Peter Green of Providence Raptors is the city’s go-to guy to learn about all of Providence’s wild birds, and I was curious about what they were up to during the winter.
Ever since Peter and I met to discuss fall migration, my eyes have been alert to raptors, and the park has been full of them. I’ve spotted Red-Tailed Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk and felt particularly proud when I could tell the difference. (Thanks, Peter!)
As winter has settled over Providence and fall migration season has passed, I was curious about what these birds are up to in the winter, and what I should be watching out for.
Red Tailed Hawk hunting pigeons in Burnside Park
Peter started out by telling me that for the birds, winter is mostly about “just staying alive.” The hawks that set up resident in Providence are here because the food is here. With the leaves gone from the trees, it’s easy to spot some hawks if you’re patient and adjust your eyes to looking for them. Look up into the tress, you may see them hunting, or eating their catch. On multiple times in Burnside Park I’ve seen them watching over the park from high above, and even having their lunch right next to the fountain. Interestingly, the hawks you see this time of year are all young hawks. They were born in the spring, and this is their first year on their own. Sadly, only about 40% will make it to adulthood.
Red Tailed Hawk and onlookers in Burnside Park
Our city birds are also focusing on staying warm. Look up, and you may see them sitting near exhaust vents, tucked into windless nooks of buildings, or up in the trees looking for a warm meal.
Flying far overhead, you may spot our resident Peregrine Falcons. While it’s rare to get a close look at these raptors, if you fix your gaze up above the buildings, you may see them flying and hunting overhead. To catch a glimpse of the Falcons, start by focusing on the Superman Building where they are often perched on the corners, or diving off the building to hunt. The Falcons catch their meals in the air, and eat on the buildings.
If you go for a walk out of downtown and meander down to the river, you may spot some wintering ducks passing through, including the handsome and comical Hooded Merganser. Common Loons have been visiting and eating on the Providence River, with their warm winter plumage. In your travels, you may also see some Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, House Sparrows and Starlings. While we don’t have huge flocks of starlings here, you can sometimes spot them in small murmurations as they try to escape a hunting falcon.
Left to right: Hooded Merganser, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay
For more photos of the urban wildlife in Providence, visit Peter’s blog. Some of his images are even available for sale as prints in his online shop. I’m already looking forward to meeting up with him again in the spring to find out what’s happening then.
Now, bundle up and get outside! You may be surprised how much activity you can see happening in the neighborhood. Spot anything interesting while you’re out? Tag us @KennedyPlazaPVD so we can see and share!
Cooper’s Hawk and spectators on Westminster Street