Red-tailed Hawk

"The wild hawk stood with the down on his beak
And stared with his foot on the prey."
~ Lord Alfred Tennyson, 'The Poet's Song'

In early/mid April of this year, my husband and I noticed a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circling a building across the way from us. You could hear their decending cry, "kree-eee-ar....kree-eee-ar", as they flew overhead looking for a meal and as it turned out, a place to nest. They couldn't have picked a better location to hunt and live in. The building they chose is an old abandoned bread factory which now serves as a hotel to hundreds of pigeons who spend their days sitting in a line on the roof, basking in the sun. I can only imagine the smorgasboard of rats, bats and other small animals that are sure to be found inside. A ready food supply without needing to leave the nest - pretty astute creatures these hawks are! Since the bottom half of the building is used as storage for a local company, Novacraft Canoe and Kayak, we aptly named the pair "Canoe" and "Kayak".

One of "our" birds when they first starting building their nest.
Second window in , second row from the top...

It was mid to late May when we heard the first cries from the nestling. It was difficult at first to get an idea at first of how many chicks had hatched, but we narrowed it down to one squawking cry - all day long. It was absolutely amazing to hear the youngster's call, but unbelievable how loud 'he' could be, and how it reverberated off the building walls. We named the baby "Nova", keeping in theme with the unwitting landlords. As the nestling grew, we heard the immature "kree" call as 'he' learned to fly. Day and night we listened and waited with anticipation for the day we would see Nova emerge.

One of the hawks in flight, late May.

The pigeons take flight as the hawk perches on the fire escape and waits for his take out.

The adults didn't hunt outside of the building very often through May to July, but had started coming out a little more lately. We would all run excitedly when we heard the call overhead and turned our eyes (and cameras!) to the sky trying to catch a glimpse of their majestic flight. A few times I watched as one of the hawks sat in a window on one of the lower floors and tore apart it's catch with it's big, strong beak. Other times they would just sit and watch us, as we watch them, while they caught a breath of fresh air (and probably a few moments of peace) before the baby would begin to squawk again, calling out every 3-4 hours for food.

I know I can't describe the sound adequately, but one of the calls reminded us of a duck that was hurt or trapped (we called it the "psychotic duck sound"), and at other times we heard a sound comparable to an excited monkey. It's calls would be followed by a series of loud shrill "chirps" which we thought maybe were the parents answering back, but we can't be sure. Later we heard what we thought may be the immature "kree-eee-ar" that the hawks make in flight and while hunting, and knew Nova would be leaving the nest soon.

In the last few days, the squawks and calls for food from the baby have stopped. A sense of panic almost overcame us yesterday as we realized we hadn't seen or heard from our friends in a few days, until that familiar cry came once more and we looked up to see one of the adults flying with the much smaller nestling right above our house. I ran for my camera, but they were gone again before I could get a picture of the moment we had been waiting for - Nova's first flight!

I am hoping to get a picture of Nova before he and his parents leave for the winter, if they do leave that is. Some hawks will migrate, others will stay. We hope they will stay, or at least return next year, so we can witness it all over again and perhaps document them even further. Such majestic creatures, they are. Someone I loved very much once told me that in Native folklore, hawks are watchers and protectors. I can think of many times in my life when I have needed comfort and had an encounter with a hawk at that moment. It is nice to think that they maybe are watching and protecting my family and I. And even if they are not, it's truly amazing to watch and has been a wonderful lesson in nature for us all. I've enjoyed our friends immensely and will be sad to see them go.

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