Fort Greene Park visitors have tracked the progress of resident red-tailed hawk Olmsted and her eyas as it approaches adulthood.
The mother and her fledging inhabit the trees around the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument and visitor’s center. Locals that regularly visit the park have formed a fan club of sorts as they closely watch the baby hawk learn to fly.
“I would come out here on a regular basis and sort of photograph it and shoot a little bit of video and just watch it, kind of observe it and see the parents too,” Fort Greene resident Christopher Longworth said. The 44-year-old comes with his wife and his 8-year-old daughter Cora. Cora even named the baby Colonel Rufus Putnam, after the man Fort Greene Park was originally named when it was called Fort Putnam.
Longworth admits that hawk-watching has become a habitual family activity.
“One day I think I spent like four hours out here chasing after the birds,” he said. “It was kind of obsessive I guess but, yeah, we watched as often as we could within reason. We were pretty regularly watching and taking pictures and things like that.”
The Longworth family aren’t the only locals who have taken to hawk-watching.
“I live right across the street from the park so I’m in the park several times a week and whenever I’m here I kind of keep an eye out for a sighting,” Arthur Lewis, a 50-year-old who has lived in Fort Greene resident since 1987 says. “I always feel lucky if I see one or two of them.”
“I like to watch them and I like the colors of their feathers,” his 5-year-old daughter Siona explained, adding that she witnessed a baby hawk get rescued from her neighbor’s stoop last year.
According to Urban Park Ranger Anne Reid, that baby belonged to Olmsted, a hawk that is around 4 to 5 years old and has lived in the park since 2010. Her parents live in the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard. She was named after park designer Frederick Olmsted.
“She was not born in this park but her parents chose to raise her here, so they taught her to fly here, to hunt her,” Reid said. “Eventually she decided to move in here, she built a nest just over there, that big London Plane tree, and I just found out that she’s on her second husband right now, and one baby this year. Last year she had two babies and the husband and the one baby got a disease that unfortunately killed both of them.”
The baby she had this year is the juvenile hawk that has had residents captivated and it’s currently coming into its own as a fledgling.
“Fledging is when the juvenile hawks grow their flying feathers,” Reid explained. “Like most baby birds, they’re covered in fuzz basically, and they grow their flying feathers and they start hopping around out of the nest and falling down. They fly a few feet, sit. It takes a few weeks to a few months, depending on the bird.”
Once a bird learns how to fledge it has to go out and find its own territory. According to Reid, red-tailed hawks are native to New York City and are the main symbol on park rangers’ shirt patches.
“They’re our mascot,” she said. “They’re such a perfect example of nature in New York City. They’ll happily nest on top of apartment buildings and any park, even a small park.”