Friday, June 20, 2008

Falconers as Rehabbers, Winkie on Cathedral Fledges, Houston Eyass Question, and Griffin News from The Alex Foundation

Newly Released Eyass- Triborough Bridge Park

Roe, a Falconer from Idaho sent in his comments concerning yesterday's post-- Rehabilitated Raptor Release

If you want to be truly successful rehabilitator of birds of prey you need to look to your local group of falconers for standards and advice about keeping raptors healthy.

Generally speaking the standards for housing and keeping of birds of prey for rehabbers is inadequate and lower than the rules falconers adhere to.

If you want to house and rehab BOPs properly then you will need to learn some basic falconry techniques like creance flying to build muscle as well as examples of what a good mews looks like. Some rehabbers will tell you that creance flying is unneeded, but I would say that it is a requirement for any bird that has undergone a serious injury. How well would you be able to survive in the wild after you had a major surgery without having undergone physical therapy? Creance flying is an excellent form of physical therapy for these animals when done correctly.

I don't know anything about the rehabbers in NY, but nationwide rehabbers have a bad reputation among falconers because they tend to do the bare minimum for the animals in their care. This may not be the case in NY, but if you are planning on becoming a rehabber then please work for a positive change of this perception and do more than the average rehabber is willing to do. Also if you do decide to get in touch with falconers in your area try not to get discouraged if at first no one responds to your requests, it's hard for other falconers to get "in" to a new community of falconers so it may be exceptionally hard for a non-falconer to get in.

The best thing would be for you to find a falconer that is also a rehabber to learn from.

I'm a falconer out of Idaho and I'll always be glad to answer any of your questions, or pass them along to more experienced falconers in my area. I myself am new to falconry, but if there is any doubt about the wealth of knowledge that falconers hold on BOPs just remember that Falconers are the only reason we have Peregrine Falcons in this country.

Anyway sorry for the rant, glad to see that someone else cares about these animals as much as I do.


A Response from wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath, whose release of raptors was featured in the post--

I am also a licensed falconer but don't have time to practice the sport right now with everything going on.

We regularly do creance fly potential releases for conditioning purposes as the largest cage we have available is 80' long which is great but flying on a 150' creance line a few trips till the bird is winded is even better.

There are dangers to creance flying though and it must be done very carefully in open areas when we can time it around no soccer or little league games being played.

Accidental injuries can occur as well if the bird doesn't land well, so it is done with caution .

Photo: D.Browne

Thursday--Eyass above St. Andrew, with beak upturned, begs energetically.

From Cathedral Observer Winkie, a discerning take on the two eyasses just off the nest on St. Andrew's shoulder--

Monday night, Rob and I were still hanging around the apse as the rolling thunder of a tremendous storm gathered. The visible fledge was on a higher scaffold. And there was distinct begging. This begging did appear to be from two different, but close sources - somewhere around the chapels under St. Andy.

Rob's report states all very well, except he left before I did. ( When the rain really started to come, the fledge hung tight and did not seem bothered by the weather.

After comparing both Rob and Lincoln's shots on Monday to my own sighting on Tuesday, the Monday's fledge appears to be our Tuesday's lower scaffold hugger. This bird appears to be a female. It is larger, darker and distinctly ruddier in the breast than the other. She is also clumsy.

The crenellation flyer is slightly smaller, for now, but actually well coordinated, all considered. Certainly only a slight difference in weight can make a great difference in developing these early flight skills. All the more reasons to keep an human eye out during these first days off the nest.

Thanks Winkie. There is no question in my mind that newly fledged Red-tails in the city are benefited by human guardians until they get near full flight skill. The big city is a very dangerous place for babies who's flight skills are learned from the ground.

From Betty Jo in CA--

Hi Donna,

Thunder was back in the nest yesterday and was "photo-ed" looking up at the camera. She is really SOME HAWK!

Is there any news on the air conditioner fledges?

Betty Jo

There is no question Thunder has personality plus and shattered some of my assumptions about fledglings and Red-tails in general. That cam has produced a tremendous amount of urban Red-tail information--the amount of night flying for instance, to name just one category.

As to the Houston eyasses, they are still in rehab as they did come off the nest rather young. Personally I think they were looking for a spot a touch cooler than a metal grate in the sun with hot air from an air conditioner pouring out. Though Mom did yeoman's duty in shading them with her body and taking the sun's heat onto herself.

At any rate, we're suffering from a lack of information when it comes to where the Houston parents are. It's a new nest and we don't have the communication loop that evolves around nests over time. I believe the pair are no doubt still in the area as it's their territory and it's June.

In my opinion, they'd still be protecting it from possible encroachment by other Red-tails even if they weren't full year residents. Which they most likely are-- similar to the other urban Red-tails in town.

I did speak with one downtown hawkwatcher this week who said that there are other green spaces in the area that the parents frequent which might be more suitable for the fledglings to be released into rather than the Baruch lawn which has no branching-from-the-ground opportunities, which sounded hopeful.

Speaking of the Houston family, Katherine wrote into the comments section her idea to contact the Mayor's Plant a Million Trees organization about putting some of those trees into the Baruch lawn in case the current nest is used again. I don't have Katherine's email address to give her the necessary information.

So, Million Trees Katherine hit the contact me button and email me directly so I have your address, and we can get cooking on your idea.

We still need some confirmed sightings of the parents within the territory. Therefore it would be grand if more experienced watchers would go down and do a thorough look around and send in sightings to the blog. If we can't locate the parents firmly and find a suitable release point, a decision might be made by someone that the fledglings should be released in another safer area. And as anyone who has searched for hawks in a territory without watchers who know at least some of the non-nest-tending perches--it's can be very tough to spot them. So if the Houston Fledglings are to go back to the Houston parents some diligent work must be done to secure that outcome.

From Arlene at The Alex Foundation--
Griffin will have his TV debut on July 4th on Animal Planet.
(Since the sad passing of Alex, his colleague Griffin, also an African Grey Parrot has taken up the standard for parrot smarts. D.B.)

I am also including the other show dates that will be in the Extraordinary Animals series.
Season 1
Ep. 1 The Elephant Artist - Pachyderm Picasso airs 6/13
Ep. 2 The Grim Reaper Dog - Sit, Stay, Die NO AIRDATE YET
Ep. 3 The Smartest Sealion - Cerebral Sealion 6/20
Ep. 4 The Genius Parrot - Bird Brainiac 7/4
Ep. 5 The Greatest Ape - Orangu-Can? 6/27
Ep. 6 The Super Sonic Dolphin 7/18
Ep. 7 The Memory Chimp - Chimpan-Genius 7/25
Since this series was filmed by Blink Films in the UK, it has already been aired overseas. I did find this link about Dr. Pepperberg and Griffin in "The Sun" newspaper web site that discusses the show.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rehabilitated Raptor Release Part I

Bobby Horvath with a Triborough fledgling.
I'd asked Bobby Horvath, the wildlife rehabilitator who most often gets the call when the police or Animal Control end up with injured birds or misplaced young raptors, if I could tag along on one of his releases of rehabilitated animals. He called on Tuesday with an invitation for the next day's release and I jumped at the chance. As I've just passed New York State's written exam for Wildlife Rehabilitator, I was ready to learn as much as possible from the man who's done so much of it in the last 15 years. He does know his stuff.

Bobby said we would be releasing two fledgling Red-tails to the pair who have the nest on the Queen's end of the Triborough Bridge. He had also treated the female of that pair for poisoning at the end of last year's breeding season and now babies were coming back to her from this season. He definitely has a history with this family of hawks and if it weren't for him, this area might well not have a resident Red-tail family at all.

And he said, beyond the Red-tail youngsters, he had a number of Kestrels that needed to go back to the wild as well.

Next morning off I went to Queens. When the car pulled up Bobby was there but also his wife Cathy, another rehabber, daughter Sadie plus cat carriers of Red-tails and Kestrels.

While Bobby dons the baby carrier, Cathy holds an eyass in her right arm and Sadie in her left. Cathy has done much of the care for the birds to be released today. In conversation I find out, that like myself in childhood, both she and Bobby came home with every stray or injured animal they ran across.

The group begins to gather, Jules, the main observer of the Triborough nest, the park rangers who watched over the grounded and dehydrated eyasses as the construction was so loud that the parents couldn't hear the begging and therefore were not cued to feed plus photographer Francois Portmann and film maker Adam Welz--hawkwatchers all.

Sadie goes into the baby carrier and Bobby pulls out the Red-tail leg gauge which shows which size leg band is best for a bird.

