Photo-Essay: Hawk Attack in Brooklyn!
Last Sunday afternoon, the Greenwood Cemetery Division of the Brooklyn Parrots were perched in several pine trees, enjoying a peaceful lunch.
At about 4:00 PM, a large group of local pigeons began foraging on the cemetery grounds.
A group of quakers simultaneously began to stroll the grounds. Here, a small family is walking: Dad is on the right, Mom in the middle and Junior on the left.
The Quaker Parakeets, employing their "Sentinel Alert System" are broadcasting "medium alert" signals. A predator has been rumored to be patrolling the grounds, but has not been sighted in the near vicinity of the grazing birds for some time. Reflecting this eased threat level, every 20 seconds or so, "orange" codes (the monks have 11 different distinct calls and several are reserved for "situation" alrts) are issued by the parrots. In the prior hour, several "red" alerts were issued, but each proved to be a false alarm.
Suddenly, silently, a red-tailed hawk dives from above. With only seconds to spare before death strikes the flock, the monks shriek out their "reserved word" for hawk attack - a strident four-part call: AK-AK-AK-AK!!!
Immediately heeding the parrots' alarm signal, the pigeons take off and wheel in the skies, hoping to shake off their fearsome predator.
The hawk, having lost considerable kinetic energy in his plunge, as well as the advantage of surprise, locks onto a fleeing pigeon but is unable to overtake the bird.
Meanwhile,the parrots group together and fly evasively to the sheltered safety of the trees.
Protected by thorny pine needles, the parrots perch, hoping that the hawk will leave.
The hawk circles widely, rises on a gust of wind, and flies east to his tombside home bereft of a successful kill. This unnamed hawk - a possible offspring of Pale Male and Lola, Manhattan's famous hawks - appears to have lost the feathers on his right leg. If prey birds refer to predators by name, his appellation might therefore be "One Leg" or perhaps "Torn Pants."
After five minutes of peace, the monk parakeets declare the return of "orange" alert. The hawk is gone.
Hawks are an everyday hazard for the wild parrots of Brooklyn, as they are for quakers living in other urban areas where these predators roam the skies. Although hawks eat pigeons more frequently than they do parrots, wild quakers can feel the fatal clutch of the hawk's talons if they are not careful. The flock continues to survive, using teamwork, vigilance, and the Sentinel Alert System. This burly sentinel feels the heavy weight of flock safety on his shoulders - let's wish him well, because life is not easy for a wild parrot in Brooklyn.