Video: Red-tailed hawk devours pigeon outside subway station

Spotting wildlife in the concrete jungle of New York City isn't confined to the city's many beautiful parks, although those are teeming with creatures. No, I'm talking about true wildlife in and above the streets—not just rats and squirrels (I've spotted raccoons on my block in Astoria, Queens). The city even elaborates on its diverse roster of critters in a couple of websites.

Back in November, Christina Cobb, a sustainable lifestyle and communications consultant, came across a visceral scene outside a subway station in Downtown Brooklyn: a red-tailed hawk tearing into a pigeon for a meal. She fired up her iPhone 6s and started recording.

The city has had a few famous raptors over the years (remember Pale Male?). This one was no celebrity, but it sure made an impression doing what comes naturally (and is pretty common.)

"I don't take any joy in violence but it's cool to get the behavior on video," artist Catherine Hamilton, a longtime bird watcher, told FOX 5 NY. "Feral rock pigeons are a great food source for urban hawks!"

Cobb shared the video to social media recently. I reached out to her to ask about the interesting experience.

What were you thinking when you came across the scene?

COBB: I first thought how lucky I was to see this huge wild bird up close and in action. I had seen red-tailed hawks before, in some of the city parks full of trees, but never in such a public urban spot, and never so close. I was thrilled by the chance to see this, but I also felt bad for the hawk's prey. My next thought was how unlucky that pigeon was, being plucked alive by the raptor before being eaten. 

What exactly happened, as far as you could see?

COBB: I heard a bird screech and a woman laughing weirdly. I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk perched on a lamp post, feathers flying from its beak. The hawk had caught a pigeon as a meal, and for some reason chose to consume its catch right at this very public spot, a very busy subway station with commuters coming and going right underneath it.  

What were people around you saying and doing?

COBB: Once I started shooting, six or seven people were fully aware of what was happening and were gawking at the scene, some of them screaming "Oh my god!" or laughing nervously. A few others were quiet— mesmerized by the surreal urban nature moment, also taking pictures or videos, or just staring in shocked silence. Many people obliviously walked by.

This video might be "shocking" to some people but what deeper message do you hope people take from this?

COBB: It's easy to forget that humans are animals, too, especially when you live in a big city where we are by far the dominant species. When you see a wild animal adjusting to the city and living among us, it creates a feeling of connectedness and interconnectedness with the rest of nature.

Have you seen anything like this before in New York City?

COBB: I live near Tompkins Square Park, which has a nesting pair of hawks. A few years ago, I was taking a photo of a red-tailed hawk in Tompkins. It had just swept down and caught a small rat on the ground. All of a sudden it took off, the rat dangling from its talons, and it flew so close over my head, I actually felt the air from its beating wings.

What other interesting wildlife behavior have you witnessed in New York City?

COBB: Mostly I've noticed raccoons, especially in Central Park. They can be very bold, walking right up to people in hopes of getting fed. Even though they're really cute, it's important to remember they are wild animals and shouldn't be fed. I also spotted a red fox at dusk in Central Park, which was thrilling. At first, I thought it was a stray cat, but the low long body and tell-tale tail made it clear.

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