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This Hawk is an Imposter

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Bird Notes: Why is this woman holding a young Peregrine Falcon at the Brooklyn Bridge? See below. Meanwhile, Saturday looks good weather for NYBG in the Bronx (10am), and Sunday's forecast has late afternoon rain. See the Schedule page of our web site for information, updates and cancellations of the bird walks.

5 January 2022

Young Peregrines are really good at getting themselves into trouble. In the above photo from June 2006, Deborah has just made a quick rescue of a Peregrine after it took its first flight from a ledge nest on the Brooklyn Bridge. The raptor made the mistake of landing next to someone selling hot dogs and sodas...who realized there could be some value in the bird. Deborah ran over and explained in Spanish that sequestering away a formerly endangered species with intent to sell was not a good idea. Her suggestion to release the bird worked...she was able to place the falcon back in a safe area of the bridge - and all's well that ends well as they say. Along these lines we include photos/stories about raptors where they should not be; and not quite who they should be either.

This Saturday at 10am we have scheduled a bird walk at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx - meeting at the Mosholu Gate - click for directions to that spot. (You can take a MetroNorth train from Grand Central - three stops/22 minutes.) The conundrum this year is that NYBG has changed its admission policy for Saturday mornings - which used to be free! No more since Covid...Now you need to be either a member of NYBG, OR have a $15 grounds admission pass (good for that day only - see towards the bottom of that page). Anyway, we will be there on Saturday - if you have questions email us ( or call us at home: 718-828-8262 (leave a message). We will be looking for Great Horned Owls that nest here and overwintering ducks and finches. Bring peanuts for Chickadees and Titmice! More info in the Schedule section below.

Muttonbird (Sooty Shearwater) for dinner on Stewart Island. This bird is one of the most common seabirds in the world.

Peregrine Falcon (first year male) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (86th street and 3rd Avenue) on 7 August 2019. New Yorkers are so attuned to raptors these days, they knew to give this falcon space, even if they could not quite identify it. Someone called the Police who came and took the bird away to a better spot.

In this week's Historical Notes we present (a) "This Hawk is an Imposter," A New York Times article from 1890 about the "wrong" hawk at the Brooklyn Bridge. The right one? A Peregrine Falcon of course. In (b) we send the 1921 Christmas Bird Counts for all areas of CONNECTICUT reporting that year. Some quick notes, and I might sound like a broken record again again: Can anyone find a report of a Red-bellied Woodpecker on any of the 1921 CT counts? Can anyone find one report of a Canada Goose? How about a Brant goose? On the other hand, there is mention of a Northern Shrike, and 40+ American Tree Sparrows (on more than one count): birds much less commonly seen these days.

Snowy Owl (young male) by Brad Kane at Nickerson Beach in (far eastern) Nassau County on 3 January 2022. There are many Snowy Owls again this winter in the NYC area, including several in Queens and Brooklyn. Why is this owl a young male? See next...

Lots of White-capped Albatrosses (Stewart Island, NZ) on 29 November 2019

[below same bird] Snowy Owl (young male). Not every published photo has to be a great one - but it is indeed great if it shows plumage details that tell a story. Brad sent this photo below to Deborah Allen, and here are her comments: "the amount of black in the tail is not sufficient for a female bird, even if an adult, so I'd go with young male. If you look at the greater coverts on the dorsal side of the wings (think of lower wing bar on a passerine), you can see that they are heavily mottled, an indication that the bird is young. I also notice there isn't much in the way of dark markings on the nape (neck). The shape of the primaries, more pointed in young birds, is supposed to be helpful, but very subtle and hard to judge unless you have the bird in the hand (a real handful I'm sure)."

Good! Bird Walks for Early to mid-January 2022

All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park (except where noted)

1. Saturday, 8 January 2022 at 10am: NYBG in the Bronx at 10am. We meet at the Mosholu Gate (opposite MetroNorth train station; 5 minute walk across the street). Walk will last about 2.5 hours. Free parking available on Southern Boulevard for drivers.

2. Sunday, 9 January 2022 at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

3. Saturday, 15 January 2022 at 9:30am: TBA

4. Sunday, 16 January 2022 at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

Any questions send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

[Gibson's] Wandering Albatross on 22 November 2019 at Kaikoura Bay (South Island, New Zealand)

Cape Teal (male) 15 November 2021 at the Strandfontein Sewage Treatment Plant

near Cape Town, South Africa Deborah Allen

The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through early January 2020. Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!

