Sunday, May 18, 2008

What Is That Hawk? Plus a Tulsa Eyass Update

My cousin Carol and I were on our way to track down some tomato plants when my cellphone rang. It was a friend saying he was over at the local RenFair at Traxler Park, (home of Daisy, Bill and the Goslings) and there were some hawks at the falconry exhibit that I should go and check them out. Off we went on a side trip.

As the real errand was plants, and Carol was in the car, I trotted over to the fence and---What is that? Not a Red-shoulder as the back would be more mottled and there wouldn't be that bottom white stripe--but maybe it's deeply melanistic---no, still not right. A Harris Hawk!

And when I got round to the other side of the fence, yes, a Harris Hawk. I've only seen a couple in my life but they certainly are differently shaped from the Red-tails and Roughies I'm used to seeing. And as it turns out, of course they are. This bird is Parabuteo unicinctus. Note the Para part. It isn't a Buteo. In fact it's the only example of the Parabuteo genus in the world. In the U.S. they live down Texas way and south.

Also notable is that they are actually considered gregarious, well for a hawk, and are often bred in captivity for falconry. They sometimes hunt in pairs or more and therefore are well adapted to having a partner. And a human partner seems to suit them just fine according to report. Harris Hawks are considered boffo rabbit hunters and they also will hunt birds. Their adaptability and amiable personalities no doubt make their human partners well pleased and are extremely popular falconry birds.

Speaking of looking differently, since I've been watching Red-tailed Hawks in Wisconsin, I've noticed that something about them is different from the hawks in New York City, and I mean something besides their lack of habituation to humans. Of course, I've had few chances with the country hawks to sit and scrutinize them or even get a photo of a hawk that isn't in the midst of making a quick get-away. But today, though I didn't have my top equipment with me, I was hunting tomato plants after all, I figured it out. At least partially--

Wisconsin hawks don't have much in the way of necks. Either that or their necks are as long but thicker so the illusion seems to be they lack necks. Look at this guy. Now visualize a NYC hawk.

Also at least to my eye--their toes are thinner. Yes?

Next an update on the Tulsa eyass, who is getting ready to fledge from the top of a TV tower, from R. in Illinois.

The surviving eyass is molting into juvenile feathers, tearing at food, as well as branching outside the nest on a steel mesh platform just feet from the large satellite dish of the KJRH Tulsa TV station. It has been so windy up there that I have nightmares about her/him being blown to the next state on his fledgling attempt. They estimate that the eyass (named Thunder) will fledge on or about the 15th of May. There seem to be observers of this nest 24/7 posting in the forum. A contributor named Raptorman (from Canada, I believe) has trained the contributors in bird observation language. It is really very interesting.

I wonder if, when he gets his wings under him/her, if he will re-visit this nest or establish himself in a tree or building nearer the ground? Will he/she be able to fledge with his feathers such a molting mess?

There's new video of Thunder tearing food and branching on the site.

I doubt Thunder will be making it back up to the top of that tall tower any time soon after fledging unless she climbs. Most recently fledged eyasses don't gain altitude very well right off the bat. She'll branch up into something, possibly even the bottom of the tower if it's climbable. And if she keeps climbing, who knows...

Donegal Browne

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