Animated Loading
Having trouble loading this page? Get help troubleshooting.

The Urban Bird World Inspires Local Photographer

Published
Photographer Peter Green enjoys bird watching around Rhode Island. But his favorite spot is downtown Providence. Most people are too busy to notice...

Photographer Peter Green enjoys bird watching around Rhode Island. But his favorite spot is downtown Providence.  Most people are too busy to notice birds of prey circling this urban setting. But Green has become something of an expert.

Peter Green makes his home in downtown Providence. And he’s built a reputation for being the guy who snaps photos of birds of prey.

"My specialty is downtown urban raptors,” said Green. “I like to have them on concrete and brick and metal and no trees in the picture because it just shows how amazing they are, that they're right here."

From his own perch on the seventh floor of a loft apartment building, Green sees a variety of wild birds: Peregrine falcons soar through the air in their annual mating ritual and red-tailed hawks raise chicks on a fire escape. Green points to a building across the way, where pigeons shelter below the decorative eaves.

"The landlord of my building wanted them [the pigeons] out, so the alley wouldn't be full of poop and feathers and stuff like that,” said Green.

During his walkabouts in downtown Providence, Peter Green spotted red-tailed hawks nesting on a fire escape.

But when Green sees pigeons, he doesn’t see a nuisance. He sees a magnet for raptors. Green watches tiny kestrels in the spring, trying to get into the pigeons’ nests to eat their chicks. The kestrels have striking black stripes on their faces and bodies of blue and rust. They’re the smallest falcons in North America and Green likes to photograph them. He showed some of his pictures to the building landlords.

“And I convinced them to install a kestrel box on our rooftop deck, so we did that a few months ago,” said Green. “If they [kestrels] know that there’s a food source here and they pass by, hopefully they’ll remember and in the spring, when they're looking for a home, they'll come and move in and they'll keep the pigeon population under control."

Green became fascinated with birds after moving into this building nearly a decade ago. He keeps a day job as a graphic designer, but devotes his free time to bird photography. The rooftop deck offers views of Providence and parts of Narragansett Bay.

“I always check the different corners of the buildings: the Dorrance, the Textron building, the Biltmore, the falcons will be landing on the corners,” said Green. “They like the corners because they get a better view of all different angles. And you never know where they are going to show up." Green photographed the red-tailed hawks daily...

Since Green never knows just where his birding may take him, he doesn’t use a tripod. Wearing a baseball cap, with a camera hanging over his shoulder, he wants to stay nimble and agile. His eyes move with focus behind rectangular glasses as he scans the sky. He’s trained himself to spot birds from a surprisingly long distance.

"There! We got something flying around up there. Let's see,” said Green as he brings up his camera to his eyes. “See that speck. See that flying around? So I'm going to use my zoom lens and see what it is.”

Green snaps a photo, zooms in and examines a bird hovering over the tallest building in the downtown skyline, known to locals as the Superman Building. The wing shape tells him, “...yep, it's an osprey. You never know what's going to fly by.”

Green often sees this fish-eating hawk flying through downtown Providence. He documents his birding adventures on a blog called Providence Raptors that’s built a following among bird enthusiasts.

Local bird and wildlife groups frequently ask him to shoot photos. And for seven years, he’s documented federal biologists banding peregrine falcons in a nest on the Superman Building. This year Green even helped rescue one of the chicks after it fell from the nesting box.

Green captivated an audience recently at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island with stories and photos of the rescue.

“So I went and I grabbed the baby and I put it in my backpack and when I turned around to leave, the mother was there blocking my exit,” Green tells the crowd, which bursts into laughter upon seeing a portrait of the peregrine mother giving Green a menacing look.

...and documented the chicks hatching as well as the chicks learning how to fly and leaving the nest.

Back on the rooftop deck at his downtown home, Green stands next to a vegetable garden, and said his passion for birds took him by surprise.

"You never know what's going to happen in life, right?” said Green. “[It’s] unexpected and it really is just because I moved into the right spot, I think."

Now Green is an expert birder and a raptor rehabilitator in training. One day he hopes to own a house where he can care for injured raptors. But for now he’s happy photographing them amid the rooftops and the streetscapes of downtown Providence.

You can check out a collection of Peter Green’s photos at an exhibition at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island's Environmental Education Center in Bristol through the end of the month.

Correction: Peter Green is still training to be a raptor rehabilitator. 

