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