The gauge also denotes the likely sex of the bird by leg size, though some sizes are relegated to both as there is an overlap between male and female size.

There is a park adjacent to the bridge nest, and as we walk Jules points out which trees the parents have been known to roost in and some of their favorite perches. We're in search for a good multi-leveled clump of trees for the fledglings to wait for the adults to appear.

A park ranger one of the young bird's saviors is given the honor of placing him in the chosen tree. Another ranger has brought along a ladder.

It's set up and the releasing ranger climbs it.

Up the eyass goes to a likely branch, unfortunately for the ranger the bird doesn't have a good grip, comes down on his neck and then uses said neck for a springboard to a branch on the left. The fledgling gets a grip and gives a satisfied wiggle of his tail.
And immediately flap hops up the tree.
The first takes stock and orients himself.

In the meantime the second has begun to hop flap up a tree as well.

He takes stock, orients and both head for the top.

By now, number 1 has gotten to some thinner twigs and is wobbling.
And the "magic" of little bird magnetism to fledgling raptors once again holds true. The surrounding trees begin to fill with Robins and Mocking Birds all scolding the offending youngsters.
While the youngsters begin to notice the irate smaller birds, Jules explains that this area has a very nice rat population. We've also seen squirrels and pigeons in the park and it does seem a very nice place to spend one's hawk adolescence learning the tricks of the raptor trade.

Jules has emailed the folks that use the dog run over the hill and let them know that the young raptors are back. She says they are very cooperative, and now that they know, they won't give into the temptation of allowing their dog off the lead in the park due to the possibility of young Red-tails on the ground.

The workers tending the area are told what is going on and the park rangers say everyone will keep an eye on the two fledglings.

Head popping out of the top of this tree, the fledgling gauges what it will take to branch to the next taller one.

Now the mighty hunter.

Now the Robin's victim.
And so they go, higher and higher. Having each had a full eight mice for breakfast, both are interested in investigation rather than food at the moment.
Continue to the next post for PART II

Astoria eyasses

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Release Part II

Word arrives that one of the adult Red-tails isn't far away and we retreat to give the fledglings their first chance of being discovered.

Then a last look, at least for the moment, for we have Kestrels waiting to be released and start their new life. But where? I call James O'Brien,, as he keeps an eye on falcons around town and ask for his suggestions about good spots for release in Central Park.
Armed with his advice, we pile into the car with the carriers of Kestrels and head for Manhattan.
The Kestrel population is plummeting in most areas but that certainly isn't the case here in New York City. Perhaps if things don't go any better for them in rural areas, urban Kestrels may turn out to be a bastion for the species.

But on our way, we stop for a moment to look at the Triborough nest. It's protected from the weather but unfortunately the surface below is asphalt. It does face the green space of the park as per the usual urban Red-tail criteria but fledglings who don't make a good flight off the nest end up with a very hard landing on asphalt.

Back into the car, for the trip to Central Park. I'd looked into a carrier and seen 6 Kestrels and I thought that was the number to be released. But as it turns out there are at least a dozen that are leaving the Horvath's care today.
Why so many? Like many raptors Kestrels learn to fly from the ground up and as many are hatched in cavities under eves or in decorative material on buildings, the fledged young end up running around on the sidewalk. Sidewalks and streets not being very safe for little birds, no matter how feisty, they end up at rehabbers to learn their flight lessons. The taking of prey seems to be more a wired in function than a learned one in this species. After they have learned to fly and to take prey in captivity they are pretty much good to go.

First off, in case you ever need to hold a Kestrel, you hold them by their little fluffy thighs. And if the bird might be injured you use the other hand to gently hold the wings. Unlike Red-tails Kestrels do have a tendency to bite. Which makes sense as that is their mode of killing prey. I understand they can break the skin, but when I experimented, this guy just dented my thumb and didn't give nearly as hard a pinch as I get from my parrot when he's angry. But then my African Grey's beak is quite a bit bigger and capable of cracking nuts and this little guy isn't in the least interested in doing any nut cracking.
Adam Welz holds a male and a female just seconds before release. Interestingly for some reason this season according to Bobby, by far it is males that have been his patients. Of the Kestrels only two are female. And both Red-tail fledglings were male as well.
11:58:47pm Sadie pets the Kestrel.
11:59:02pm Bobby and Cathy give a mini-raptor talk to the kids that have gathered to see the birds.
Bobby gives the Kestrel to Cathy to release. I begin to notice that the Robins are pitching a fit all around us.

