Young Hawks: One Plays, the Other Eats

Back in July, I came upon two young red-tailed hawks in Central Park, south of the Metropolitan Museum. The darker one was intent on eating a rodent, probably delivered by a parent, and the lighter hawk was, well, playing. For ten minutes, it jumped about, flapped its wings, and pounced at … nothing much.


Paying Attention




While the lighter sibling played, the darker one focused intently on its meal.

Tugging at a sinew.

Nice pantaloons.

And what a beak.

I left the birds to their early evening activities, and headed north where I soon saw another red-tail perched atop the back of the Metropolitan Museum, undoubtedly a parent keeping a hawk eye on the kids.

The two youngsters were the children of Pale Male, the celebrated NYC red-tailed hawk, and his current mate, Lima. Hawks care for their young for months, feeding and watching over them. According to Bruce Yolton of Urban Hawks Blog, the darker fledgling left home early in September, but the lighter one – the one I saw playing – was still begging for food from its parents as late as the third week in September. Bruce reports that this late bloomer seems to have finally taken off on its own, perhaps inspired by the thousands of migrating raptors that are now making their way down the eastern flyway.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2011, Birds, Central Park, Hawks, In the City, July, NYC Parks, Seasons, September, Summer, Wildlife/Natural History

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9 Comments on “Young Hawks: One Plays, the Other Eats”

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  2. p hoey Says:

    Humans learn by playing, mammals too–and here’s a young hawk
    trying out a variety of moves: thank you, thank you for a wonderful series of photos!

  3. Laurel Overmyer Says:

    These photos are fascinating, I don’t think I have ever seen any young hawks at play before. Great job!

  4. CGJ Says:

    Red-tailed Hawks have some interesting behaviors. I have some photos of a pair of hawks that I took at the Addison Airport. They were both perched on a utility pole, when one of them swooped down and landed on the ground. I was sure I had just seen him capture a rat or rabbit. After just a second or two the hawk took off again, and sure enough he had a rat-sized something in his talons. He landed next to the other hawk, and handed the prize over. The second hawk fiddled with it for a couple of minutes, and then let it flutter to the ground. Through my telephoto lens I could tell that it was just a strip of black plastic sheeting!

    • That is a fascinating behavior. Interesting that without the telephoto, it would have been completely misinterpreted as behavior we know to exist. Pretty comical, really – like the guy picked out a really cheesy last-minute gift and his sweetheart rejected it.

  5. Barbara Says:

    What a super series of photos – I didn’t know that birds played like that, and love learning something new.Thanks for an informative and totally delightful series of blogs lately… loved seeing Esau and the drain that doesn’t work as well.

    • Thanks, Barbara. A friend of mine commented about the playful hawk on Out Walking the Dog’s Facebook page: “The younger one is living in his parent’s basement, staying up all night playing World of Warcraft and stealing money out of his mom’s purse to pay the pizza guy.” Glad you liked the post about the puddle that ate New York. It had JUST dried before today’s rainfall, and now … it’s back.

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