2007 Red-Tailed Hawk News
July 1, 2007
THE CITY LIFE
Predatory Newcomers Flit About
By FRANCIS X. CLINES
The morning view from the apartment window suddenly included a chubby baby bird bedraggled in the
windswept rain, clinging to the fire escape, 15 stories up, like a silent-film comedian. Wait: not just any
bird — a fledgling hawk with a tiny, already pernicious looking beak. A fluffy exotic soon swept from
sight only to be spotted a day or two later perching uncertainly with not one but two siblings on the
building across the way.
This is a big deal on the West Side of Manhattan, where some casual bird-watchers have grown tired of
the daily trackings and endless hosannas for Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk getting all the ink across
town. Yes, yes, the matinee-idol predator revived noblesse oblige at that millionaires’ co-op on the East
Side. But hooray for our side now, and, quick, what do we call the triplets?
Time for ornithology at the laptop. What sort of hawk — Cooper’s? Sharp-shinned? Perchance a
celebrity red-tailed for some West Side parity? We hesitate to answer with finality in these early
sightings, lest an error prompt a full-fledged correction and an Internet hubbub.
But it turns out that it may be time to pronounce these triplets a cliché, a very welcome New York cliché.
For the Internet yields wondrous photos and hawk-cams and precise daily trackings of various winged
predators thriving across the city’s boroughs.
For the last 12 years — beginning long before Pale Male hit the tabloids — a pair of red-tailed hawks
have been tracked and photographed in Queens, through damaged wing and human mischief.
Jeff Kollbrunner offers rich pictures and jottings on the noncelebrity birds sweetly called Mama and
Papa. The Web wends through other nestings and fledglings right back to the triplets’ neighborhood
and the discovery that, well, of course, anyone paying attention knows red-tails have been living for
years on the West Side.
So, what do we call the triplets? Also-rans? Will any of them soar with the élan of that Central Park red-
tail glaring nobly for the lens of Cal Vornberger as it prepares to dine on a New York rat? Such urban
attitude, rather like those humans who dare you to object as they tear into a hamburger in the subway
All of this is not to pronounce the triplets ordinary. They stumble but work hard at becoming canny city
dwellers. One of them, dining alone on a spot of pigeon on a parapet, is knocked askew by a swooping
sibling snatching at the food. They free fall, but then burst safely into flight like a skyrocket, as the third
fledgling crashes the melee. They master slapstick as much as danger. O.K., maybe Larry, Curly and
FRANCIS X. CLINES
The following article was published in the New York Times, July 1, 2007: