Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fledgling Nest Return, Blakeman on Raptor Urbanization,Thunder, and a Peregrine Report

The Cathedral nest in 2006--Why? The view will be useful in a minute. Keep reading.

We've been having a discussion about young birds returning to the nest. Red-tail eyasses have a grand urge to do so but often in the city they are unsuccessful due to the nature of the nest sites, though it is not for want of trying.

I ran across this sequence in my photos of the one of the Cathedral eyasses in 2006 who was trying very hard to get there. The eyass has made it to about the right level for a try at the nest but can't seem to branch any closer. It's quite a distance to the left and the nest site takes some expertise to enter. First a pillar has to be negotiated and then there is St. Andrew's head and arm as well. And to add insult to injury a parent has just flown past reminding the eyass that, as always, she feels hungry. Notice the bulging crop, it's not like she's starving or anything even near it. But it has also reminded her that perhaps if she were in the nest again she'd be fed.

What does a fledgling do in this situation?

She begins checking all the possible options that might take her to location of her dreams. Down? No, just came from there.

Perhaps someting on the wall might do it?

What about this pipe?

Perhaps the underside of something?

Defeated for the moment and looking a bit chagrined, she stares at the nest, so close and yet so far. Not to worry, in about an hour a parent made a food drop which she heartily consumed.

Next up John Blakeman corrects my statement that presents habitat depletion instead of increased population density as a source of the urbanization of Red-tails and other species.


You stated that, "Red-tails have made a grand adaptation to building nests in cities as their habitats have shrunk...."

Red-tail habitats have not shrunk. I see this dictum all the time, in reference to formerly wild and rural species now in urban and suburban habitats. There is more Red-tail habitat in America than ever before. The destruction of the massive forests that covered much of the Eastern half of the US opened the land to ideal Red-tail habitat. There are more Red-tails alive today than ever before -- because there is more useful Red-tail habitat than before, and because the species is no longer shot or trapped.

As in so many other areas, the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio are now saturated with roaming herds of backyard deer. Wild turkeys are also now strutting through backyards and roosting in park trees.

This is all so easily explained by stating, as so many urbanites do, that, "The animals have been forced to come into the city because we've destroyed their rural habitats. They built all those houses out there where the animals once lived, so they had no place to go."

In the case of deer, there were no deer living in the 200 acres of rural row-crop fields of corn or soybeans that the developer purchased 10 years ago from the 65-yr old farmer, who wanted to get out of the exhausting and expensive farming business and retire to Florida. The farmer's sons had all seen the future 30 years ago, when they went down to Ohio State and majored in business, not agriculture. Today, both in Wisconsin and Ohio (and upstate New York), there are very few young people entering farming. The capital costs of starting a farming operation are monstrous. The hours are long, and the returns (at least until recently) were not great.

So the local farmer on the edge of an outer ring suburb sold his land to a developer, where fifty to a hundred over-sized "impressive" houses would be constructed and questionably financed. Today, residents of the development have two major concerns. Many are struggling to keep up with the mortgage, while at the same time trying to keep the deer from eating down all the hostas and other non-native landscape plants used to adorn the property.

To the point. The deer aren't wandering through the neighborhood because the house was constructed where the deer used to live. The deer aren't there because "They have no more habitat -- we destroyed it." Quite the opposite. The deer have learned, as the NYC Red-tails have, that human environments are free of predators, safe, and full of food.

Urban deer and hawk populations are thriving, not because we have "forced them" out of their formerly rural habitats, but because of two primal reasons. First, especially in the case of Red-tails, rural habitats are saturated with adult resident hawks. There just are very few un-occupied, open territories where a rising young adult Red-tail can set up house-keeping. That's because Red-tails are no longer shot or trapped in any appreciable numbers.

In the first half of the last century, hawks were known to kill free-ranging chickens on farms and wild game animals that small game hunters pursued. Today, chickens are raised in giant enclosed factories, and the number of small game hunters is plummeting. The only hunters left today are real sportsmen, who follow game laws to the letter. Poachers and "kill it if moves" types are sitting at home playing games and occupying their time with other nefarious computer endeavors.

In Ohio, deer populations have exploded and wandered into towns and cities. Instead of encountering destroyed habitats, deer have enjoyed the opposite. As farming lands have been abandoned to future development, former corn and soybean fields have reverted to weeds and brush, ideal deer habitat.

Deer reproduction has been extremely high -- higher than the deer hunters can control, so the deer walk right into town and have a nutritious breakfast on Mrs. Dorglemyer's hostas and other expensive landscaping plants.

No, urban deer and Red-tails are not inside cities because we have destroyed deer and Red-tail habitats. They are there because rural deer and Red-tail populations are extremely large and dense. Urban areas are the only areas left for these species to colonize.

--John A. Blakeman

Thunder of Tulsa Update— Tulsa is having wet weather and Thunder has been staying on the nest where it is drier, thank you very much. Meals provided courtesy of her Mom, Kay while Dad, Jay, does guard duty. And typically Thunder is spending a good bit of time begging because, well, that’s a fledglings job.

The TV folks attempted to tape her vocalizations while standing in two inches of water. Of course, she continued to beg up until they got the tape rolling in the machine and then she quit. No doubt Mom was out of sight by then and Thunder didn’t want to waste her breath.

Returns to the nest by smaller birds?

Speaking of Thunder’s return to the nest, a question had come up concerning whether any of the smaller bird species ever try to return to the nest in the manner of young Red-tails. I hadn’t seen it but as it turns out Betty Jo of CA has. Here is her wonderful sighting.

I am watching Thunder on the cam now and I was just
pondering the return to the nest question. Small birds don't really
have the luxury because if there are 4 scrub jay babies in the
nest--they don't really fit at fledging size--I saw one of "my
babies" come out of the nest--run along the ground and try to climb a
shovel handle which was leaning against a wall. To my shock, the
male scrub jay, who was so attentive, was on a wire above and didn't
even seem to see it. I picked it up, quite easily, and put in in the
crotch of the orange tree and it climbed back up to the
nest--amazing--how did it know where to go?

By the way, it was the male, and only him, who taught those babies to be jays, and you could see that he was actually training them--much like a chicken does with
chicks. They are all so much more than they seem at a glance.
Betty Jo

The Highbridge Eyasses – Rob Schmunk reports that the Highbridge nest appears deserted. What has happened to the two eyasses previously seen in that nest? Were they carried off by predators, disease, or were they too, victims of poison?

For the full report go to Rob’s site-

A Peregrine report from contributor Karen Anne Kolling

It's amazing to see the Peregrine family tree photos at:

There's a new male, Nick, at the Macomb County peregrine nest, and he and Hathor have produced three chicks, after Hathor and Nick's predecessor, Horus, had only produced two over the past three years, none of which survived.

Horus is okay, and hanging out elsewhere, poor guy.

They have a photo up of Nick as an incensed chicklet at his banding, and his parents.

No web cam yet, dunno why, that will happen when they band the chicks,


1 comment:

Karen Anne said...

Apparently Horus has a new mate as well. One site reported "Horus, 4, is with a new mate on a balcony of the historic Old Main at Wayne State University in Detroit."

That site doesn't have a webcam that I could find.

Hathor, you cougar :-) She is 6, Nick is 2.