Saturday, June 23, 2007


Photograph by Robert Schmunk of
Where you can go for Rob's report on the Cathedral Hawks for today. Winkie's report is below after the continuation of THE PALE MALE NEST SYMPOSIUM

The New York City Audubon Society has been suggested by readers any number of times as the organization that might once again help Pale Male and Lola in their time of need.

NYC Audubon was one of the parties instrumental in getting events moving toward help for Pale Male and Lola in getting their nest site back in the cold days of winter 2004 when things looked very very bleak indeed. For one thing, it was Audubon's local staff who procured demonstration permits from the city so that the very effective protests could take place.

(Remember HONK FOR HAWKS anyone?)

Therefore when I sent out letters asking people to contribute their thoughts to THE PALE MALE NEST SYMPOSIUM, one went out to Yigal Gelb of the NYC Audubon staff . Yigal was out there many an evening protesting during those dark days, cheerfully passing out hand warmers, and standing solid with the rest of us.

Here is how Yigal responded to my note--

Hi Donna,

This is great! Hope we get some new perspectives.

Yes, NYC Audubon is eager to explore the possibility of introducing modifications to the nest structure with the building owners and managers. I would only emphasize that any solution we adopt would ultimately need to be based on sound science.

Though I'd heard through the grapevine, that Audubon was as always sympathetic and supportive concerning Pale Male and Lola's nest problems, and of course specifics would need to come from Director Glenn Phillips, Yigal's email was music to my ears and interestingly, a letter came in from Pam Greenwood that's right down the sound science alley Yigal was talking about---

Here is something I thought about last year after the nest failure. We are guessing about the physical properties of the cradle and the nest and spikes.

Why not build a model of it so someone can do some measurement and assessment. Could whoever built the cradle build another one? or provide the plans?

The spike heights are presumably known - there must a standard in pigeon spikes such that a sample could be obtained. Once a model cradle was obtained, spikes installed, and a "nest" constructed, some measurements could be made. That would also allow experimentation with mashing the spikes, or cutting the spikes inside the bowl of the nest, or eliminating the spikes, or other ideas.

Obviously the ideal would be to have the actual cradle and nest, but that does not seem to be possible politically I gather.

Pam Greenwood
Rockville, MD 20852

Here's the architect's web page concerning the cradle
Though as we all know, there are often small differences between a design and what actually ends up being the product after production issues. Also, for instance, it's very difficult to tell from the architect's website exactly what the spikes are like.

There are variations in pigeon spikes depending on the era in which they were made, who the manufacturer was and how they are installed. All relevant to our questions.

As the cradle itself cost many thousands of dollars, building another seems unlikely, but building a model or even perhaps having an engineer, if one would volunteer their time, (Hint!) to examine the original on 927, to take measurements, samples, find out the conduction properties of that particular metal, in that configuration, and whatever else might be relevant is a very good idea.

As to whether something is politically possible, you never know until you have your ducks in a row and ask, right?

So let's get our ducks in a row.

Is anyone out there an engineer willing to help us out?

Or to the rest of us, can you think of anyone you know who has the scientific or engineering expertise to check out the cradle and help Pale Male and Lola out of this nest problem?

Well, what are you waiting for? Pale Male and Lola need your help. Get to it!

More Symposium in the days to come!

NEXT UP today: Pale Male Irregular Winkie's report on the Cathedral Hawks--Tristan, Isolde, and their Eyasses: Tailbiter, Brownie/Cohort, and Third

With three of these critters, we need more eyes.
I have even recruited my husband who has no patience for the long watch. But he did report this morning, seeing two hawks high above the baseball field in Morningside Park.

My guess is that this has to be the parents as he said it was very high. To my knowledge, none of the young have started to soar.

Yesterday: Now, this is a good chapter for me! I finally go to see the second, my Cohort.(Rob Schmunk's Brownie, D.B.) It all started mundanely like most hawk watches and I was so late getting there with subway problems that I thought I was going to strike out.

It was about 8:00pm and had already rained. The sky was questionable. When I came up to the Plant Pavilion there was one of the fledges on the front on that mess of grill and railing. I couldn't get a look see from the angle unobstructed enough to tell which of the two it was. I could tell it was not Third.

