Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Valkyrie, Red-tail Pairs in the Off-season, Cooper Courting, and Hawkeye of Fordham

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Here she comes again. Valkyrie has spied something.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
I particularly love this photo because of Valkyrie's expression. She is looking at Francois but
isn't going to move a muscle. It's the I'm invisible stance.

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann

Photograph by Francois Portmann
As many Red-tails do if they see the same person day after day, and they've learned that the person, Francois in this case, is around but innocuous, they begin to do fly overs just to check on what you might be up to on any particular day.

Photograph by Francois Portmann
And off she goes.
Francois' catch--Today, I saw 4 hawks, 2 coopers hunting pigeons and chasing each other (Could it be bonding flights?) and a kestrel hunting right here on First Ave, crazy!
Seems that these raptors tend to do better in urban areas despite the odds!
And as Francois asked and I didn't know-- heavens that always bothers me. I started looking to see if two Coops chasing each other just might have something to do with bonding.
From Cornell Lab of Ornithology

• Courtship behavior is not well documented. Male probably obtains and defends a breeding territory and attracts a female by calling and performing display flights. Courtship flights begin with both birds soaring on thermals and end with a slow speed chase of female by male. During slow speed chase, both birds alternate periods of extremely slow, exaggerated wingbeats with short glides.
And here is what had to say about nesting in Cooper's Hawks--
Courtship is lengthy for Cooper's Hawks, and the male may feed the female for up to a month before she begins to lay eggs. They nest in a tree, 25-50 feet off the ground. The nest is often built on top of an old nest or clump of mistletoe. Both sexes help build the stick nest lined with pieces of bark. The female incubates the 3 to 5 eggs for 30 to 33 days. The male brings food and incubates the eggs when the female leaves the nest to eat. Once the 3 to 5 eggs hatch, the female broods for about two weeks. During this time, the male continues to bring food for the female and the young. He gives the food to the female, and she feeds it to the nestlings. The young start to climb about the nest at four weeks of age, and begin to make short flights soon after. The parents continue to feed the young for up to seven weeks.
It is possible that what Francois saw was a courtship chase. I've sent him the description and we should hear soon as to whether it fits.
After the seeming disappearance of Pale Male Jr. early on this winter and his reappearance, Brett Odom sent in this email--

Hey Donna.

I read somewhere that some red-tail pairs will split up during the migratory season and one would migrate south while the other stays in the territory. I've never seen Junior in town during the winters for the last two years so I just assumed he was one of those hawks that migrated for the winter. Obviously PM and Lola both stay in town all year long, but do you know if any of the other NYC pairs separate while one migrates and the other doesn't?
Brett B. Odom

One mate of Pale Male’s in particular used to take a “winter vacation” and reappear in time to pick back up housekeeping for the next season . And the other mates before Lola, I’m told by the original Regulars, even if they over wintered in the park did not, as Lola and Pale Male tend to do, hang out together in the winter. We’ve all seen photos of Pale Male and Lola companionably perched together in the same tree, and even on occasion roosting in the same tree in Central Park for the night in the off season. Previously that would have been noted as extremely unusual.

In fact it was thought by many that splitting up geographically in winter was the normal thing for Red-tails to do-urban or otherwise. That was what our limited sample portrayed and what we read of many country hawks. Though now that we know of more urban pairs and have been able to watch them over time, “normal” for many of them is staying in town and even, yes, continuing a close relationship.

Isolde and Tristan overwintered together as do Isolde and Norman.

It is possible that it may not have been a mistaken impression that normal was separating for the winter. But rather the “habit” may have changed as more Red-tails hatched in the city and became members of urban pairs. Perhaps their experience as resident juveniles had taught them about the deep prey base of the city year round.

I also believe that some birds are wired for a bit more wanderlust than others. Perhaps some urban birds get a sudden taste for vole or chipmunk or rabbit. Can’t get them in Manhattan, so even changing boroughs or counties or crossing a river takes the hawks away from the eyes that can recognize them as individuals easily but does not take them that far away geographically in reality.
And speaking of hawks making their appearances, in today from Chris Lyons, one of the main observers of Hawkeye and Rose at Fordham--
I saw Hawkeye today. Pretty sure it's him, anyhow. I believe Rose is still around too, but it's still hard to locate them. An adult pair has been seen soaring over Fordham together.
Excellent news! One more pair accounted for.
And here is the uncooperative link for the Wilderness Protection Update.
Photograph by Adam Welz
Spotted Eagle Owl
I'd been bugging South African filmmaker Adam Welz for some photos of birds that are seem in his neck of the woods. He sent this beauty.
Here's a pic I shot this evening in Cape Town's magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. There's a pair of Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo africanus) that have raised youngsters just above the cycad garden for a few years now. (They've just fledged their latest two.) This is one of the adults stretching a wing while sitting in an old Yellowwood tree. Picture shot with a hokey old Tokina ATX 300mm f4 lens on my Nikon D300, using the on-camera flash, hence the spooky eye.
Thanks Adam!
Donegal Browne

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