raised offspring for the past several years.
Gabriel Willow is a naturalist, guide, and educator with New York City Audubon, who will describe the nesting, mating, and hunting habits of these predators, and explain why we should welcome them to our neighborhoods.

To register, please call (212) 475-9585 ext. 35 or email rsvp @ gvshp.org.



The other thing I would like to share with you about red-tailed hawks today is a tea! Andrews & Dunham Red-Tailed Hawk blended black tea which I purchased at the Coffee & Tea Festival on March 22. Red-Tailed Hawk is a blend of the Indian black teas, Darjeeling and Assam. The color of the steeped tea is a chestnut/brickish red reminiscent of the hawk's tail markings. From the Andrews & Dunham website:

The shrill cry you hear when you see a bird of prey onscreen is almost always that of a Red-Tailed Hawk. It is this cry that, when heard while alone and in the wilderness, reminds you that you are indeed alone and in the wilderness.

One of the largest birds in North America, the Red-Tailed Hawk is sometimes called a Chicken Hawk. Call it that at your own risk, though, this is a really big bird: Red-Tailed Hawks can typically grow up to 26 inches in length with a wingspan of up to 57 inches.

The Red-Tailed Hawk's preferred habitat is mixed forest and field, but it can be found almost anywhere, from Alaska and the Yukon on down to Central America, north to south, coast to coast. Red-Tailed Hawks can live in deserts and even urban areas. Yes, they can make it in New York, and you can too. The Red-tailed Hawk has adapted well to man-made changes in habitat, using cleared areas for hunting and wooded areas for nesting. Telephone poles make a great perch, as do high bluffs and trees.

Red-Tailed Hawks are monogamous and often mate for life. Do not attempt to hug a Red-Tailed Hawk. Most likely it is already spoken for and also, Red-Tailed Hawks are notoriously bad huggers.

Red-Tailed Hawks are known for their brick-red tails, but not all of the 14 subspecies of Red-Tailed Hawks share this coloring. Most have some red in their tails but they are commonly distinguished by their tail markings, size, and the coloration of their undersides.
Did you notice the image behind the canister of tea in the above photograph? It is the red-tailed hawk page in Leslie Day's Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City. Leslie led a fall foliage tour in Washington Square Park. On May 8th, she will lead a Spring Nature Walk in the park. Register here!

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