Around 47 days ago, I wrote a post about the love we New Yorkers have for our red-tailed hawks. At the time, Violet, a red-tailed hawk who, along with her mate Bobby, had built a nest across from the NYU President’s office, was patiently waiting for two eggs to hatch. But the eggs were well past their calculated incubation period. All the experts said the eggs weren’t viable, which is not uncommon for first time nesters like Violet and Bobby. But then a small miracle. One of the eggs hatched, and what had been a full time nest watch, complete with a hawk cam and several devoted Twitter accounts, became an obsession.
A contest was held to choose a name for the baby. Hawk-cam devotees chose “Pip” in a landslide. And so it went.
Then, this week, Pip started showing signs that he might be ready to fly. He would hop out of the nest and down the ledge of the building for a few feet before retreating back to the safety of his ‘nursery’. Bloggers wrote with mixed feelings about the imminent event. There was joy that Pip was growing and healthy, but true angst and grief that soon, the subject of almost two months of scrutiny and devotion would be gone, out of the view of the hawk-cam and into the wilds of New York City.
Reporters waited and watched and then, I believe on Thursday, it happened. Violet and Bobby were active participants in Pip’s first flight, tempting him by landing near the nest with a dead pigeon then flying away again before their young one could feed. Hawk parents are very matter of fact about their children. The nest on the building was only a nursery, not a home. Pip is big enough to learn to hunt, and so it is time to leave. And then he did. His first flight took him to a rooftop courtyard where his parents had been leaving dead animals for him to find. But this, too will be temporary, and within a week or so it will be up to Pip to find his food, or starve. The odds aren’t good – most baby hawks do not survive their first year because they do not become adept at hunting as quickly as they need to . But Pip’s celebrity might help him out a little. His first flight was closely monitored; the hawks experts were watching, ready to jump in and assist if, for instance, Pip got into the courtyard and then could not figure out how to fly out.
I’m glad the transition from ‘nest’ to ‘wild’ will not be so harsh or abrupt for my own children, and yet there is something I admire in Bobby & Violet’s insistence that Pip learn to make his own way in the world. There is something wonderful about watching young ones fly on their own. Of course we are told that hawks don’t feel for their young, not really, but I like to think there was a sense of hawk pride when Pip launched himself off that ledge, flying to the treasures left for him by his parents.
Good work, Violet and Bobby! And fly you high, Pip.