In a move with grave implications for the pigeon community, a Red-tailed hawk appears to be shopping for a new home in or around North Brooklyn’s hip McCarren Park.
“We have seen him several mornings a week for a month or so,” said Greenpoint resident and bird enthusiast Robert Petrullo. “He is bringing twigs and other nesting material up to the top of one of the light towers at the McCarren Park baseball field.”
Surrounded by grassy fields and on the opposite side of the park from an artificial turf soccer field, this would seem like an ideal home for a creature that survives on a diet of mice, pigeons and snakes.
The Red-tailed hawk (a.k.a. Buteo Jamaicensis) has long wings, a broad tail, red markings and a pale chest with a dark band. They average about 18-26 inches tall with a wingspan of 45-52 inches. The female is slightly larger than the male; like some humans, they are serially monogamous and form longstanding mating pairs. Their natural range extends from sub-arctic Canada throughout North America and into Mexico and Central America.
How can locals recognize the newcomer? “In the courtship display, a pair of Red-tailed hawks soars in wide circles at a great height,” according to the Cornell Ornithology department. “The male dives down in a steep drop, then shoots up again at nearly as steep an angle. He repeats this maneuver several times, then approaches the female from above. He extends his legs and touches or grasps her briefly. The pair may grab onto one other and may interlock their talons and spiral toward the ground.”
Our hawk or hawks have yet to make tabloid headlines like those most-famous hawk lovers Pale Male and Lola, who took up residence on a swanky Fifth Avenue co-op building. The co-op board tried unsuccessfully to have them evicted in 2004, a move that spurred documentaries, rallies, T-shirts and at least one kid’s book.
Could it happen in Greenpoint? Only if the Parks Department gets out its net — a very unlikely scenario.