Her crop was full and the young'n looked content. And no matter what view I got, I just couldn't tell which fledge this was. I scouted for others, no others, young or adult to be seen. I waited and watched for about 15 minutes. But the weather was rolling in the west and I knew that my time was limited before it hit.

The Fledge was now getting that weather radar too. She was getting active and very attentive to the quick change. Just as I thought she was going to out last me. She flew, like the proverbial bat outta, over the tree tops, way out over the dog run and turned north.

As she flashed by: I got a good look. It was Cohort with the dark, broad belly band. Yippee! She too, flies like a daemon.

I'm fairly sure that she set down somewhere around the 116th Street steps. There was a terrible commotion coming from many of the smaller birds. I exited at that point as I wanted to beat the lightning home.

By the way, absolutely do not miss Prima Hawkwatcher and author, Marie Winn's post for t0day, The Grounded Fledgling Affair at It is so beautifully done it literally made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and my heart ache.

Donegal Browne

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Winkie's Cathedral Family Report And Kentaurian on Charlotte and Junior's Eyass

First off is Cathedral Nest Watcher Winkie's report. It includes some very helpful tips about how to identify each of the Divine Eyasses.--
I'm glad to say that all three eyasses now fly very well. I've seen Tailbiter and Third flying over the tops of the London Planes.

The News since last week, (I couldn't be there on Friday).

On Saturday, I arrived around 2:00PM and saw Third, who is a male (my opinion). He is a small bird with almost no belly band.
(Diminutive with little belly band to speak of? It sounds as if Third looks like his father, Tristan. D. B.)

Third has that leaner, longer silhouette. He was on the scaffolding and doing birdie aerobics. He took off and banked, making a great loop over the parking lot and finally decided to land on the urn on the Plant Pavilion. This bird is quite impressive!

Later, I ran into Rob around 7:30 or 8:00. We got to see Tristan and one chick, probably Tailbiter. This chick is probably the biggest and has a pronounced belly band, but less of one than the second, my Cohort (her belly band is dark and wide and for now even darker on the left). Tailbiter flew from the railing and "grill" stuff on the front of the Plant Pavilion back to beyond the apse before I headed home.

On Sunday, late afternoon, It was Third on the Baptistery. He's very engaging and looks around with great curiosity. He finally flew off to the urn. I think there must be snacks for them there, as they disappear for a while up there.

On Monday late, around 8:00pm, Tristan was on the transept corbel~his usual 11:00 position and Tailbiter was on the scaffold. She had a very full crop. Tristan flew off, first over the hospital then the park. I watched her for a while. I gathered Tailbiter was too full to move.

Tuesday evening, I came up empty.

Wednesday, my only sighting was Tristan on the urn and flying over the park like he was on the lookout for the kids. I haven't personally sighted Isolde or Cohort. Other's have as I've seen pictures of her. She is probably somewhere in the trees near the cathedral. For now, I can recognize her by her pronounced dark belly band.

Just in from long time Hawk Watcher and part time philosopher Kentuarian, who has spent many hours watching Charlotte, Pale Male Jr., and their young in the south of Central Park.

Yesterday, Manhattan, 70620, Wednesday -::- The young hawk had been returned to NYC on Tuesday the 19th of June and released in the south west end of Central Park.

The next day, it was finally seen several times with its parents. All three of them active, jumping, hopping, animated; flying around the Heckscher Baseball Fields and very vocal.

The parents brought food, the chick ate it or, later in the day, dropped it and looked forlorn.

The fledgling was mobbed and harassed during the day periodically by groups of smaller birds: Blue Jays, Robins, Starlings, Orioles; getting whacked by them. Most of the time the youngster had to just "sit it out" or relocated.

The baby hawk called, whistled, kirred and bleated sometimes rhythmically, the adults often responding and even flew by, dived in and defended it.

This flurry of noise and activity helped the human "ground crew" find the young hawk and monitor it just in case something went wrong where we might have to step in again.

And remember to send in your thoughts, questions, opinions, recommendations, solutions, and theories for THE PALE MALE NEST SYMPOSIUM, another segment will be posted soon.
Donegal Browne

WHY CAN SOME FLY AND OTHERS CAN'T? Branching and Begging

The stance of a newly fledged Red-tailed eyass while begging.

