Birds of prey are basically evolutionary, winged dinosaurs, which is kinda scary. Have you ever seen an eagle or hawk up close? To do so is to be sharply aware of all the ways it could eviscerate you: the talons of an American bald eagle can grasp prey at strengths up to 2600 pounds per square inch. That’s the equivalent of driving a nail through concrete. Your skull doesn’t stand a chance.
That’s why this report of red-tailed hawks “terrorizing” the residents of Bed-Stuy is so harrowing (also, I live in Bed-Stuy). CBS New York dispatched reporter John Slattery (presumably not this John Slattery) to the front lines of this avian-human battle zone. Slattery, presumably bedecked in a pith helmet, returned from the Jumanji of Gates Avenue, where a pair of red-tailed hawks chose as their nest the sixth-floor fire escape of now-gravely concerned citizen Tahjah Coleman. Coleman says she was targeted by one of the hawks. As Slattery reports, Coleman was on the terrace when “she felt a beak and claws in the back of her head.”
“Boom, bit. Put my hand on the back and got a handful of blood,” Coleman said. “I was grabbed by the back of the head, when I was bitten. I didn’t know exactly what was going on.”
All raptors, including red-tailed hawks, are protected under federal and state law, so it’d actually constitute criminal activity were Coleman to disturb the nest. Not that she has plans for venturing out to the veranda anytime soon: “He basically owns the balcony. It’s not ours any more.”
Here in New York, we’re not accustomed to dangerous encounters with wild animals, but this kind of thing must happen in Australia all the time–the government of the Australian state of Victoria put together this handy PDF of the “Top 10 tips to protect yourself from swooping birds.” Their advice includes moving quickly, not harassing your winged attackers, and avoiding the area altogether. Be safe out there.
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.