Having any outdoor space in a New York City apartment is the definition of living the dream, but having a bird of prey hang out and not eat your dinner (or your dog)? It's time to buy a lottery ticket!
Earlier this month, reader Mateo Suárez told us that he got home one evening and decided to grill on the balcony of his Flatbush apartment. As the food was close to being done, he found himself with an expected guest:
I remove the smaller piece of chicken and put it on the table. I turn back around to retrieve the second piece and hear a huge thud and crashing metal sound right behind me, and nearly jump out of my skin. To my astonishment, I turn to find a giant hawk perched on my terrace, wrapping his/her giant talons around the railing, just a few feet away! I mean, I've lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and have seen all sorts of animals; dead and alive, in Prospect Park, and a host of other weird shit, but I have never even seen a hawk there, never mind from three feet away checking me out and popping by for a BBQ! I've seen 'em in the city, chasing pigeons in Tompkins, 5th Ave; swoopin', but never out here and NEVER just hanging out!
Suárez decided to embrace the stranger's presence: "So after a brief fight or flee moment, I relax and continue my little solo BBQ and start rapping with him. Ya know, just shooting the proverbial breeze; asking about good kills, good views, etc etc. What do you talk about with a giant flying predator that decides to stop in? He/She doesn't seem to mind a bit, (or be interested in my chicken to my surprise), so I go get a glass of wine, come back out and it's still there, just chilling; same place, just watching other birds, looking at me, hanging out."
He even managed to take some pictures with the visitor:
We asked the NY Audubon Society if red-tailed hawks truly enjoy the company of New Yorkers, and Communications Manager Tod Winston confirmed, "It seems that they do!" Winston continued:
Since Pale Male and his mate first successfully raised young in Manhattan over 20 years ago, red-tailed hawks have become a common sight in the city's five boroughs. New York City's red-tailed hawks have become accustomed to human presence and will often roost on buildings or fire escapes for extended periods, particularly after a meal. This time of year, we also begin to see this breeding season's fledglings, as they learn to fly, forage for food, and make their own way in the city. These young birds can be particularly tame and often allow people to approach fairly closely. (It's a good idea to keep a distance so as not to alarm the birds.) The biggest danger to our urban red-tailed hawks, however, is rodenticide, as the birds feed primarily on rats and pigeons.
If you're concerned about the awesome hawks in your neighborhood, the NYC Audubon Society urges you to learn about rat poison use in your neighborhoods; Winston recommends reading this brochure on how to protect raptors (PDF).
As for our Brooklyn resident and his new friend, Suárez marveled, "I don't know if it's a sign of something, was some sort of a moment of divine intervention, or just some random-ass Brooklyn occurrence; but I'm a changed man. Love nature still owning it in NYC!"