Why is it there is a wide difference between the flight ability of newly fledged eyasses from different nests and even more disparate between other species of birds and Red-tail young? Wouldn't there be an evolutionary advantage to youngsters with immediate flight?

Little from the 2005 Trump Parc nest of Charlotte and Jr. According to report, Little came off the Trump Parc nest beautifully, no wobbles for this guy. He then spent a number of days on the roofs surrounding and below the nest making very short flights between railings and roofs, one roof to another of equal height, and very short trips of a foot or two from a rooftop to a slightly higher place such as a chimney, before flying into Central Park. Pale Male Jr. conducted hunting lessons on nabbing pigeons in flight for the eyasses during this time.

Charlotte on the Trump Parc nest, 2005.
Though the nest is reasonably roomy compared to some there was some question as to whether Little had flapped the needed amount, as his sister Big had appeared to have done more. Both eyasses exercising at the same time on this nest was possible but it was a tight fit, therefore near fledge time when they were larger, they tended more toward separate bouts.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Nest, 2006.
Eldest flapping on St. Andrew's hand but a grip is necessary not to catapult prematurely into fledging. No running and hopping possible while flapping in that spot. Youngest behind the Saints head on the nest, has some room to run but not much room for full flapping. Because of the layout of the nest, and even more so in the 2007 season since the seasons added nest material created higher nest walls, space was even more limited. And of there were three eyasses on the nest in 2007.

Isolde and Youngest, 2006. Even then there wasn't much room to run, hop, and flap.

Though fledging into the trees beyond the high chain link fence, in the next day or two both eyasses were discovered back on the roofs of the Cathedral and inside the enclosure of the fence.
They used the cathedral and the scaffolding that was then erected beside the cathedral for branching. Though the rake on the roofs and the small landings on the scaffolding were not conducive to hopping, flapping, and running at the same time.
Not long many days after fledgling, youngest found himself grounded outside the fence attempting to get back to the nest area. He was only able to hop perhaps a foot and he didn't fully spread his wings while doing it. His mode of transportation was to take to his heels. the only way he could gain elevation was by hop flap climbing into bushes and trees.
What about this inability to fly right away and running instead? This made me think of Robins. They are completely grounded as well immediately after fledging. When necessary to avoid harm they run and hide. Why can't they fly? There's got to be an evolutionary advantage in there somewhere? What is it?

I started thinking about this particular Robin chick. He came off the nest and ran. Then ran some more. Usually they run towards Dad who is going to feed them. Having made me think in the past that the urge was Dad not the running that was at issue. But this guy had a very big urge to run though the part about "towards Dad" didn't kick in right away. Dad had to chase him so he wouldn't run off and get lost. Interesting.
Do RT eyasses have an urge to run. I'd say that was a big yes, it's just that sometimes they've no room to do much of it in.

The best nest to run in as far as I know in the city, is Fordham's. (Pale Male's used to be good too, though we've not had a chance to see how it works with the cradle and its slightly more exaggerated curve that's now built in.)
Look at the Fordham nest. Not only is it great for running, the platform affords plenty of width for flapping and elevated space for hopping as well. It's a virtual airport runway.
Not only that but look at how close the tree branches are to the ledge. Also that tree and those near it have branches that rise up to a higher roof on a near-by building. And that building's roof gives access to a whole panoply of other roofs and branching opportunities.

This eyass was first seen off the nest on this day's morning. He saw his mother with food on a roof to the left. Yet he walked off the pipe onto a roof to the right though further from the food to make the flight to the food. Why?
Try this for size.
BECAUSE he needed to take off from a roof in order to have a "runway".
The pipe didn't afford what he needed in the way of a run/step hop surface to help his wings get him off the "ground". Plus the roof on the left was lower in one spot and peaked in the other, neither as advantageous to getting to his final destination as was the roof on the right, which was of a more equal height.

