A familiar silhouette. This Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) was on a mound of dirt and rubble near Pier 3 in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s still under-construction section the other day.
As with all things, the more you practice, the better you get, and in this context it is looking and identifying birds. The raptors can be difficult because they are usually fast-moving and distant. This perched one allows us to study it even without binoculars. Even in this shot, you can see the faint pattern of light-colored feathers on the bird’s back. None of our other Buteo, or soaring hawks, have this pattern. Other Buteo species like Red-shouldered and Broad-winged hawks would be quite unusual, but not impossible, in our region, so a process of elimination is also helpful.Another angle, with Lower Manhattan in telephoto distortion. The red tail can just be glimpsed here — it’s really more of a russet color even in glorious sunlight. This is tricky, since Red-tailed hawks born this year wouldn’t have their mature red tail feathers in yet, but this bird is at least a year and a half old. This also means that the bird is breeding age. Now you can see that sprinkling of white on the wings better. Red-tails have a characteristic, roughly-V shaped pattern on the back. Note also the length of the tail. If this were a Cooper’s hawk, which is another regional raptor possibility, the tail would be proportionally longer even though the Cooper’s, an Accipter, is a smaller/slenderer bird.The bright white chest and streaked belly are also good signs of Red-tailed hawk-ness. (That said, there’s a lot of variation among Red-tailed hawks across the country; Central Park celebrity “Pale Male” is so called because he is particularly… pale.)
This bird was around for at least an hour. As I was taking the first two shots from ground level, a passerby told me she had seen the bird earlier near Pier 1. The third shot was taken at least a half hour later from the Promenade. From up there, I watched the bird fly to this perch from a pile of stone; from above the red-tail was plain as day. I’m guessing that the disruption of construction and general all round harbor-side location mean there are rats here. Rats love harbors, the Norway is also know as the Wharf rat, and big raptors love rats. (And who doesn’t love Ratso?)