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we’d like to hear from you: news@ripr.org

American kestrels, the smallest falcons in North America, frequently visit downtown Providence in the spring to take advantage of all the meals pigeon chicks make.
Peter Green convinced his building landlords to install a kestrel box on the rooftop deck of his loft apartment building to attract more kestrels.
Green thinks inviting more kestrels into downtown is a natural way to keep the pigeon population under control.
Green always considered raptors cool, but he's surprised by how many have adapted living in urban settings. Pictured here is an osprey flying through downtown Providence.
In his early days of photographing raptors around downtown, Peter Green had a modest point-and-shoot camera. His sister eventually gave him a more sophisticated camera as a gift.
Gradually, Green has upgraded his camera zoom lens in order to capture raptors up close during flight, like this osprey.
Green photographs peregrine falcons that nest atop the Superman Building each spring. He gets to photograph them up close when he documents federal biologists banding the chicks. Pictured here is the screaming mother as her chicks get banded.
undefined
From his rooftop deck, Peter Green can see the Rhode Island Statehouse. He hustles to the state capitol on foot when he can tell hawks are sitting on Independent Man.
undefined
For seven years, Green has documented federal biologists putting bird bands around peregrine chicks that hatch in a box atop the Superman Building. Everyone involved in the process has to wear hard hats for protection from the parents.
This spring Peter Green, without a hard hat, rescued one of the peregrine chicks that had fallen out of the nest box atop the Superman Building. On his way out with the chick, he encountered the peregrine mother without getting injured by her. He took the chick to a wildlife clinic to ensure it didn't have any broken bones. The chick was reunited with its parents and siblings the following day.
Green photographed the red-tailed hawks daily...
Green photographed the red-tailed hawks daily...
In his early days of photographing raptors around downtown, Peter Green had a modest point-and-shoot camera. His sister eventually gave him a more sophisticated camera as a gift.
In his early days of photographing raptors around downtown, Peter Green had a modest point-and-shoot camera. His sister eventually gave him a more sophisticated camera as a gift.
American kestrels, the smallest falcons in North America, frequently visit downtown Providence in the spring to take advantage of all the meals pigeon chicks make.
American kestrels, the smallest falcons in North America, frequently visit downtown Providence in the spring to take advantage of all the meals pigeon chicks make.
The Urban Bird World Inspires Local Photographer
The Urban Bird World Inspires Local Photographer
Gradually, Green has upgraded his camera zoom lens in order to capture raptors up close during flight, like this osprey.
Gradually, Green has upgraded his camera zoom lens in order to capture raptors up close during flight, like this osprey.
Green always considered raptors cool, but he's surprised by how many have adapted living in urban settings. Pictured here is an osprey flying through downtown Providence.
Green always considered raptors cool, but he's surprised by how many have adapted living in urban settings. Pictured here is an osprey flying through downtown Providence.
For seven years, Green has documented federal biologists putting bird bands around peregrine chicks that hatch in a box atop the Superman Building. Everyone involved in the process has to wear hard hats for protection from the parents.
For seven years, Green has documented federal biologists putting bird bands around peregrine chicks that hatch in a box atop the Superman Building. Everyone involved in the process has to wear hard hats for protection from the parents.
Green photographs peregrine falcons that nest atop the Superman Building each spring. He gets to photograph them up close when he documents federal biologists banding the chicks. Pictured here is the screaming mother as her chicks get banded.
Green photographs peregrine falcons that nest atop the Superman Building each spring. He gets to photograph them up close when he documents federal biologists banding the chicks. Pictured here is the screaming mother as her chicks get banded.
From his rooftop deck, Peter Green can see the Rhode Island Statehouse. He hustles to the state capitol on foot when he can tell hawks are sitting on Independent Man.
From his rooftop deck, Peter Green can see the Rhode Island Statehouse. He hustles to the state capitol on foot when he can tell hawks are sitting on Independent Man.
During his walkabouts in downtown Providence, Peter Green spotted red-tailed hawks nesting on a fire escape.
During his walkabouts in downtown Providence, Peter Green spotted red-tailed hawks nesting on a fire escape.
...and documented the chicks hatching as well as the chicks learning how to fly and leaving the nest.
...and documented the chicks hatching as well as the chicks learning how to fly and leaving the nest.
Peter Green convinced his building landlords to install a kestrel box on the rooftop deck of his loft apartment building to attract more kestrels.
Peter Green convinced his building landlords to install a kestrel box on the rooftop deck of his loft apartment building to attract more kestrels.
This spring Peter Green, without a hard hat, rescued one of the peregrine chicks that had fallen out of the nest box atop the Superman Building. On his way out with the chick, he encountered the peregrine mother without getting injured by her. He took the chick to a wildlife clinic to ensure it didn't have any broken bones. The chick was reunited with its parents and siblings the following day.
This spring Peter Green, without a hard hat, rescued one of the peregrine chicks that had fallen out of the nest box atop the Superman Building. On his way out with the chick, he encountered the peregrine mother without getting injured by her. He took the chick to a wildlife clinic to ensure it didn't have any broken bones. The chick was reunited with its parents and siblings the following day.
The Urban Bird World Inspires Local Photographer
The Urban Bird World Inspires Local Photographer
Green thinks inviting more kestrels into downtown is a natural way to keep the pigeon population under control.
Green thinks inviting more kestrels into downtown is a natural way to keep the pigeon population under control.