Urban Raptors

Urban Raptors

A parent Red-tailed Hawk flies from its nest over the New York City streets. Photo: François Portmann
New York City: the City that Never Sleeps, the Center of the Universe…and a major raptor hotspot? It comes as a shock to many that in our huge metropolis, birds of prey could find a place to even survive, let alone thrive. Learn about the birds of prey that surprisingly call New York City home.

The Big Apple has, in recent decades, become home to large resident and breeding populations of four diurnal raptor species-: Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, and Osprey. Three owl species, Great Horned, Barn, and Screech Owls, also nest here. Bald Eagles have recently become year-round residents (and we hold our breath, hoping they may nest in the City). 

Fall through spring, Merlins, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks are frequently spotted (and a few pairs of Cooper’s Hawks actually breed here). Some winters, good numbers of owls including Barred, Saw-Whet, and even Snowy Owls are also observed. During migration, though the City cannot compete with the vast “kettles” sometimes recorded at mountainous hawk watch spots elsewhere in the fall, many migrating raptors are recorded at hawk watch spots in all boroughs 


American Kestrels on Nesting Territory. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> American Kestrels on Nesting Territory. Photo: François Portmann
             

Why Are They Here?

The presence of so many birds of prey in New York City in recent decades is in large part a testament to the success of country-wide environmental regulation and restoration efforts. The Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Osprey were all brought back from steep population declines thanks to the federal government’s 1972 ban of DDT, a pesticide which caused egg-shell thinning and reproductive failure. The species have also benefited from passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973, expansion of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and dedicated conservation and restoration programs over many decades. 
 
Our urban raptors’ arrival in New York City may also be due to other factors: It may reflect the recovering health and water quality of our city’s harbor ecosystem. These species may have simply learned to adapt to our urban landscape. It’s also possible that our birds have turned to urban and suburban landscape because more traditional, undeveloped habitats have become more scarce, or are already occupied.
 
It does seem that our ecosystem, both developed and undeveloped, supplies a good deal of sustenance that raptors need year-round—including the Rock Pigeons and Norway Rats of our most urban areas. This food source also represents one of the greatest dangers to the birds, in the form of poisoning. Learn how you can protect birds of prey from rodenticide poisoning.
Red-Tailed Hawks in NYC
Red-tailed Hawks have become a common breeding bird in New York City over the past 30 years. Photo: <a href="http://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank" >François Portmann</a>
Red-tailed Hawks have become a common breeding bird in New York City over the past 30 years. Photo: François Portmann
Perhaps the most celebrated of New York City’s raptors, this buteo with a rusty red tail breeds and lives year-round in all five boroughs. Learn more about the incredible rise of Red-tailed Hawks in New York City in the past few decades and how you can help protect them.
Red-Tailed Hawks in NYC
Perhaps the most celebrated of New York City’s raptors, this buteo with a rusty red tail breeds and lives year-round in all five boroughs. Learn more about the incredible rise of Red-tailed Hawks in New York City in the past few decades and how you can help protect them.
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SNOWY OWLS AND AIRPORTS
Snowy Owls like this bird may easily wander to JFK Airport in search of prey. Photo: <a href="http://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank" >François Portmann</a>
Snowy Owls like this bird may easily wander to JFK Airport in search of prey. Photo: François Portmann
The iconic Snowy Owl is a true bird of the Great North. This powerful raptor breeds on the high Arctic tundra, in large part above the Arctic Circle. In the wintertime, the species ranges south across the wide expanse of Canada and the northern U.S. Most years, just a few Snowy Owls visit New York City and surrounding areas, observed only by the most determined winter birders. 
SNOWY OWLS AND AIRPORTS
The iconic Snowy Owl is a true bird of the Great North. This powerful raptor breeds on the high Arctic tundra, in large part above the Arctic Circle. In the wintertime, the species ranges south across the wide expanse of Canada and the northern U.S. Most years, just a few Snowy Owls visit New York City and surrounding areas, observed only by the most determined winter birders. 
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RODENTICIDES
A Red-tailed Hawk captures a rat in Fort Tyron Park, Manhattan. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ennuipoet/4977385601/in/photolist-2iFBjPb-nijCx3-cg2Ss9-nijwGp-EousTV-9BetMf-WjmaDb-VkJK84-nD96Me-8zQoNM-a2x9dW-8zQrVk-8zTx6L-8zQmPK-8zQn9i-8zQqx4-8zQpk8-8zTv1A-8zTtf5-8zTy1J-8zTrD3-EouBnD-8zTyym-8zQj9i-9xyjXB-cjkdFE-8zTsEG-8zTsg5-8zQkQV-8zTtCw-8zTrU7-8zTvmd-8zTyNq-8zTvDy-8zTuDj-8zQiRi-8zTwP1-9xt3VX-cuXoGy-8zTwgN-9cRw5A-9Be7Rw-9ckoNH-9B8BG7-9Azriu-2k9QL3T-9xt3Vp-8zQr8x-9xt3Vz-9zoYGb" target="_blank" >Photo</a>: Dave Bledsoe/<a href = "https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0" target="_blank">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>
A Red-tailed Hawk captures a rat in Fort Tyron Park, Manhattan. Photo: Dave Bledsoe/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The methods we use to control rodents can have a devastating impact on our birds of prey. Rodenticides, also called rat poisons, are commonly used to control rodent populations.
RODENTICIDES
The methods we use to control rodents can have a devastating impact on our birds of prey. Rodenticides, also called rat poisons, are commonly used to control rodent populations.
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