Local red-tailed hawk catches a rat in Manhattan Park

This video, taken in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of New York City on September 9, 2014, was sent by reader Tom, who notes: “How grand to see these large raptors doing so well seemingly inured to the sirens and other distractions of NYC.”  Indeed.

The YouTube notes are these:

This is Christo, a wild adult red-tailed hawk (in molting stage). He lives in Tompkins Square Park where there is a lot of food: rats, pigeons, squirrels, mice and small birds.

Christo prefers rats and this video shows him as he hunts for one. The squirrels in the park are large, strong and fierce. They can defend themselves and often harass the hawks. Christo will go for small squirrels, but tends to avoid the larger ones, as shown in this video.

For those who have complained about the length, I have presented the video here in its entirety as it shows the hawk’s complete hunting task. I was sitting on a bench when he landed on the fence a few seconds before the video starts. I stood some distance away to give him room to do his thing. We are fortunate and thrilled to have a wild hawk right here in our urban park. A note about the squirrels – they are all gray squirrels, which come in different colors: gray, black, brown, orange and blonde. They are all the same species showing different fur color just as people have different hair color.

Christo in action:

41 Comments

  1. busterggi
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    If only they didn’t start eating their prey while its still alive…

    • enl
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      ??? The rat wasn’t moving for about half a minute before take off. After Christo dropped ballast, it appeared he gave a hard neck bite, before taking off. Did I miss something?

      • busterggi
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        No but I’ve seen raptors feed in person and it can get messy.

        • enl
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          ahh. I have also seen them eat in person (one kill right outside my office window), but, fascinating as it is, never considered that the meal sometimes begins while the prey is still moving. Then again, it still isn’t a bother to me, as I have also watched my cat make a kill and start the dismemberment while the prey still moved.

          Nature. Fascinating and sometimes brutal.

  2. mikeyc
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Go Christo!

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    “Christo” — namesake of the conceptual artist of “Christo & Jeanne-Claude” fame, the pair who did “The Gates” installation in Central Park, among many other environmental art projects?

  4. W.T. Effingham
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Christo kid was a friend of mine.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Haven’t heard that one for a loooonngggg time.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    4:09 photobomb squirrel pops up behind hawk in hawk-watching-New-York-not-bothered mode. Thinking “no fun – guess I’ll watch the basketball or skateboarders instead”

    Let’s see if this works – here’s the 360 DEGREE PHOTOSPHERE only a few yards from the iron fence where Christo perches [the fence by the chess tables].

    • Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Wow…I had no idea it was such a small park. I’m amazed that it can feed and shelter so many animals.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 12:54 am | Permalink

        You are seeing E 10th St & only one city block of the park – there’s a more formal two city blocks to the south the other side of the pedestrianized E 9th St. Your view is blocked by a massive memorial fountain & associated building. It’s 10 acres in all & they have jazz fests, punk rock fests & all sorts there. The WIKI on the park is fascinating – some loon served up a cooked New Yorker as a soup in the park to feed the homeless ~ he’s safely locked away now.

        • Posted August 9, 2018 at 4:59 am | Permalink

          Ah! I wondered. lol You are pulling my leg about the ‘cooked New YOrker’ though…aren’t you??

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 9, 2018 at 5:25 am | Permalink

          The “Butcher of Tompkins Square” is the real, high calorie, deal. I’ve taken this from the Wiki I linked to above: “By the 1980s Tompkins Square Park had become for many New Yorkers synonymous with the city’s increased social problems. The park at that time was a high-crime area that contained encampments of homeless people, and it was a center for illegal drug dealing and heroin use.

          In August 1988, a riot erupted in the park when police attempted to clear the park of homeless people; 38 people were injured. Bystanders as well as homeless people and political activists got caught up in the police action that took place on the night of August 6 and the early morning of August 7, after a large number of police surrounded the park and charged at the hemmed-in crowd while other police ordered all pedestrians not to walk on streets neighboring the park. Much of the violence was videotaped and clips were shown on local TV news reports (notably including one by a man who sat on his stoop across the street from the park and continued to film while a police officer beat him up), but ultimately, although at least one case went to trial, no police officers were found culpable. A punk rock festival has been held in the park in the years since, in commemoration of the event.

          The park had become a symbol of the problems in the city, including homelessness—which had prompted the 1988 riot. Against that backdrop, Daniel Rakowitz shocked the neighborhood in 1989 when he murdered Monika Beerle, dismembered her, made a soup out of her body and served it to the homeless in the park.

          Rakowitz, called the Butcher of Tompkins Square, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and remains incarcerated at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Wards Island”

          • Diane G
            Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            😮 😮

            “…Tompkins Square Park had become for many New Yorkers synonymous with the city’s increased social problems.”

            I guess!

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

              LOL

    • eric
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Yeah that squirrel was cheeky. Keeping an eye on the predator is normal, but getting that close was bold.

    • Diane G
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      Very cool, thanks for that!

    • Diane G
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:20 am | Permalink

      As for why the squirrel popped up–coulda been looking to see if the hawk would drop any prey parts…squirrels will eat just about anything. They can catch small birds & mice themselves.

  6. SnowyOwl
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Not sure it’s a rat!?
    Mouse species.

    • Diane G
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:17 am | Permalink

      Looks too big for a mouse, to me. Not sure if you’re familiar with Red-tailed Hawks, but they’re large–20″ (bill to end of tail) per my guides.

      • Posted August 9, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        Definitely agree with you Diane.

