A visual journal exploring the birds of Inwood and Northern Manhattan

by Teri Tynes – writer, photographer, and illustrator

A Sky Full of Hawks

On Friday, March 31, 2023, a fellow birder and I started counting many Red-tailed Hawks circling over the trees above Inwood Hill Park near the marsh, and at one point we reached a consensus of seven hawks. Red-tailed Hawks are a common sight in the park, but conditions that day seemed favorable for an unusually large gathering.

Around noon, temperatures were mild, in the lower 50s, fitting for a nice early spring day. Winds were moving gently from the north. The breezes aloft sent many hawks kiting over the hills.

Four Red-tailed Hawks above Inwood Hill Park. March 31, 2023.

The open athletic field adjacent to the Salt Marsh provides an excellent vantage point for such aerial displays. Red-tailed Hawks like to fly and catch the right breezes, and kiting refers to their ability to soar around in the wind without expending energy in flapping. This way they can hunt for prey conveniently from the air. Such a social convergence of hawks could also signify territorial activity during breeding season.

Red-tailed Hawk overlooking the Salt Marsh. March 31, 2023.

Hawks also spend an enormous time perching in trees observing potential prey from a distance. This afternoon, they kept busy flying around and then resting on favorite perches around the edge of the marsh, fields, and forest. Red-tailed Hawks thrive on the edges of natural and built environments. One kept watch from a tree next to the Salt Marsh path. Later, another landed on a branch from a fallen tree sticking out into the water.

Red-tailed Hawk. March 31, 2023

On a subsequent walk in mid-afternoon, I saw one hawk swoop to a high branch in a tree near where the forest curves around the athletic field. This sheltered spot would provide excellent views of the surrounding landscape. The winds had died down, and it was time for some vigilant perching.

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