Monday, June 02, 2008

NYC Red-tail Fledglings! Night Flying Red-tails? First Robin Fledges, Spring Feathers, plus What's that Bird?

The nest of Mama and Papa in Queens has a fledge! In fact they have two. I spoke with Jeff Kollbrunner today, and when he arrived on site, two of the three eyasses had made their maiden flights leaving the third, on nest, and wondering where everyone had gone.

Jeff said number three, as is often the case, seemed to have more age difference from the other two than they had from each other. At any rate, Three was attempting to make up for lost time by doing a grand amount of hopping and flapping so she may well be off soon as well.

The Queen's fledglings have a prime area, an older section of a cemetery rarely visited, in which to learn their lessons. For more go to Jeff's website--

Night Flying Red-tails?

It may be the case. An update on Thunder of Tulsa from R. of Illinois--


These photos, I promise, are not of UFOs. The eye is quicker than the
"screen-capture" so the pictures do not really represent what the observers
claim they saw in the night sky. Those who saw them (two different nights,
two different observers) insist that they were hawks.

Several nights, when Thunder left the nest around 8 PM, the nest cam
operator turned the camera to face up the street to the city lights, and
left it there for hours and hours. There are observers on the Tulsa nest cam 24/7 and
even though the cam was not aimed on the nest, the observers persevered.

To my surprise, the hawk family has been sighted flying in the vicinity of
the TV station tower nest between midnight and 4 AM. I had no clue that
hawks were night fliers. Would they be hunting then?

I have attached three screen captures taken by forum observer, Donna Johnson.
She wrote "The few times they flew in closer I could tell they were hawks"
(.... when I questioned if they might have been owls). She wrote: "I got a
glimpse of something fly across the screen about 2:30 AM. I watched off and
on until about 5:00 AM and every so often they would fly across the screen." The other
observer saw them another night, but was not quick enough to get a screen capture.

Mostly, these days, Thunder sleeps wild, returns to the nest in the morning, is
fed, returns to the nest late afternoon, is fed more, takes naps, and at
about 8 PM each evening, she leaves, we presumed to go sleep in a tree, but
several days ago it was noted that Thunder had snuck back home (to the nest)
according to other observers, sometime between 12 and 4 AM.

As best I can tell from rummaging around the internet that Red-tails fly at dawn and dusk but 2:30am?

I've sent the night flying question off to John Blakeman for his take. I have seen Red-tails fly in the dark but in my observations their flights were for very specific purposes. For instance changing roost sites if they felt they'd been discovered by someone unknown to them or a quick stealth trip into a nest, seemingly hoping that the move would be undiscerned. But then I've never watched a Red-tail absolutely all night so who knows? I haven't seen them go about lengthy business in the middle of the night. Though I just read an article about species who we'd thought were completely diurnal, which when their current main food source became something that was nocturnal, they became nocturnal as well.

We may well be into another chapter in the Never Underestimate a Red-tail Category.

Speaking of that category, I'd never seen a Red-tail fish, but according to John Blakeman it's a common practice on their part in Ohio.


Red-tails here in northern Ohio, in the tributaries to Lake Erie, are known to take fish.

In an detailed study of 99 Red-tail nests in Wood County, in the flat Black Swamp area of Northwest Ohio, fish remains were commonly seen in Red-tail nests.

The most frequent fish were large goldfish, an Asian species that were dumped in Lake Erie many years ago. In aquaria, goldfish remain small. But when released into lakes and streams, they grow to 8 to 10 inches. In the spring, in May, when Red-tail adults are feeding eyasses, goldfish form schools of several hundred and migrate up rivers and ditches in splashy messes, many miles from the Lake.

Just as with colorful koi, the Ohio Red-tails easily drop down into the ditches and small streams and take the colorful goldfish.

But many goldfish offspring are not colorful. The majority that survive wild hatchings are actually the less-showy color of carp. No doubt, Red-tails visually zero in on the bright-colored fish swimming in shallow water. But the don't forego the less showy fish, either.

It's all about easy to catch protein.

And no, I'm certain that fishing Red-tails did not learn those lessons from seeing bald eagles take fish. The Ohio study was in the early 70s, when there were fewer than 10 eagle pairs in Ohio, and they were centered in the marshes along Lake Erie, some 25 miles to the NE of Wood County. Those fishing hawks never saw a bald eagle.

Red-tails are smart. They can figure out how to take prey any time it is presented, as in Central Park.

--John Blakeman

Yesterday I looked out and there was my first sighting of the season of a flegling Robin. She was looking around anxiously, I presumed, looking for Dad who didn't seem to be in view.

She saw me and flew to the goodie stump and looked back. Yes, I was still looking.

Back to anxiously searching from a higher vantage point for Dad.

Yup, I'm still watching.

Then her posture tensed and she focused. She'd seen Dad out foraging in the garden. She flew down and ran as fast as her big baby Robin feet would carry her, stopped short of running into Dad, and gaped. Dad stuck some wiggly goodie into her maw and off they went.

One thing about breeding season, suddenly the feeder is filled with gorgeous color and at 4am the bird song here is near deafening. An interesting change from screeching brakes and garbage trucks in New York City.

AND--What bird is this?
Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

Great Crested Flycatcher

rbs said...

Mama and Papa at Briarwood were often active at night last year. Several times I saw them on the webcam in the wee hours, coming and going from the nest. Presumably the 24/7 floodlights on the nest area was a big part of that.

phillydonna said...

Great crested flycatcher?

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Phillydonna,

That's what I was thinking too. I just couldn't figure out that white spot on the neck which somehow didn't fit. Though it is Wisconsin so perhaps it's another bird with a patch of albinistic feathers?

Donegal Browne said...

Rob, that's right! I'd forgotten. I did see Mama leave the nest once in the middle of the night. I've no idea what she was up to though.

Did you ever see them come back with food or have any hint of what they may have been up to?