If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) at the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we are a helpful group.

Carolina Wren by Deborah Allen on 10 November at Shakespeare Garden (Central Park)

Carolina Wren in the Ramble of Central Park on 2 January 2022 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

2 January (Sunday) meeting at 9:30am the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. My grandmother who was in her 30s in the 1930s during the Depression, that time of great economic downturn in the USA, never forgot that life could come to a screeching halt - and shortages would be the only thing one could find in abundance. So as a kid, whenever I opened her refrigerator door to look for chocolate kisses (Hershey's), I found leftovers: one olive; one chicken wing; one egg...each in its own dish covered with re-used saran (plastic) wrap. What does this have to do with Central Park birds? This past Sunday's walk was much like the stuff in my grandma's refrigerator. We seemed to have great diversity, but only one of so many birds: one Ruby-crowned Kinglet; one Golden-crowned Kinglet; one Carolina Wren (above); one Brown Thrasher; one Wood Duck; and even one Iceland Gull...You get the picture. On the other hand, at the Reservoir, we used bird calls to bring in flocks of ducks including Northern Pintail ducks (photo below); several Buffleheads; Ruddy Ducks - and others. We even used "seagull" calls to get the distant gulls up and moving, and we were afforded much better looks at a far Iceland Gull (found by David Barrett). However, nothing we do is without controversy: a nearby bird club - shocked and offended that all the ducks swam right up to us...well that bird club ran away to save themselves (from what I do not know). BUT they missed the Iceland Gull...If these birds are so bothered by the calls I use, why do they come to them rather than head the other way?

Northern Pintail (male) 2 Jan 2022 Deborah Allen

All in all it was a fun, productive morning with the add-on of lots of Hooded Mergansers at Turtle Pond and at least two Cooper's Hawks (adult female and adult male) in the Ramble. But you did not hear this from me - rather read Deborah's silent report - and listen carefully, you will hear the giggles of glee in the background...

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday 2 January 2022: Click Here

White-capped Albatross near Stewart Island, New Zealand on 29 November 2019

Adult 31 March 2015 at State Line Lookout, NJ D. Allen


A BIG HAWK ON THE BRIDGE [October 1890]. People who take for their morning or evening "constitutional" the walk across Brooklyn Bridge often see strange and interesting sights, but never a stranger one than was seen yesterday morning. A hawk, of such size that some of the beholders insisted it was an eagle, having made capture of a pigeon, fluttered for a time over the New York tower and presently settled upon the south side cable and proceeded leisurely to devour its victim. A large crowd gathered on the promenade and craned their necks, but the big bird, caring nothing, plied beak and talons until nought save bones and feathers was left of the poor pigeon. Alter arranging his sailing apparatus the bird winged his way out over the bay toward Staten Island. It was the first time that a large bird of prey was known to have perched on the Brooklyn Bridge.


December 1890


The hawk, supposed to be the one which has for some time made the top of the New-York tower of the Brooklyn Bridge its happy hunting ground, and which Officer Dooley of the bridge police force arrested Saturday night, as he said, for "chasing pigeons on the bridge premises without a license," turns out to be only a hawk impostor and to possess no claim whatever to the title of "The Bridge Hawk."

The bird in question is a red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus, which is now "locked up" in the cellar of the bridge police station, was caught some two weeks ago after he had injured his head in flying against one of the plate-glass windows of W. & J. Sloan's carpet store, Broadway and Nineteenth Street. At the time of his capture the bridge hawk disappeared. The bridge officers mourned his loss, and Gen. Albert Barnes, who in his regular morning constitutional over the bridge had observed the bird's predatory habits with much interest, regretted his departure.

[above and below] Peregrine Falcon (adult female) at the Orchard Beach Parking Lot of Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx/NYC) 27 November 2018 - Deborah Allen

But their grief was apparently to be of short duration. Officer Dooley heard of the bird which had been captured, and thinking him to be the bridge hawk purchased him for he was considered a sort of mascot to the bridge. A large cage is to be built for the accommodation of the Station's new pet. Unfortunately for this pretty bit of sentiment, Mr. Alfred Marshall, a member of the Audubob Society of this city and of the American Ornithologists Union, had observed the bridge bird and identified it as Falco peregrinus, the peregrine falcon, or duck hawk, a very different bird from the one which Officer Dooley has in his possession. Mr. Marshall has frequently seen the bridge hawk sitting on the bridge cable in the act of plucking a pigeon. The bird would toss the feathers high into the air with his beak, shake his head from side to side and at the same time utter piercing screams. The disappearance of the bridge bird may be easily accounted for by the fact that this is the season for him to migrate to a warmer home in the South.


