Rodent-eating raptor becomes local mascot

A recent newcomer to the Patterson Houses in Mott Haven, a red-tailed hawk, has been seen in and above the sprawling NYCHA complex – soaring, swooping or just sitting and staring.

 

By Renny Montgomery. The 'P-ville Hawk' rests on an air conditioner at Patterson Houses in Mott Haven.
By Renny Montgomery. The ‘P-ville Hawk’ rests on an air conditioner at Patterson Houses in Mott Haven.

The ‘P-ville Hawk’ awes Patterson Houses residents

Many residents from Patterson projects would like to move out. They cite problems with trash, rodents and heat. But one resident seems more than happy to stay: a red-tailed hawk that has been seen in and above the projects – soaring, swooping or just sitting and staring.

Many of the human residents seem pleased with their new neighbor. “I think it’s cool to have a bird like that here,” said Johatan Clark, 16, a resident of 414 Morris Avenue.

Lorina Nichols, 48, said the community has christened the raptor the P-ville Hawk, after Patterson projects.

Though some residents have only seen one hawk, others say there is more than one. “We think there are two of them,” Nichols said. Other residents think there might even be three hawks.

Gabriel Willow, a New York City environmentalist and educator who leads bird tours with the New York Audubon Society, said that environmental protection measures are leading to more wild bird sightings in the city.

“There has absolutely been an overall surge in birds of prey in urban settings: the first red-tailed hawk — Pale Male and his mate — nested in NYC about 25 years ago, and now I believe there are around 40 pairs in the city,” Willow said in an email.

Willow added that hawks do very well in urban areas because of the abundant supply of rats and pigeons for food. Many residents echoed that sentiment, saying their first sightings were around the hawk’s mealtime.

“I seen it scoop a squirrel. I heard the ‘E,’ like a scream,” said Michael Williams, 16, another resident of Patterson projects. “You could hear the little thing dying.”

Johatan Clark, who lives in the same building as Michael Williams, said he was playing basketball when he saw the hawk for the first time; it swooped down to eat a squirrel. The second time he saw the hawk he was in his apartment.

“It swooped down on a branch near my window,” he said. “The fact is I’ve seen it twice and we looked at each other eye to eye. I feel like he knows me and maybe we’ll meet sometime again.”

But not everyone is so anxious to meet up with the P-ville hawk again. Twelve-year-old Myasia Williams, who is only about four feet tall, was terrified when she saw the bird for the first time.

“It was big and black and it had golden eyes. I was scared because it was big and it was going to eat me. I told my mom and grandma – they saw it,” said Williams. “It was just standing there looking at me.”

But Gloria Anderson, another Patterson resident, said only the rats and squirrels should be worried about the hawk.

“We be laughing when he come and we be like, ‘Where you now: rats, squirrels? Where you now?’ The bully is in town,” said Anderson. “He’s got no problem picking them up and flying in trees to do his business.”

Williams and other residents said they liked it that out of all the neighborhoods and all the projects, the hawk had chosen Patterson.

“Out of all the neighborhoods it could go to in the Mott Haven neighborhood it chooses to come here. I’ve never heard of anyone at Millbrook or Andrew Jackson say they see a hawk in their projects,” said Renny Montgomery, 25, another resident. “But we see it here often.”

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