Then the strangest thing happens. The baby and the Kestrel began to stare fixedly at each other.
11:59:58pm Then while they stared the Kestrel made his ki ki ki ki call.
12:00:11 In response Sadie turned away and the Kestrel switched positions.

Sadie turns back and blinks. The Kestrel changes position again, still staring.
12:00:46pm Eventually Cathy raised her hand and released the Kestrel who like all of them, except the one who decided to land on my hat, shot off like a dart into the trees.
12:01:25 The kestrel goes in and the Kestrel comes out with an angry Robin in hot pursuit.
12:03:11 Then from somewhere to the east in the skyline I hear the call of a crow. He's taken up the harassment standard and the Kestrels like the Red-tails before them this morning have made their debut into the world of the urban wild. And most all of them would not have lived had it not been for the care of the Horvaths.
Donegal Browne

The Cathedral Fledge Almost Makes It, and Black Skimmers

2:50:51pm Adam Welz, the film maker had called be around 1pm and said he's seen one of the eyasses on the scaffolding on the north side of the Cathedral. When Sam and I arrived, there she was making flap hops from horizontal bar to horizontal bar in what looked like an attempt to get to the nest.

And here's the same moment only in the full shot. She is looking around methodically searching for what the next short trip will be. See the next horizontal, to the left and slightly lower than the one she is currently on. She went there next, staying only for a second and then flap hopped up to the round protuberance, nearest to the scaffolding and higher than her horizontal perch. She couldn't find a decent purchase so lost her grip and ended up on the top of the slant below it.
2:50:59PM At which time she lost her grip on that as well. Made a recovery and flew quite decently considering, across the street and onto the roof of the hospital.
2:59:06pm Where she treated us to a view of the tip of her tail.
3:01:00pm Odd feathered shapes appeared in view and Sam said, "She's preening." And indeed she was.
3:01:11pm More of the same.
3:04:52pm Then a big stretch and she retreated from view completely. By this point Adam appeared with his friend Alex and we went off in an attempt to find the second eyass who hadn't been seen lately. We searched the trees from the top. We searched the trees from the paths and from the bottom of Morningside Park. Not a scold did we hear in the entire place. No help today from Catbirds, or Jays, or Red-winged Blackbirds. I began to worry that the second eyass had gone the way of Tristan.
Eventually we ended up on the corner of Morningside and 113th, and suddenly heard a very short burst of beg vocalizations. But it wasn't repeated and we couldn't find the beggar.
After 5pm I'd heard some Robins and started down the hill and saw Lincoln who said he'd just seen Isolde in a tree near the Cathedral School. Soon Stella and Rob were also on the search. We were going to Marie Winn's talk about her new book, Central Park in the Dark at the American Museum of Natural History, so passed on our sightings to Stella and Rob and headed for the subway and downtown.
It was old home week at the museum. There were the Regulars, Noreen, and Lee and Jimmy and Ben. Jean was there and Eleanor and Maryann. The Central Park community had come in mass. And after a lovely talk and many giggles, we were given maps and off we went to stations set up in Central Park.
The astronomers were there and we saw Saturn.
The Bat Group searched for Bat squeaks at Turtle Pond and when arrived at that station we were told we'd just missed a Black Skimmer. A particular disappointment for Adam.
The Central Park Moth-ers had their black light and white sheet and a grand time was had by all.
Rob text messaged and Stella called. They'd seen both the eyasses on the Cathedral. Hooray! No one was missing after all.
Eventually Adam, Sam, and I took our leave and headed for the west side subway. Somehow in our meandering we ended up at The Model Boat Pond. It's truly lovely of an evening with the lights reflected on the water. And what's that? Ah, it's a couple half grown Frick ducklings sleeping on their Boat Pond duckling raft.
10:26:58pm Then Adam said, "Look!" There at the Boat Pond for the first time, and I've spent many a dark evening there searching for Pale Male and Lola's roosts, we saw two incredible balletic Black Skimmers doing their food flights, breaking the water tension with their beaks and gleaning fish, insects, and other tasty Skimmer snacks from the water.
Marie's book is about these kinds of special moments and here we were after hearing any number related from the past, once again we found ourselves having a magical adventure in Central Park. We watched submerged in the miracle of nature, a vision that suspends time. For once again we had stumbled on the transforming experience.
Donegal Browne

Monday, June 16, 2008

Urban Hawk Updates: Fordham and Divine Plus New York Magazine

A report from this season's chief observer of the Fordham nest, Chris Lyons plus all Fordham images today were taken by him---


I took an overly long morning break, and headed over to Collins Hall--didn't see any sign of activity from the ground. Made my way quickly up to the roof of Dealy Hall--there were two fledges perched on the railings.