Bird-Lore's Twenty-second Christmas Census – December 1921

Connecticut (1921)

THE highest number of species recorded in this census, in the northern and middle Atlantic States, is 37 at Elizabeth, N. J.; comparable, in the northern Mississippi Valley, with 34 at Buckeye Lake, Ohio, (or a combined total of 43 of the Wheaton Club, Columbus, Ohio). Kentucky has 39, Alabama 40, and Oklahoma 38. In the South, 109 at East Goose Creek, Fla., is a larger list than 88 from Santa Barbara, which is the highest for the Pacific coast. It would seem, then, that Florida can successfully rival California in variety of winter birds.

Last year, there were 118 published census reports from the New England and Middle Atlantic States, and Middle Western States north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi Rivers. Therein the Northern Shrike was recorded ten times, a total of 13 individuals. Except for 1 in Illinois, all (that is 12 individuals) were in the 61 reports from New York and New England. In the corresponding 113 census reports for the present year the Northern Shrike is recorded 37 times, a total of 52 individuals, with a maximum of 3 individuals to any one report (occurring twice). There are 33 individuals in the 57 reports from New York and New England, but none in 8 reports from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as against 3 (of the total 13) in 7 reports from those states last year. For the rest, 15 individuals are reported from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 2 in Wisconsin, and 2 in Ohio.


Bristol, Conn, (northwest quarter). 26 December 1921. 7.20 a.m. to 3.40 p.m. Clear; flare of ice covered by 2 in. fresh snow; wind northeast, light; temp. 17f at start, 29f at return.

Thirteen to 14 miles on foot. Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Blue Jay, 41; Crow, 15; Starling, 266; Tree Sparrow, 56; Northern Shrike, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 1; Chickadee, 3. Total, 10 species, 388 individuals. R. W. Ford and F. Comes left me at 11.30 a.m. Hairy Woodpecker seen by myself after the others left. Downy Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch were seen by Messrs. Ford and Comes after leaving me. A Screech Owl known to be in a certain hole could not be made to show himself, nor was it accessible.

Frank Bruen.


Fairfield, Conn. (Birdcraft Sanctuary and Fairfield Beach). 26 December 1921; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cloudy, with light snow; temp. 30f. Herring Gull, 80; Black-crowned Night Heron, 8; Scaup, 12; Golden-eye, 3; Old Squaw, 22; Surf Scoter, 4; White-winged Scoter, 35; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Screech Owl, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Blue Jay, 5; Crow, 4; Starling, 50 (flock); Purple Finch, 3; Goldfinch, 7 ; White-throated Sparrow, 4; Tree Sparrow, 7; Junco, 35; Song Sparrow, 7; Northern Shrike, 1; Myrtle [Yellow-rumped] Warbler, 3; Catbird, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Chickadee, 8; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 3. Total, 27 species, 314 individuals; five Great Black-backed Gulls seen Dec. 22.

Frank Novak, Warden.

Snow Goose at Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) on 2 Jan 2022 D. Allen

Fairfield, Conn. 27 December 1921. 8.10 a.m. to 12.40 p.m. Partly cloudy; ground, with about >2 in. of new-fallen snow; wind light southwest; temp. 28f to 35f. Nine miles on foot. Horned Grebe, 1; Loon, 1; Herring Gull, 43; Mallard, 3; Scaup Duck, 7; Golden-eye, 14; Old Squaw, 85; White-winged Scoter, 47; Surf Scoter, 10; Night Heron, 2; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Screech Owl, 1; Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 3; Blue Jay, 7; Crow, 9; Starling, 44; Purple Finch, 4; Tree Sparrow, 42; Junco, 7; Song Sparrow, 4; Northern Shrike, 2; Brown Creeper, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Chickadee, 24; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 2. Total, 27 species, 368 individuals.

