Red-tailed Hawk


The juvenile Red-tailed Hawk shown in this print was photographed on the day in 2012 that it fledged from a nest on a fire escape at the intersection of Race and Dwight streets. The panorama below shows the building, across the intersection, where the nest was located:


Below, a field recording posted to the bird audio archive site Xeno-Canto:

In the city, birding tips can come in unlikely situations.

On March 15, 2012, Holyoke’s historic Mt. Tom Paper Mill caught fire and burned through the night. I spent the evening at the scene, shooting photos and video. Around midnight, I found myself chatting with an officer from the police department’s narcotics unit.

We started talking about birds.

When I mentioned the Red-tailed Hawks I’d seen around Race Street in the city’s canal district, he asked me if I’d seen their nest.

I hadn’t.

“It’s on a fire escape,” he told me.

I followed his directions the next day, to a former hotel that had been boarded up for years. The nest was there, on the side of the building facing the canal and the setting sun. The two hawks were there, too.

A month later, two chicks hatched. I visited them almost every day, and watched as an ad hoc community sprang up around the raptors.

There were the kids who passed the nest on their way to school, full of questions about what the birds were doing and why.

There was the teenager who told me that when he saw a group of younger kids throwing rocks at the nest, he admonished them, asking, “How would you like it if someone threw rocks at your little brothers and sisters?”

There was a woman who traveled through Holyoke each day to visit her terminally ill husband in a hospital, stopping on the way there so she could give him an update on the hawks and then stopping again on the way home.

People from almost every neighborhood in the city came to see the hawks.

When the adult male hawk was killed in a collision with a car, the surviving female found a new mate to help prepare her brood to leave the nest. The little hawks flew for the first time on June 4.

The pair nested again downtown this year, making their home at a vast mill complex near their old fire escape. This year, the pair brought three new hawks into the world — three new hawks that might, somewhere, give people something to marvel at in their own neighborhoods.

Below, a photo of the 2013 brood in the final days before fledging:

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

(c) Greg Saulmon 2013

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