I found what I assume to be the same two youngsters up on the roof of Dealy Hall today, once between 12-1pm, and again around 5pm. I don't know where the other one is, but apparently not on Collins Hall, where the nest is. Fledging seems to have taken place entirely during the weekend--I know all three were on the nest when I left the campus last Friday. Possible one or two of them fledged and them came back, but I don't think so.

(Now it may just be the light, but have you noticed something which tends to happen at Fordham but rarely in Manhattan? D.B.)

Not long after I showed up the first time, Hawkeye landed on the railing to my right. I didn't get a picture, and he flew off quickly--didn't see if he was carrying anything. Then an adult appeared from the direction he'd disappeared into, and quickly delivered a young rabbit, which one of the two fledges quickly mantled and took position of. This adult then landed in the same spot I'd originally seen Hawkeye, and proceeded to watch the meal--and me. I was so busy trying to change camera batteries, and snap more photos, that I failed to notice that it was Rose this time, not Hawkeye (note the leg band).

Then an adult appeared from the direction he'd disappeared into, and quickly delivered a young rabbit, which one of the two fledges quickly mantled and took position of.

She gave me what I interpreted as a rather narrow look, but was pretty tolerant of my presence overall. Of course, the young could have easily escaped me had I been a predator--maybe the concern was that I might try to steal the rabbit. I had to watch out that I didn't frighten the intently-feeding youngster away from a much-needed meal.
It was a beautiful little rabbit--couldn't have been out of its own nest for very long. We don't see cottontails often on campus--much less so these days. Might have been caught in the Botanical Garden. Obviously an ideal lunch for a young hawk, and easy prey for whoever caught it.

Later, I saw both of the adults perched up on the floodlights for the football field. Hard as I looked, I couldn't see a third fledgling anywhere.

Something I noticed--Rose gripped the railing very securely in her talons while she was up on the roof with us. However, the closeup I took of the feet of one of the youngsters shows a much less careful grip--one foot only, and the talons are splayed outwards--apparently still a secure enough footing to stay up there

And look at that posture in the last pic. Teenagers.
Chris Lyons


I spent from approx 8 am to 11:30 at Morningside with Francois Portmann.

We found one of the Cathedral fledges flopping around in tall trees on the slope below the Cathedral, roughly halfway between the nest and the western most baseball dugout.

One parent (female, I think) spent much of the first hour perched on the hospital, and flew by her youngster once. No feeding was observed. Youngster was clearly hungry - whining a lot as the morning wore on and was being mobbed by Catbird, Red-wing Blackbird, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole.

Adam Welz


(My apologies they didn't go up with yesterday's report. I was having upload issues with Blogger.

All Divine Photos by Stella Hamilton

Here she is. Just minutes before Divine 1 made the leap she sat on top of St. Andrew's head, foot tucked and curled, seemingly as if she weren't going anywhere.

But there is that upraised look of interest...

5:26pm A parent (conceivably Isolde as she tends to this position for combat) sits on Gabriel's horn as an intruder comes bombing towards her.

Then of course there is Divine 2, who unbeknownst to us humans had made the leap after his sibling and was now attempting to climb the fence between himself and the nest.

An example of the climb with the feet and flap with the wings ascension technique.

Completely tuckered out, he rests.

Having lost some ground, like the chip off the old block that he is, Divine 2 goes for it once again.
Urban Red-tails in New York Magazine by way of Carol Vinzant.
Red-Tailed Hawks Have Bird Baby Boom
The eyases are all right?

P.S. Dear readers, Are you lacking responses from your email to me for some days now? Don't worry I'm not ignoring you, I'm not mad, nor have I gone utterly round the bed. I'm just very very behind--but catching up. Though it may take me awhile as eyasses seem to be jumping out of nests round every turn and they need to be attended to at first so they don't get into any trouble.
Donegal Browne
Donegal Browne.