Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Red-tail Signals?

March 23, 2007- Pale Male and Lola look at the eggs in the nest.

The continuation of the conversation between John Blakeman and I about the level of Red-tail cognition in areas other than hunting...


I think Red-tails could use a little more credit. What about the adult Red-Tails communicating by signaling to each other? For instance when Pale Male stashes food for Lola while she’s on the nest, he communicates its location to Lola. I know there is circling involved in the signal but there might be more complexity to it that I don't see or hear as all I can see is the circling from my position at the Hawk Bench.

Circling plus an add on signal might alert the receiving hawk to variations in the communication, or perhaps the receiving birds ability to contextualize the signal makes it specific.

Signaling of some kind may be used when Lola wants to switch off the nest and have Pale Male tend it when there is an intruder. Does she decide whether she needs to deal with the alien or whether she'll let him tend to it? Or does he signal a need for her to take over or is it her final decision?

I believe that Pale Male and Lola do most probably communicate/signal strategy while warding off visitors. Possibly they cue one another in some way which may bring up previous successful patterns, but no interaction is ever exactly the same so decisions are being made on the spot which entail cognitive non-wired responses.

They never look like they miss a beat in their pas de deux of defense. Therefore I’m hypothesizing that they do communicate by some kind of signal.

Our opinions differ and the reason my be our differing experience with the same species. Is it possible that as Red-tails used for falconry are removed from the nest before they've been through training by their elders and therefore certain cognitive functions are never developed? They are unnecessary so the individual doesn't develop them.

The three most often watched bonded pairs in Central Park have worked out different ways of dealing with similar situations and with each other. Therefore decisions between behavior choices must be being made to adapt to a specific mate and with variations in circumstances. Which to me denotes a reasonable level of cognition.


Having said all that, I thought I'd better look a little closer at their behavior. I then went back to my photographs of Pale Male and Lola on the nest in March of this year. I found something I hadn't expected at all and realized I may have been erring in the possible meaning of certain physical positions of Pale Male while on the nest. I hadn't been looking for certain kinds of signaling so I didn't see all of them perhaps?

Check out the eyes of the birds in the sequence of photos. What do you see? I'll tell you what I think I'm seeing tomorrow. (It's won't exactly be earth shattering to most people but an extension of something that some people have noticed.)


2:59:13PM Lola leaves the nest.

3:06:10PM Lola returns to the nest.
Donegal Browne

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