6.08.2013

Hawks and Architecture: A Red-tailed Hawk Tour of Washington Square


Many locals in Greenwich Village experienced big bird drama in early June as three baby red-tailed hawks took their first flights from their home ledge on NYU's Bobst Library in Washington Square. The first one fledged on May 31, an event I missed and that apparently produced much nervous excitement. The remaining two young hawks took off on Sunday, June 2, one in the early morning and another nearly twelve hours later. I saw some of it.

June 2, 2013 9:10 am Washington Square North. Parents and fledgling. Bobby (left), Rosie (middle), and fledgling (right, obscured by the tree branch). 

June 2, 2013 10:39 a.m. Rosie is now perched on NYU's Silver Center for Arts and Science, one of the focal points for hawk activity on Washington Square East. Built in 1895 by NYU for academic and commercial purposes, the lower floors once housed The American Bank Note Company. 

June 2, 2013 11:13 a.m. While watching the fledgling on Washington Square North, hawk watchers heard the cries of the one that fledged a few days previously. Then, we looked up and saw it perched on the circular ladder structure on top of the Silver Building. 

June 2, 2013 11:33 a.m. The second fledgling continued to explore Washington Square North, landing on a window ledge at #3. This is no ordinary row house. The building was the longtime home of American painter Edward Hopper, who lived here from 1913 until the day he died in 1967.  

Our human instinct is to wish young birds to soar high, as I suppose we project onto birds our dreams of flight and freedom and transcendent perspective. I think this would be especially true in the context of New York City, where inherent dangers lurk low on the pavement. Imagine, then, young red-tailed hawks, noble birds of prey, taking their first steps off a high window ledge. But instead of swooping up to the top of an Art Deco New York skyscraper, as we would fantasize in our big city dreams for them, they end up landing flat on their feathery young backs on a hard New York sidewalk or somehow flopping around on the windshield of a police vehicle or awkwardly landing in a bush or on a park bench during a crowded festival. Watching big young birds negotiate the hustle and bustle of New York for the first time is not for the faint of heart.

June 2, 2013 6:56 p.m. Sweet angel, this is not a good place for you! Fledgling #3 reportedly had a bumpy sidewalk landing shortly after 6 p.m. but then managed to flap/fly to a park bench nearby in Washington Square Park.

But, like everything, after some practice, the fledglings got better at flying and graceful landings, and within days, if not hours, they found their way to higher and higher floors.

June 2, 2013 7:06 p.m. Now this is a proper place for hawks! While sweet angel is negotiating the park below, this hawk perches on top of "The Row." The tall Art Deco skyscraper behind is One Fifth Avenue (1929, Harvey Wiley Corbett). At this point, I've started to lose track of which hawk is which. 

June 2, 8:07 p.m. Jeez. While a crowd in the park fussed over the fledgling on the park bench, another ran into a bit of a jam on Greene Street between Waverly Place and Washington Place.

Mom and dad hawk - known commonly as Rosie and Bobby - are always near the fledglings. I would love to call them helicopter parents, but they probably have a different approach. The young hawks are still dependent on their parents for the delicious sustenance of eviscerated rats and pigeons and squirrels, and they will stick around the park a few weeks more to learn from them how to acquire such excellent breakfast and dinner for themselves.

Two days later...

 June 4, 2013. Early Tuesday morning 7:56 a.m. NYU's student center, the Kimmel Center for University Life. The building houses the Skirball Center for Performing Arts. Washington Square South and LaGuardia Place. The 2001 building was designed by Kevin Roche Dinkeloo & Associates. If you can't see the hawk, click to enlarge.

Pless Hall, Washington Square East, built in the 1890s. June 4, 2013. Early evening. 7:55 p.m. 


June 4, 2013. The colonnade of NYU's Shimkin Hall at 44 West 4th St. (southeast corner of Washington Square Park). The hall was built originally in 1895-96 as a warehouse and offices.


June 4, 2013. 8:16 p.m. Washington Square East. in the last light of evening. 

Once they learn the work of birds of prey, they will fly away to parts unknown.

The next evening. June 5, 2013 7:41 p.m. Silver Center (left); Pless Hall (middle, with hawk); Washington Square East Galleries (right). The light on the rust-colored gallery building is something right out of an Edward Hopper painting. 

Washington Square South/E. 4th. No hawks.


NYU's Education Building, 35 W. 4th St. The building houses the Frederick Loewe Theatre.
No hawks. That's a plane.


View looking north on Greene Street toward E. 8th Street.
No hawks, or none apparent.
 

Meanwhile, in their youthful airborne adventures, the hawks and their parents make excellent tour guides to Washington Square.

Washington Square Park, on the north side near Hopper's house. June 5, 2013. 8:01 p.m.

Night, hawks.

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Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from early June 2013. Clicking on the pictures enlarges them. For more images, see this set on Flickr WOTBA.

For dedicated and ongoing coverage of the hawks, I highly recommend the blogs Urban Hawks and Roger_Paw.