Here he is, far left, having flown to where a parent was eating. This flight was very well done and he landed perfectly on the exact spot for which he was aiming.(Not with polite hawk manners as he almost nailed his mother, but very good aim for his age anyway. Manners will come later. ) It looked perfect. Which made him look perfectly flighted though he wasn't. It was a flight of some length but he didn't have to gain altitude and he had an excellent runway to start from.
It wasn't that he just had the skills to choose wisely, he also had the advantage of more muscle. His increased muscle strength was acquired because of the many advantages built into the nest he hatched on, a large sumptuous adjacent branching area, and conceivably a few days to practice before we noticed he'd left the nest.
A caveat here. Keep in mind, Fordham eyasses are notorious for getting on and off the nest. Though on a building they have the advantage of being able to branch on and off with relative ease. A rarity for most urban nests. And because one can't see all the way to the back of the Fordham nest from the ground, one must use a roof for the full view, it's almost never clear who left when or who left and came back before anyone noticed. Chis Lyons one of the major watchers of this nest felt this eyass may have fledged a day or two before the sighting.
A commodious nest, good branching opportunities, and a couple extra days off the nest before we may have noticed? No wonder he looked perfectly flighted, though he wasn't. Back to the question. What is the evolutionary advantage that is so important that it's worth unflighted young coming off the nest?

Another tack, let's look at chicks, like this little House Finch, that come off the nest flighted. They aren't going to be flying to South America tomorrow but they still get around very well immediately. Once off the nest they fly to the food following along after a parent. Food doesn't come by delivery in the way baby hawk food does. Do these babies do something that hawks don't that helps build muscle before leaving the nest?
Categorically they do. They beg with their entire bodies including their wings from the time they can remain upright long enough.
Scroll back up to the top of the post and look at the begging eyass. Her wings are hanging down as if they are too heavy for her to hold up. And they probably are as she is putting every ounce of her being into begging as loud and long as possible. There will be some wing use once the parent gets close but until then it's about putting everything the youngster has into sound.

Note the posture of the House Finch as she watches her father shuck seed into his mouth. She's stiff. She's contracting all her muscles, though she's hunkered down. I'm theorizing that as she comes from a bowl nest with no running room, her legs aren't all that strong and well muscled at first so between bouts she has to rest them. Though her little body has had lots of practice vibrating and flapping her wings.

When the chick has decided that Dad has about filled his mouth with shucked seeds, she jumps onto her feet, vocalizes and beats her wings often running part of the way to Dad. When Dad has decided he has a big enough mouth, in this instance he went right a few steps and plucked a few more before deciding he had a full load. Note the position of the maple seed up of his tail. He will turn towards her and they both run to meet.

Dad then turns takes a few quick steps and by then she's there and he feeds her. Note position of Maple seed again. Also note that their wing and breast muscles are reasonably similar but Dad's muscles for running are quite a bit more developed than hers are.

Dad pauses for a moment, check out his lower legs and feet.

While Dad pauses the chick also pauses in what previously seemed like constant tension in her body, a spring winding tighter and tighter towards the feeding moment. (The combination of intermittent contraction and release/relaxation builds muscle strength.) She's still keeping a major eye on him though.

Dad turns and begins looking for some choice seeds and...

She goes back into begging mode.

She holds it, holds it, holds it. Dad is taking forever. And wait a gosh darn minute Dad just gave that mouthful to a nest mate.

She releases the tension and decides to try doing it herself.

She was able to swallow one. Though she doesn't look all that happy about it. It's just not the same having to feed oneself. But as more of the broods chicks arrive for Dad's care day to day, she does more of it.
Okay so where does all of that get us in the way of finding some possible answers to the questions?
You know, I could use a recap of the questions myself.
What evolutionary advantage or advantages are so worthwhile that sacrificing immediately flighted hawk fledglings or even flighted Robin chicks right off the nest makes that advantage worthwhile?
The Part B, being why are some species fledglings downright unflighted or nearly so and some species can come off the nest with reliable wing power?
(You realize of course, we're not going to come up with a real answer. We're going to come up with possible answers, decide which are likely. Decide which we like the best... a hypothesis which could be tested. And if observation and testing worked out, it might actually be a real answer....but there would have to be more testing and observation of other possibilities. In the end there would probably be multiple contributing reasons as to why. Not really as satisfying as the epiphany of THE answer in a moment so let's not think about that part right now.)

So what did we come up with?
The more advantageous the Red-tail nest site, the somewhat more flighted off the nest may be the eyasses. Though as we know, even less advantageous nest sites still produce young that become fully flighted, hunt, do perfectly well, and go off on their own.
Though one could surmise that less of a percentage do. Compare the number of problems of the young before being able to fly off with their parents safely to learn hunting skills amongst the 888, the Cathedral, and the Fordham nests.

Next, Red-tail and Robin young have a noticible urge to run compared with House Finch young.
(Couldn't be because over milennia it was developed because they can't fly? No actually, probably the urge to run was there because running appeared before flying.)
Okay so why don't RTs beg with their wings to build them up? Because they flap to build them up. And while flapping they run, both needed for such large birds. Ahhhh. that's one of the advantages. Robins are large for songbirds, most songbird chicks can fly once off the nest but they're small with skinny light legs. Robins have sacrificed immediate flight for size. So most likely have RTs with their strong legs, heavy feet--their hunting survival gear.
What are the other differences? Robins are omnivores, Red-tails carnivores, Finches are regularly herbivores. Robins and Raptors have to hunt other creatures most days of their lives. They must learn hunting skills and strategies from the moment they leave the nest in order to get those skills honed enough before limited prey or migration turns off the parental food faucet ?. In fact then, is coming off the nest early unflighted more important to species survival than waiting for flight and having less time to be taught? Could be.
(As for the House Finches, as seeds don't run when you see them, perhaps learning to find them and eat them, needs a shorter learning window. Wait, they just have to learn to eat them. They can continue to follow a parent to "where" for a good long time as seeds aren't singular, they are usually found in large groups. I can think of several reasons why finches might need wing action immediately because of peculiarities of plants but enough already.)
Time is limited in Robins and Red-tails for learning hunting skills. For Robins, there can be numerous broods a summer. If the first batch doesn't learn to feed itself before the second comes hard on the first's heels, they are out of luck. And we know that in Red-tails eventually the parents will stop feeding the young hawk as prey becomes less available when the year wears on so the young better be able to outsmart the prey by then.
The questions just multiply. So why don't RTs beg with their wings early as well as later doing the flapping, hopping, and running? Perhaps the gain wouldn't be worth the calories? Or do they really need their entire being for volume when begging?
See what I mean?
There are those who are fascinated by how many of a species and where they all are. The how many and the where. And I'm glad that they do or how else would I know where to find them. My fascination is the what they are doing and why? Come to think of it I'd probably have to add who, as well. Because at least in the amazing adaptable Red-tail, the who has a great deal to do with what you're going to get for a what and why?
Because as long time urban hawk watcher Ben Cacace wrote in an email to me the other day referring to Charlotte and Jr. picking up the eyass's care as if she'd never been gone...."One should never underestimate a Red-tailed Hawk." And that's a fact.
Donegal Browne
Donegal Browne
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


IT'S HAPPENED! And now a second sighting and more good news!

3:30PM Bobby Horvath reports that a Central Park Ranger sighted Charlotte and her eyass sitting on the same branch next to each other near the Hechter Ball Field. Both birds then took off together, the eyass flying perfectly with his mother.

4:45PM (approximate time) Ranger Rob reports the parents caught a squirrel and are feeding it to the youngster.

HURRAY! Now the youngster has just as good a chance of making it as any other urban eyass.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Relative length of Fordham spikes to Fordham eyass

First off my apologies for those who visited the Symposium while it had disappeared. Blogger ate it for a while, then poof, it was back.



First up an email from reader Ed Teller--

I've always thought that the open space below the metal cradle is an obvious no-brainer problem. Dale's letter about the Venturi Effect makes good sense to me. I'm voting for something that stops up the holes in the cradle. For that matter how about filling in the whole area between the decoration below and the cradle above?



From Eleanor Tauber who often contributes her marvelous photos to the blog like the independent Frick Duckling above.

Donna, here’s my weigh-in, which includes Blakeman’s words:-
I culled this from two of Blakeman’s emails to you. In another which I can’t find, he suggested how this could easily be done. This is the way I’d like things to go, and would hope that the NYC Audubon Society would step in to help instigate a follow-through, which is what happened before.
Eleanor Tauber

WHAT BLAKEMAN WROTE:In the pre-cradle nests, the eggs might have also rested on the spikes, but they were fully enclosed with insulating nest lining all the way down to the cornice surface. None of the spikes' surface then was directly exposed to the late winter air. With the cradle, cold air continuously surrounds the open metal base of the elevated cradle and the attached pigeon spikes. Any conducted heat easily escapes downward along the spikes, through the insulating nest lining, out to the cold air beneath. A reduction of just one or two degrees (eggs are incubated at about 100 degrees F) will kill the young embryo.

Therefore, a photo of the nest in the fall, after the lining material has weathered away a bit, may show that the prongs in the center of the nest are bent over 45 degrees or more. If this is so, the eggs still rested on the prongs, but instead of on the tiny tips, they rested on the bent-over sides of the prongs, exposing them to larger contact areas of heat-conducting metal.

Again, the spikes need to be snipped off at their bases, or thoroughly smashed down flat.

And another vote for spike mashing from reader Karen Anne Kolling--

I don't know... but it certainly seems that those spikes would both conduct cold and prevent the eggs from being rolled. So, like John says, it would be a simple first step to mash them down.

Rose and Hawkeye's nest at Fordham. Obviously successful as there are eyasses sheltering from the sun in the corner.

Spikes on ledge with nest. Look at how high the nest is. It also looks like it 's possible that the bowl itself may not be positioned above the spikes

More details on the Fordham pigeon spikes from Chris Lyons, who reports on Hawkeye and Rose at Fordham.

(Some folks question whether the spikes currently attached to the cradle truly are the original spikes that were the base for Pale Male's nest. They believe that new longer model spikes, similar to those behind Pale Male's head in the previous post, for whatever reason, were used instead.)
From Chris--

In the case of the nest at Fordham, I don't believe the spikes are attached to wood, but are simply nailed or riveted to the stone or masonry surface of the pediment. But it's a very narrow strip, and it's out at the very edge of the broad horizontal cornice.

Very ineffective in repelling pigeons, if you ask me. But when Hawkeye and Rose began laying down sticks, these spikes worked very well in terms of securing them in place, while not coming into contact with the eggs in any way, because the eggs were laid in the center of the nest, and the spikes were out at the edge. And of course, this indirectly turned out to be a very effective way of repelling pigeons from that ledge, but they still nest all over Collins Hall. Overall, there are fewer pigeons on the campus, though.

In the case of the Fordham nest, the sticks are sitting directly on the cornice, and the spikes are out at the very edge, and probably not affecting the eggs at all.

Chris Lyons

The Symposium Wish List-

1. Photos of Pale Male's nest pre-cradle

2. An engineer with know-how in heat transfer willing to look into the heat loss issues in the theories for the love of Pale Male and Co.

Donegal Browne

Charlotte and Pale Male Jr.'s Eyass Is Released

Thanks to Bobby Horvath for kindly leaving me a phone message that Charlotte and Jr's eyass had been released today.

Thanks also to Ben Cacace of for this update.
The 888 7th Ave. fledgling was released at the south end of Central Park today at 2:30pm and Rik Davis let me know that he was watching the young RT in a tree around Heckscher Ballfields. I called him around 3:05pm today.


Okay folks, get to the park, have some fun, and participate in Eyass Watch. Take my word for it, it's wonderful. And watching her right now is extremely important. It's our job to make sure she stays out of trouble. (Yeah I know, tough, having to watch an adorable eyass. :-) Also we need to know if Charlotte and Jr. are picking up her care or not. There has been a seven day lag so we don't know for sure whether her parents will continue to care for her or not. Though we sorely do hope so, she needs to be watched discretely to make sure that happens.

Donegal Browne

Charlotte and Pale Male Jr.


Pale Male and Lola look at their third set of failed eggs. They wait for a solution because what has happened is beyond their ken. They are doing everything they've done before but it isn't working. It's been three years since humans destroyed Pale Male's many year run of successful nests. Now it's time for humans to mend what they have wrought.

I T' S Y O U R T U R N !





First up in no particular order, we put forth the Venturi Effect. As explained in this email from the archives of from Dale, an engineer, and a NJ member of Audubon.

By the way Dale, we'd love to talk to you about this, get in touch.

Here is what Dale had to say-

Last year I wrote...about the problem with Pale Male and Lola's nest. Some background info: I'm a member of the NJ Audubon (and an engineer) and noticed a problem with the nest support that you made for the nest. Talking to fellow members in NJ, we agreed that the most likely cause of the eggs not developing past the early stage is the lack of incubation since there was no evidence of chemical contamination or deformity of the fetus. The support on which the nest sits has the shape that could cause a venturi effect and accelerate the air flow under the nest. If this happens, the eggs will cool from the bottom and no amount of incubation by the birds will help.

The old support rested on the concrete and prevented this effect. Another clue can be found in the birds themselves. They tried to add a significant layer of nesting material after the eggs were laid which to my knowledge is not normal behavior. They seemed to realize the problem too late.

Last year you... stated that they [Red-tails] build nests on tree branches with open bottoms. Unfortunately, that is not an entirely true statement. They build the nest usually in a branch Y with the bottom supported. Even if there is an exposed portion of the nest, the tree branch blocks the wind. It's not like your nest support which channels the wind and makes the wind stronger. This year (for the third time), the same exact problem occurred with the same behavior. I was hoping that they would move their nest site but I guess that they are stubborn. As suggested last year, you can remedy the air flow problem by attaching something below the rack to block the wind such as hard plastic sheeting. leave enough room to allow water drainage or you will swamp the birds when it rains.

From a concerned member.


Pale Male and Lola's nest as of March 22, 2007 3:46PM
Is it only the lack of enough nesting materials even in the third year?

And for those that would like another look at the cradle while they muse over their theory, their fix, or their response to a previous theory. Here it is right before installation.

John Blakeman's visual aid to show the height of the spikes within the nest, to help explain his proposition that the pigeon spikes should be clipped within the bowl of the nest. He theorizes that they may be causing a disruption either by wicking heat away from the eggs or by interfering with normal egg manipulation by the hawks.

Pale Male is looking. You too take a closer look at all that metal that now resides above the cornice conceivably drawing heat away from the eggs.

Also note the more modern spikes above Pale Male's head as opposed to the earlier rendition that was installed on wood flush with the masonry cornice.

Was a switch made?

The Fordham installation of pigeon spikes. In my memory these are very similar spikes and installed the same way, on wood, flush against the building as was the foundation for Pale Male's original nest before it was destroyed.

The current spikes, original or not, no longer have the solid wooden foundation. (Look above you can see through the cradle, the solid buffer of the wood and the cornice itself are gone. That's a big change.) The spikes are now directly attached to the cradle, metal to metal, capable of wicking heat away from the eggs. Turning the cradle into a very large cooling device to dissipate heat. Similar to the coils on a refrigerator.




Monday, June 18, 2007

THE FATHER'S DAY BATTLE OF THE BATH- Now with the captions.


PALE MALE-The original urban hawk Dad
Without him it's highly unlikely we'd have all those other urban hawk Dad's in NYC.
But as he and Lola are spending a quiet Father's day in the wilds of Central Park, and the others were busy dealing with their fledglings and unavailable for comment, we're going to look at some other long suffering Dads. One who would give anything for a nice quiet private bath...
Stealth Robin- Remember him? The Dad Robin of this territory. He's the one who hid in the grass and flew at rivals from behind instead of the usual male Robin bombing down from the trees technique. Today he may well have wished he'd never gone to the trouble. Mom Robin doesn't appear in the piece because she began to brood the third clutch today. Leaving Dad to feed the five that just fledged off the nest, plus deal with the five previous "teen" Robins from the first clutch. Dad is the only mature Robin to appear in the piece.
TEEN ROBIN-He is perfectly capable of feeding himself but being the baby of the previous clutch he feels Dad should feed him anyway. Dad has other ideas. As large as Dad, with fewer spots and more red on his anterior than the new batch of fledglings.
Five Baby Fledglings-Mom isn't around so they have been mobbing Dad since dawn for food, following him everywhere. Then one decides to take a bath.
Friend- The first Mourning Dove to make an appearance for a drink from the bath. He is Doorstep Dove's mate. He backs up Doorstep when she comes in for a drink.
Doorstep Dove- She is the second Mourning Dove to appear. She comes to the bird bath for a drink and gets one.

THE SCENARIO: Stealth Robin Dad harried by his progeny endlessly, desperately wants a bath by mid-afternoon. It is an extremely hot, dry, day. The ground is dry and hard, making worm hunting not as easy as it might be. He has dust up to his eyeballs. (It becomes a piece of cake later in the day when people water their gardens so everyone will get enough to eat today, but the bulk will come later, though not through any lack of trying on Dad's part earlier in the day.) By mid-afternoon Dad Robin just can't take it anymore and he decides he must escape his children and have a bath. But nothing is easy for Dad.

1:52:57 PM Long suffering Dad Robin has been surrounded to the point where he's had to hop flap over his youngsters to even get a chance to hunt. Here he is having flown halfway, heading across the yard with the fledglings making a dash after him.

1:57:34PM One stopped by on the way for a quick plunge in the bird bath.

1:58:07PM Friend zooms in from the side for a drink and flushes the youngster off the edge. Momentary possession of the bird bath is a satisfying one up on the bird that was there first. Besides with the heat he is undoubtedly very thirsty.

They young Robin not only has been ousted but is at a momentary loss--where did Dad go?

2:00:52PM Dad on the other hand is back by the garden again and is being bugged by a member of the older brood who is able to feed himself but knows it's ever so much easier if Dad will do it.

2:05:06PM What? Not even a scrap? Dad marches over in search of more worms.

2:05:20PM Teen Fledge stands and watches as Dad heads for the younger fledglings.

2:05:37PM Dad is surrounded again with the little bottomless pits. Note the dirt all over Dad's face.

2:05:47PM Heading off again, he looks back, (sigh), they're still there.

2:44:27PM Teen Fledgling checks out the water and jumps in for a bath.

2:45:20PM Dad the Stealth Robin, see beak far right edge of photo, whips in, perhaps as a training exercise in vigilance and Teen Robin leaps out so fast he leaves his splash behind.

2:45:42PM Dad reconnoiters the area, and wades in for the initial beak splashes and a face wash.

2:47:22PM Now for the rest.

2:47:32 PM Doorstep Dove whistles in for a drink and Dad jumps at her. She whips off.

He begins to lean in...

And it's the headfirst plunge.

Ah, that was good but not for long.

2:48:27PM Doorstep is back. He menaces her. She threatens him with the female Dove's ultimate weapon, the mighty wing bat. (I've had it done to me. Not only is it amazingly startling because it's faster than one can see, but it smarts, it's a true blow, and he's a lot smaller than I am. I've seen a female pigeon bat a male who was bugging her off the terrace railing on the 27th floor without even looking his way. He was so shocked that he was halfway to the ground before he could even get his wings spread. That dove soft breast is all muscle.)

Dad starts a slow wade towards Doorstep.

2:48:37PM She waits until he's close enough and then bats him off the bowl. She watches him go and waits.

2:48:27PM Dad salvages his wounded vanity and he's back on the edge of the bowl. In the meantime, behind Doorstep on the edge of the garden, Friend, her mate stands. Waiting to see if she needs back up. Doorstep tenses her wings just so Dad Robin knows what might happen, then leans down for a long drink. Dad Robin waits. Doorstep satiated. Flies off with Friend in tow.

2:49:12PM Dad tries it again. Suddenly a crow caws overhead and Dad is off the bowl alert and onto the stump, around which most of his youngest are gathered.

There he stands, a moist somewhat bedraggled sentinel.

2:51:30PM And in the meantime, another one of his progeny has jumped into the bath.

And is enjoying himself immensely.
2:51:53PM Okay, last straw. Dad can't take it anymore. It's his turn to take a bath. He whips and gives the fledgling "the look".

2:52:02PM Being a polite fledgling and also knowing what's good for him, the youngster takes off. Dad hits the water and finally is left in peace long enough to finish his ablutions.

2:52:52PM Done, Dad hops to the edge for a few moments of leisure while drying his feathers in the sun. Though it's a very warm day Mom Robin wouldn't dare leave her freshly laid clutch uncovered to help Dad out. Why?

The Female Cowbird also frequents the area and as far as I've seen the parasitic Cowbird pair has not successfully laid in another species nest as yet.

The young Chipping Sparrow waits stoically for only a moment. While her father shucks seeds as fast as he can. For he knows she will be down next to him any second with a gaping mouth and making the Chipping beg--an amazingly strange whirring sound.

4:24PM Dad Indigo Bunting races in for a quick meal before continuing his chores.

And even at deep dusk,

Nuthatch Dad is out foraging for his family

GOOD NIGHT DADS. Get some sleep, dawn comes early around here.
Donegal Browne