Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Urban Hawk Update: Thunder in Tulsa, Monday Afternoon

Photograph by B. Toliver
One of Tulsa's Cam watchers decided to try his luck in person and got these grand photos of Thunder.

Photograph by B. Toliver

1:30PM Unconfirmed: Thunder flies off the position she was spotted in yesterday at the base of the TV tower.
(More on Thunder has come in and will be posted soon!)
Here's my answer to the forum question as to whether all raptor fledglings attempt to get back to the nest, even though songbird young don't seem to have the same urge.
I can't say that all raptor fledglings have an urge to get back on the nest but Red-tail eyasses definitely do. During the branching phase in a tree nest the eyasses hop flap around in the tree and then attempt, not that hard usually, to get back to the nest for chow time and to roost. I suspect that like most young creatures it isn't easy to give up the comfort of mom and the siblings for the night right off.. Besides the nest has been the dining room since hatching and an eyass always thinks she's hungry when food appears.

At Fordham University in the Bronx, Hawkeye and Rose, a bonded pair of Red-tails have a building nest which has trees only a few feet from the ledge they nest is on. Their eyasses regularly branch to the trees, branch to other trees, eventually go higher and get on another building which is taller than the nest building. Then they swoop back down to the nest for meals.

As you say, with most songbird species, once they've fledged, they've fledged and their flight skills are not up to getting back to the nest. The parents tend them and the young hide in long grass or take cover in bushes for a day or two until their flight skills improve. In the meantime they are watching their parents procure food and they learn to get their own eventually by watching the parent.

With another raptor, Screech Owls, the Owlets continue to roost with the family for some time after fledging. Come sundown, the whole family flies off to "hunt" together. At first the parents hunt and the fledglings follow to each hunting spot, perch, and wait to be feed. First the spot with the yummy bugs, then the wet spot with the night-crawlers, etc. Therefore they learn the territory, what to look for in geography in terms of which food, and eventually they start hunting their own dinner.

Red-tails have made a grand adaptation to building nests in cities as their habitats have shrunk but there is a bit of a glitch in the system compared to their old nest sites. Often with building nests, if an eyass takes her first flight, there is no way to return to the nest without more mature flight skills. And a big skill that is often missing at first is the ability to gain great elevation.
Suddenly there is no way to branch back because most buildings don't lend themselves to climbing. Just think if there had been no way for Thunder to climb the tower, she would have spent time, sometimes days attempting to figure out how to do it. She would first attempt to hop fly, no good. Then attempts would be made to climb other things that might suggest another path to the nest.

There have been instances where a fledgling was stranded on a city sidewalk attempting to climb back to the nest by hopping at the building. Which rarely works unless they can climb it in some way. In these instances one can take up guard duty a distance away and give the eyass a chance to find a way. Sometimes a parent will appear with food in the air, gain the eyasses attention, and attempt to lead her where she can climb something, but a young parent may not know to try this. Or the eyass may not "get it".

Sometimes a grounded fledgling, if after watching a good while, you're convinced it's stranded, can be gently guided/herded to a green space that has bushes, small trees, and big trees if it's very close. Then they can hop flap into a bush, branch into a small tree and then the big tree where their parents will continue in their care. The parents will be watching the whole thing, never fear.

In 2007 because of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte's new and rather unique nest site, there was no green space for blocks, their single eyass was downed in a concrete plaza attempting to hop up the building during the morning rush hour. Unfortunately no hawk watchers or rehabbers were on the spot and good Samaritans not knowing how to help the eyass, called the zoo, the police, the park service, and anyone else they could think of. Which caused a huge deal as various city agencies disputed who had authority over the eyass.
The upshot was, that the eyass went into a very good rehabber's care for several weeks while her parents went mad looking for her. Eventually she was given a clean bill of health, taken to Central Park where her parents heard her begging, snapped into parent mode, and took up where they'd left off. In the end all was well.

So what does one do in a case like that. It's tough. If one of the experienced hawk watchers had come across the eyass fruitlessly jumping at the building with no close green space, they most likely would have picked her up, looked her over for injuries, possibly called a rehabber for advice, if they aren’t one, and carried the eyass the couple of blocks to Central Park. Then the Hawk watcher would have put her into a small tree, watched to make sure the eyass was acting normally and waited to make sure the parent's knew where she was.

But technically that might not follow the letter of the law in every case. Any citizen can rescue an animal who is in danger, in this case a federally protected bird, but then they theoretically are supposed to take the animal to a rehabber. Even if the animal seems uninjured, and is just in a dangerous place.
If all turns out well, that technicality might be ignored, such as replacing a baby robin that has fallen out of the nest back into it. But I mention it so you will know the law, and are aware, just in case.
Donna Browne

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