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Red-Tailed Hawks Build Nest on East Village Air Conditioner

By Serena Solomon | March 6, 2014 10:01am
 The hawks have tentativley chosen Christodora House as a possible site for their nest.
Red-Tailed Hawks
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EAST VILLAGE — East Village real estate is hot even for hawks.

Neighborhood bird watchers are keeping tabs on a pair of red-tailed hawks that are building a nest on an air conditioner at the pricey Christodora House at East Ninth Street and Avenue B.

While birders suspect the pair might also be building a secondary nest elsewhere, they think hawks will settle on a final pick on real estate soon, because they are due to lay their eggs in mid-March.

Many local birders hope the hawks pick their neighborhood.

"I think it's a good location — they have [Tompkins Square] park right here for the fledglings, it's high up, East Ninth is a quiet street," said Dennis Edge, 75, a birder of 10 years who photographs the hawks several days a week.

The birds have been snapped swooping down on Tompkins Square Park delicacies like pigeons and rats, or breaking sticks off nearby trees and bringing them to the nest on the seventh-floor air conditioner.

"It looks like it is substantial enough for her to start laying eggs," Edge said of the nest, which was first reported on the blog EV Grieve.

Edge said he has also seen the birds clutching twigs and flying north toward Stuyvesant Town and south towards the Village View co-ops on East Sixth Street, two possible location for another nest.

Once the eggs are laid, they are incubated for six weeks before the chicks break through their shells in late April, Edge said. The baby hawks will begin to test their wings in June, and then the birds may fly north for the summer. 

"Hawks do migrate, but a lot of city hawks don't," Edge said.

The owners of the seventh-floor apartment could not immediately be reached for comment. Staff and other residents at Christodora House said the couple who live their spend much of their time in Los Angeles.

While Edge usually tries to spot the hawks in mid-morning, birder Laura Goggin, an East Village photographer, said she looks for them at midday.

"They fly around [the park] a lot and keep me moving," said Goggin, who layered up with three pairs of pants and two sets of gloves on a recent several-hour birdwatching trip so she could tolerate the cold.

"The male seems to be doing all the work — getting the branches, building the nest," she said. "He kills and brings it to her."

Red-tailed hawks don't have any gender-defining features other than the female being larger than the male, according to the birders. Edge and Goggin said they can only tell the two apart when the hawks are together.

Several other local birders are tracking the hawks and a few names have been thrown around. "Chris" or "Christo" for the male and "Dora" for the female seem to have stuck the most, according to Edge and Goggin.

"I just love how much nature is here in the city," Goggin said.