  7. Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Life really does find a way, doesn’t it? I found the background noise quite unpleasant yet Christo appeared completely unaffected. And that squirrel! lol Shared space between such different species.

    • Frank Bath
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      I’m astonished by the crows (?) I see that spend all day on airfields seemingly undisturbed by the racket around them.

      • Posted August 8, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        lol – I suspect the crows learned to put up with us a long time ago coz we’re so messy, leaving food all over the place! But yeah, even for them I would have thought the sound of jet engines would be a bit much. Apparently not. 🙂

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Those squirrels clearly aren’t worried Christo will attack them!

    Cool video.

  9. jim pilarski
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised Cristo showed no interest in the squirrel. I’m even more surprised the squirrel seemed to know it.

  10. Matthew North
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I love this. I linked on this video months ago.

    An amazing predator helping New York City get rid of vile, destructive vermin.

    It’s a shame it couldn’t have done the same by getting rid of Trump before he moved to Washington D.C..

  11. Tom Czarny
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I have a scandalous Christo update. True, it is from the NY Post but it is a juicy read:
    https://nypost.com/2018/03/03/hawks-messy-love-triangle-is-the-talk-of-this-nyc-park/

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      Christo. Naughty, naughty Christo servicing two nests! Interesting that NY Post reports that NYC hawks who lose a mate are partnered up again within a day ~ that’s some bush telegraph they’ve got going. There must be a Yiddish grandma hawk arranging the matchmaking intros.

  12. Christopher
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    That video was grand but I had to mute it about 1.20 in. Humans are stupidly, obnoxiously, unnecessarily loud and that 1.20 was enough to make me so very glad I do not live in a city!

    • Diane G
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      Still, I thought it was yet another interesting element that urban wildlife’s learned to tolerate.

      (Hope there aren’t any parrots around…)

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      There’s basketball courts to the right, that’s always noisy or people aren’t having fun, there’s also skateboarders to the left & emergency vehicles to the front. I find that video recorders tend to exaggerate audio that’s normally just a background babble. Audio recorders have a different sensitivity profile to ears & the audio at the quiet end is boosted artificially. Then there’s the psychology of being there rather than popping in quickly on a vid – our normal perceptions of sound are more filtered & forgiving if we’re actually there.

      I was recording some magpies bathing outside my window at 9pm of a [seemingly to me] quiet, peaceful summers evening during the World Cup. When I played it back, due to all the open windows, I could hear kids playing football & screaming as they do, a woman singing in the club around the corner, my neighbour coughing & opening a beer can, two different TV programmes, the trains passing on the elevated embankment 100 yds behind me & airplanes circuiting for BHX. I was tuned out of all that in the moment, but not on the replay. I expect hawks tune out too & concentrate on their favourite channel only: sounds of rodents scrabbling around the bushes.

  13. Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Weird how the hawk just sat there for a while instead of carrying it up into the tree sooner.

    • Diane G
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      I had the feeling it might have been asphyxiating the rat with its talons.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      I am far from an expert on hawk behavior, but in my limited experience that seems to be SOP for Hawks. Not sure why. Perhaps a bit of a rest after the exertion of the hunt? Perhaps taking time to make sure the prey is well subdued or dead? Perhaps taking time to see if something else is going to try and take its catch away from it?

      Several times I’ve come across hawks that were sitting on the ground for what seemed abnormally long periods and in circumstances in which you wouldn’t expect them to, for instance relatively close to people, and every time it turned out that they were standing on just caught prey.

  14. Paul Matthews
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I always wonder what effect a pair of large predatory birds, plus their voracious chicks, have on the prey species in the surrounding area. I assume that there is often a virtually limitless supply of mice, but I wouldn’t think that would be the case with larger prey species. Some years ago Great Horned Owls nested for several springs in a relatively small nature conservation area right in the city where I live. Initially I saw rabbits in the area, but after a while I stopped seeing them. My guess is that the owls basically wiped out all the rabbits. At about the same time, a pair of merlins nested in my parents’ garden (only for one summer). Merlins aren’t large, but they are falcons, so typically (always?) hunt birds, not mice. My parents were initially thrilled to have the merlins, but became much less so when they noticed all the songbirds in the area seemed to have disappeared.

    Presumably there are a lot of rats for Christo and his mates and their offspring in this NYC park. This is good for Christo. For the human residents, maybe not so much.

  15. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Always a bit of a worry, seeing wildlife feeding on city vermin. There’s a fair chance that they’re ingesting appreciable amounts of rat (or whatever) poison along with their meal. A friend clocked up a £600 vet bill this weekend after one of his cats started twitching and gibbering then threw up a mouse. The farmer next door had just laid new rodenticide around his sheds, and they think the cat got the mouse after it ate the poison but before it died.
    A couple of days on a drip at the vets seems to have sorted Moggy, and “words have been had” with Farmer Giles.

    • Matthew North
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad you pointed out the dangers of poison. I cringe every time I look through the pest control section of a store and see poison baits for rodents. The rodents suffer while they die, and then get eaten by other animals, including pets.

      You can quickly and humanely control rodents with the many different kinds of traps.

      One exception are glue traps for mice and rats though, the animals slowly die while they struggle to free themselves from the glue.

      • busterggi
        Posted August 10, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        I used glue traps when I had mice. I would check them twice a day and if some were caught I’d free them from the trap (You take the end of their tail between your index finger and thumb then use your middle finger to boost their rear end and sort of peel them off – they will try to bite so be prepared) pop them into a closed container and release them in one of the parks.


%d bloggers like this: