Sunday, April 27, 2008


All photographs by Christopher Lyons

This is Hawkeye. The dynamic tiercel of the successful pair of Red-tailed Hawks that are currently nesting at Fordham. Christopher Lyons, diligent observer of the nest, sent me an email about a lovely encounter he had with Hawkeye up on the roof of Dealy Hall, which affords a view of the nest--and Chris got pictures.

Hawkeye gave me a nice surprise yesterday afternoon--I was watching the nest, still trying to confirm the presence of hatchlings, and he landed on the railing, just a short distance away. He stayed around ten minutes, apparently not much bothered by the presence of myself and several maintenance workers who were up there with me.

(Does the expression on Hawkeye's face in the photograph look like anyone we know? D.B.)

Not long after he flew off, he landed on the Collins Hall pediment, and stayed much longer than he usually does--he didn't bring food, nor did he take Rose's place on the nest. It seemed to be more of a social call. They were both quite interested in the contents of the nest, and I thought a few times that I could see eyasses, but even through the scope, from a vantage point higher than the nest, it was impossible to be sure. I haven't really seen anything that looked like feeding since Tuesday, but I don't get to spend much time per day observing them, and I could be missing feeding time--or I could have jumped the gun. We'll see. Rose does seem to be tending to something, and I often see her mantling over the bowl of the nest, when the sun is beating down into it. I'm hoping things will be less ambiguous by Monday.

(See Hawkeye on the railing to the left and then look right. There is the pediment with his nest. D.B.)
In any event, it was sure nice to hang with Hawkeye. He was an exceptionally cooperative photographic subject yesterday--I didn't try to get much closer (it pays to have a 12x optical zoom), but when I changed positions, he continued to appear relaxed and at ease. Even allowing for anthropomorphic tendencies I know full well exist within me, I have to say--he looked happy.

After looking at the intimate photographs Chris had taken of Hawkeye and seeing how at ease he was with humans at such close proximity. I told Chris I'd say that human habituated Hawkeye could well have been urban hatched and raised. In fact, now no scientific evidence for this thought whatsoever, but his skull, brow, and expressions reminded me a great deal of Pale Male and I asked Chris for what he knew of Hawkeye's history.

Best as I can tell, Hawkeye has been Rose's mate over four years now. I strongly suspect neither had been mated before.

The chronology as I know it:

2004: Built nest on fire escape facing out on Creston Avenue, hatched two eyasses. Due to concerns over the nest being too visible and easy to access, Chris Nadareski removed it, and the young, who ended up being reared and released upstate. Not long afterwards, Rose was found with a injured wing, and spent several weeks with rehabilitators Bobby Horvath and Rebecca Asman, who banded her, then returned her to the same area, where she seems to have quickly reunited with Hawkeye. I'm assuming it was Hawkeye, anyway--I don't believe he would have abandoned the territory, or accepted a new mate so late in the breeding season.

2005: Built nest on an oak tree on the Fordham campus (less than a three minute flight from the 2004 nest), fairly close to the ground, fledged two young. The choice of nest sites for this and the previous year strongly indicates a young and inexperienced pair.

2006: Moved to Collins Hall pediment, fledged three young.

2007: Fledged three more on Collins.

2008: Nesting on Collins again (crosses fingers, knocks wood).

I agree he must have been hatched in an urban setting, and acclimatized to human presence. I would also agree that if one of the Fordham pair were directly descended from Pale Male, it would probably be Hawkeye. But that's not a scientific opinion (and I'm no scientist). Anyway, Rose is also well-used to people. Bobby and Rebecca were very impressed with her composure when she was recuperating with them.
(I had suggested to Chris that perhaps as Hawkeye knew Chris so well, Hawkeye might give him a cigar and invite him over to see the new babies, here's his response. D.B.)
Even if Hawkeye invited me up to the nest, I have this thing about heights. So just as well he's not going to. ;)

Chris Lyons

As Chris says we've absolutely no scientific proof that any of the urban hawks are related to one another in any way. They could all be from hundreds of miles away, self select for non-fear of humans, tolerance of the urban environment, and have a taste for pigeons and rats. We don't know. But, we do have fun with our flights of fancy as to who might be related to whom. So in that whimsical vein, I counted backwards to figure out if it was even conceivable that Hawkeye might be a son of Pale Male.

Chris said that Hawkeye and Rose had been bonded for over 4 years, so let's make that figure 5 years, plus one would assume that Hawkeye was at least 2 when the pair got together, making Hawkeye approximately say--7 years old.

Which takes us to the breeding season of 2001. In that season, Pale Male's mate was Blue and they successfully fledged three eyasses. Therefore in our whimsical flight of fancy, it is possible that Hawkeye could be the son of Pale Male and Blue. Without DNA that's a big "could" when all we have to rely on are time frame, visual clues, and behavior--but it would be fun if he were, wouldn't it?

Donegal Browne

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