© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved. hawknest15

Red-Tailed Hawks Nest on Fire Escape in Providence

Back in 2010, a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks constructed a nest and raised their chicks on a fire escape in downtown Providence. The location was vulnerable to pranksters so I decided not to share this photo series until the hawks were done nesting there altogether. In 2012, a few twigs appeared but they did not use the fire escape to nest. In 2013/14 the building was completely renovated and the entire fire escape was removed, so now I feel it’s ok to share the full series.


In January 2010, I photographed a hawk who landed in a tree, snapped off a twig and flew away with it in its talons… I followed the hawk and it led me to the nest it was building. I obtained permission from building managers to photograph the nest from nearby rooftops, and visited as often as I could, making sure not to disturb the hawks.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

It was interesting to watch the hawks use their brains and engineering skills to move branches until the nest was perfect:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Here’s the bonded pair mating just before Valentine’s Day… I’m not a voyeur, they’re exhibitionists!

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

For weeks, not much happened as they incubated the eggs:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

While one parent sat for hours, the other hunted, and throughout the day they traded responsibilities:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Why fly when you can take the stairs?

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Eventually one adorable fluffy little hatchling appeared…

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

…and then a second:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

The vertical bars suddenly resembled a baby’s crib as the mother coddled her newborns:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

On rare occasions, I was permitted onto the roof to briefly look down into the nest and document what was happening inside. Here we see mom shielding her hatchlings from direct sunlight… there’s also one unhatched egg and a few meals (squirrels and voles) waiting to be consumed:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

They grew quickly and a parent was always there with them:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Sadly, not all hatchlings survive and one did pass away from unknown causes. The second continued to grow and soon began leaping and flapping its new wings:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

I didn’t witness the moment the young hawk fledged from the nest, but I did find it perched nearby and the parents were around to protect it. Notice the striped tail of the juvenile… they do not grow the “red” tail until they reach 1 year old and complete their first molt — a reward for living through the winter when 80% will perish due to lack of flying ability, hunting skills, prey or man.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

In 2011, the couple returned and repeated the nesting cycle, producing three hatchlings that also grew quickly and made a mess:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

I did not visit as often as in 2010, and again I missed the exact day the fledglings left the nest, but I saw them perched around the city a few times. As I said above, they did not use this location to nest in 2012 and in 2013/14 the building was completely renovated and the entire fire escape was removed. I don’t know where the couple has relocated, but I wish them the best of luck, and I’m grateful for the moments they allowed me to witness and share.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

8 Comments

  1. Posted 03.06.14 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Superb photojournalism, Peter! Red Tailed Hawks have always been my favorite raptor, ever since I was a child. They are, in a sense, my totem. Thank you for your respectful documentation of this wonderful pair and their offspring!
    Vivian

    • Posted 03.07.14 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      My totem bird also! When I’m down, confused as to which path to take or need an uplift, one always seems to fly across my visual field. I know they are common and around all the time but they always get the timing exactly right. At least one species of raptor that has adapted to many human habitats.

  2. John
    Posted 03.06.14 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Wow what a nest and great series of photos!

  3. John Hammett
    Posted 03.06.14 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed your excellent photos of the hawks. Today while driving in Westerly I think I spotted a possible great horned owl’s nest near a major road. Here’s hoping the maples leaf out before they are discovered by the general public.

  4. Hal C
    Posted 03.06.14 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic shots . Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience .Hal

  5. ol jess
    Posted 03.09.14 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Super awesome piece!

  6. Lenny C.
    Posted 06.15.14 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Outstanding photos Peter! Thank you for sharing your extraordinary work with the local raptors. I look forward to viewing more when they are posted.

  7. Kathie
    Posted 12.19.14 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing Peter. As another wrote, thank you for your respectful photography of these beautiful birds. Warm Holiday Wishes to you!!!

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