Aretas A. Saunders (for more about A. A. Saunders, click here)


Hartford, Conn. 21 December 1921; 9 a.m. to 12 m. Clear; ground snow-covered; light northwest wind; temp. 18f. Ruffed Grouse, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Barred Owl, 1; Screech Owl, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 3; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Blue Jay, 6; Crow, 34; Starling, 56; Pine Grosbeak, 6; Tree Sparrow, 27; Slate-colored Junco, 28; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; Chickadee, 22. Total, 14 species, 191 individuals.

Clifford M. Case.


Hartford, Conn. 26 December 1921; 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (dark); Clear. 2-6-mile wind; ground

covered with light crust, and trees with ice., temp. 17f to 27f. Walked about 14 miles, covering Elizabeth Park, Reservoir Park, and about 6 miles of rolling farm and woodland going from one park to the other. Alone. Ruffed Grouse, 2; Red-shouldered Hawk, 2; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 2; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Blue Jay, 4; Crow, 100+; Starling, 25+; Tree Sparrow, 44; Junco, 40+; Northern Shrike, 1 (seen at distance of 50 ft.); Brown Creeper, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 4; Chickadee, 20; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 7; Total, 14 species, 256+ individuals. I saw 3 Pileated Woodpeckers on Dec. 18 and others saw a flock of 15 Evening Grosbeaks on December 17.

Geo. T. Griswold (Hartford Bird Study Club).


Meriden, Conn. Dec. 26. Clear sky, becoming partly cloudy; ground crusted with one-half in. of snow, covered with a light fall, making good tracking; trees and shrubs ice-coated from ice-storm of Dec. 24; wind north; temp. 26 to 30f to 24f. Forenoon walk, three hours, 4 miles of residential outskirts, farm section and swamp woodland. Afternoon walk, two hours, 3 miles with 1 mile along Quinnipiac River, and near sewage-disposal beds. Black Duck 31; Pintail Duck, 2 (flew directly overhead); Belted Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Horned Lark, 23; Blue Jay, 7; Crow, 100+ ; Starling, 75+ (25 scattered and one flock of 50+); Tree Sparrow, 38; Black-capped Chickadee, 36. Total, 10 species, 316 individuals; also English Sparrow, 16 (decreasing); one Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel] and nine Golden-crowned Kinglets seen on Dec. 25.

Lester W. Smith.


New London, Conn. (to Niantic and around Black Point). 27 December 1921; 8.30 a.m. to 4 P.M. Snowing at start, afterwards clear; light covering of snow; wind west, very light; temp. 29f at start, 38f at return. Fifteen miles on foot. Herring Gull, 124; Great Black-backed Gull, 1; Red-breasted Merganser, 28; Black Ducks, 2; Scaup Duck, 100 (est.); Golden-eye, 30; Old Squaw, 2; Canada Goose, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Crow, 20; Blue Jay, 6; Starling, 1,000 (est.); Tree Sparrow, 6; Song Sparrow, 8; Northern Shrike, 1; Myrtle Warbler, 1; Chickadee, 22. Total, 20 species, about 1,315 individuals. Also English Sparrow, 50.

Frances Miner Craves.


South Windsor, Conn. 25 December 1921; six hours. Snow in the morning, cloudy all day; very little wind; temp. 27f. About 7 miles. Herring Gull, 3; Merganser, 6; Black Duck, 2; Bobwhite Quail, 8; Ring-necked Pheasant, 4; Red-shouldered Hawk, 2; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Long-eared Owl, 1; Short-eared Owl, 6; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 6; Prairie Horned Lark, 30; Blue Jay, 5; Crow, 45; Starling, 10; Meadowlark, 8; Purple Finch, 25; Goldfinch 35; Savannah Sparrow, 3; Tree Sparrow, 150; Song Sparrow, 14; Swamp-Sparrow, 1; Brown Creeper, 5; White-breasted Nuthatch, 6; Chickadee, 23. Total, 25 species, 399 individuals.

C. W. Vibert.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Cape Town on 14 November 2021 Deborah Allen

[below] Black-shouldered Kite (sub-adult) at Strandfontein Sewage Treatment Plant

near Cape Town 21 November 2021 - Deborah Allen

[below] Brimstone Canary Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, on 14 November 2021

[below] Snowy Owl (young male) by Brad Kane at Nickerson Beach in (far eastern) Nassau County on 3 January 2022


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