Plants & Gardens Blog

Red-Tailed Hawk Thriving at BBG After Rescue

BBG’s resident female red-tailed hawk is thriving after being rescued from the air shaft of a Park Slope apartment building last fall.

The bird is now banded on its right leg, which makes it a little easier to distinguish from the other red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) in the area. It was rehabilitated and banded by Bobby Horvath of Wildlife in Need of Rescue after Animal Care and Control of New York City recovered her from the shaft in October.

“She probably went into this narrow shaft while chasing a pigeon or a starling. Large birds like hawks need room to take off, so she was stuck for a couple of days. When we took over, she was starved and exhausted and a little beaten up, but after ten days on pain medication, we were able to release her,” says Horvath.

This winter and spring, the released bird has been spotted back at BBG with her mate. The pair have been hunting rabbits near Cherry Esplanade and the Cranford Rose Garden, mating, and visiting their old nest in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.

“Around this time of year, you might see them start to add twigs and bedding to last year’s nest ball if they’re planning to reuse it. If all goes well, the female will lay eggs in a few weeks. You may be able to see some little heads peeping over the nest three or four weeks later,” says Horvath.

In the winter, the red-tailed hawk population in New York City swells as birds from up north migrate here in search of food. Once breeding season begins, however, the residents become much more territorial and will no longer tolerate visitors, Horvath says. There are likely only about three or four resident pairs of red-tailed hawks in the vicinity of BBG, Prospect Park, and Greenwood Cemetery. Only one pair nests at BBG, and the female is currently the only banded hawk in the area. Many local birders think she is Nellie, the female that once frequented Nellie's Lawn in Prospect Park.

Last year, the pair hatched and raised two eyases, or hawk nestlings, in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, and it looks as if more babies could be on the way. The birds have frequently been seen mating lately by staff and visitors.

The courting behavior of red-tailed hawks is dramatic and not hard to observe. After soaring in wide circles, the male swoops down and approaches the perching female from above, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

BBG's vice-president of Horticulture, Melanie Sifton, captured a portion of their mating ritual (below) on a snowy day earlier this month. Local birder Julia Schindlmayr also got a series of shots of the two together.

Sarah Schmidt is a former editor of BBG's digital editorial content and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.


  • Ruth in Nottingham February 15, 2017

    Thank you for the articles on Birds of Brooklyn. I see these birds in my garden, and even the hawks have made a visit. Please keep up these informative and enjoyable articles on our local wildlife.

  • Sarah Schmidt May 7, 2015

    Thanks! Please be sure to check out our Birds of Brooklyn column, by Joe Giunta. His latest post is on the Blackburnian warbler.

  • Elizabeth in Brooklyn April 12, 2015

    Appreciate the update on the red-tailed hawks. Would love it if you added more about the birds to be found in the gardens and when you see them. Thank you.

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Image, top of page: Julia Schindlmayr.