If you are not from New York, you might not know that we are somewhat obsessed with red tailed hawks. Our red tailed hawks, that is. This obsession began some years ago when two birds, Pale Male and Lola, famously set up house on the ledge of a posh 5th Avenue building just across the street from Central Park. Apparently they enjoyed the views. The human residents of the building, however, decided they didn’t enjoy bits of the hawks’ nest dropping onto the entryway and at one point had the nest removed. This act was the equivalent of throwing down the gauntlet, which was promptly picked up by the rest of the city. The criticism was intense and relentless; given the choice between the red tailed hawks and the snooty residents of an Upper East Side building, there was no contest. Needless to say, the birds were allowed to rebuild the nest and have been living there peacefully ever since.
Pale Male and Lola attracted birdwatchers and, more recently, webcams that monitor the laying and hatching of eggs and keep track of the young when they leave the nest to make their way in the world.
Quite a few of the offspring (I believe there are 23 of them) have chosen to stay in the city. This is of course why we love them. Only a few miles north of the city the vast forests of New England begin, and yet these wild birds choose to be city dwellers. As do we. Such is our devotion that a month or so ago when a young hawk flew into a window at the NY Times building injuring its’ wing, the entire sidewalk below was roped off as it would be for a crime scene. Police kept people away and the bird experts were brought in to carry the young red tail off of the ledge onto which it had fallen. Its’ progress was reported daily on line and in the paper. (It was expected to make a full recovery).
But the latest celebrities among the city dwelling red tailed hawks are Violet and her mate, Bobby. Violet and Bobby are new mates and this is their first time building a nest, which they chose to do on the 12th Floor of a building that overlooks Washington Square Park. The Times City Room promptly set up a camera (the ‘Hawk Cam’) in the NYU President’s office, which looked out at the nest. Three eggs were laid around March 24th, and a timeline was announced. The eggs usually incubate for between 28-35 days, so they should have hatched on or around April 24th. But nothing happened. Violet was attentive, said the experts, and had done nothing wrong. Neither had her mate. But they are newbies, their nest is fairly shallow, and by last Tuesday May 3rd everyone agreed that the eggs weren’t viable. A hawk expert in Ohio said that it wasn’t unusual for first time hawk parents to fail to produce any viable eggs. Poor Violet, we thought, stubbornly sitting in a nest on eggs that weren’t going to hatch.
Except. Mother’s Day came a couple of days early here in the city, as on Friday morning the first of Violet’s eggs hatched, and a little gray fuzzball poked its’ head out from under its’ mother’s breast, defying the experts. (They were, they said, very happy to be wrong.) Now we wait for the other two. In the meantime, the Times reported that the NYU Strawberry Festival, held in Washington Square Park on Saturday and featuring several live bands, turned the volume down on the music because, “Loud sound can upset the parents and potentially harm the chick.”
Happy Mothers Day Violet!
If you’d like to see the ‘hawk cam’, here’s the link: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/category/hawk-cam-live-from-the-nest/