Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Screen Capture by Sally of the Tulsa Hawk Nest Forum

To Red-tail Expert John Blakeman
From Hawkwatcher Bob McCargar

(Many apologies folks, but everytime I straighten out the formatting in Bob's letter Blogger publishes it all crammed together again. Guess we'll just have to live with it at the moment.)

Hello again, from the KJRH "Hawk's Nest Forum" in Tulsa,Again, thanks for your explanation of "putting over" the crop yesterday.

I hope I'm not imposing, but as often happens, more questions have cropped up, to coin a phrase, and a whole bunch of anxious hawk watchers (is there any other kind?) would love to hear from you again.Here's the crucial question, with a chronology of events below (in both narrative and time schedule forms) for reference should you need additional details: How long can hawk eggs remain untended and still be viable? These eggs were laid on the evening of 3/9 and early morning of 3/11. On 3/29, they were totally untended (except for about a minute and a half when Jay sat on them in Kay's absence) for a total of four hours from mid-morning to early afternoon. During that time, the ambient temperature rose from 36 degrees fahrenheit to the low 40's, with little wind. The eggs were in sunshine for perhaps 20-30 minutes of that time.Besides the viability of the eggs, we're puzzled by Kay's behavior of staying off the eggs for so long. The best hypothesis I've heard is that the driving rain melted the snow and soaked both bird and nest and both simply needed to dry out. She even shooed Jay off the nest when he first tried to settle in. Kay's belly certainly looked a mess this morning. That doesn't explain, of course, Kay's constant calling out, even after she returned to the nest with a full crop in the mid-afternoon.We'd really appreciate hearing any thoughts you might have on this series of events.Bob McCargar

***********************************Chronology Narrative:Saturday,

3/28, it snowed heavily. That night it turned to very cold, windy rain––enough to melt all the snow that had accumulated around Kay. As far as we know, Kay didn't eat all day Saturday.

When she got up, at 7:15 am, she immediately started calling out. She got up about 40 minutes later and walked around, evidently not eager to get back on the nest, but ultimately doing so.

At 8:05 AM, she started calling out in bursts of three calls, pause, and then three calls, for about ten minutes straight, while in the nest.

At 8:32 she got up and walked around the nest platform, s if she were thinking of taking off, and then got back down. She got up again at 8:44, calling out, and stayed off the nest until at least 9:00, when the camera shifted to focus on the downtown area (It's originally a weather cam).

When it returned to her at 9:14, she was back on the eggs.

At 9:43 AM, Kay got up, walked around the platform called out, flew off at 9:50. She returned 9 minutes later, but just stood at the edge of the nest and calledJay arrived for the first time at 10:10 AM. They both looked at the nest, but neither sat in it. Jay left 2 minutes later.
Kay continue to move around the platform occasionally preening (her chest plumage looked heavily matted and possibly still wet). She hopped up to a bar above the camera and moved out of view at 10:35.

An observer on the ground say her perched on a bar sticking off of the tower, at a little before 11:00 AM

With the eggs still untended since 9:50 AM, Jay came in with a stick and placed it in the nest, then left. The observer on the ground said that Kay was "hollering her head off."

Jay returned at 11:20 AM and started to sit on the eggs, but was shooed away by Kay, and he left. Kay left two minute later.

At 11:36 AM, Jay returned and sat on the eggs for four minutes, then left.

Kay returned at 11:40 AM, but just preened and called, walking from point to point around the platform. As she stood right in front of the camera, it looked like she was shivering. At no point in this visit did she sit on the eggs.Kay went off camera, perhaps just to perch on a pole sticking out from the tower, at 1:18 PM, leaving the eggs untended until Jay returned at 2:00 PM and sat on the eggs. Jay stayed on the eggs, rolling them periodically, until 3:12 PM when Kay returned with a full crop.

Jay left on Kay's return, but she still didn't sit on the eggs. Jay came back at 3:17, shredded some bark and puts it in the nest, and then left again. Kay fussed with the nest material for a while and walked around the platform, as if deliberating. She flew off at 3:55 PM, and Jay arrived a moment later and promptly sat on the eggs.Jay stayed on the eggs until Kay returned at 5:50, at which time she tidied up the nest and sat down on the eggs. She stayed on the nest for the remainder of the night (as of 12:10 AM, CDT, on 3/30).*************************************************Time-based observations from early AM on 3/29/0912:17 Am Kay gets up, rolls eggs, and preens briefly06:55 AM Kay Asleep, head tucked under wing07:15 AM Kay awake and calling out--flare from sunlight in camera07:40 AM Flare from sun worse, Kay calling out more vigorously07:44 AM Camera adjusts to improve visibility07:50 AM Kay calling out vigorously07:54 AM Kay up, off the nest, deliberates, walks around, and finally sits back on nest08:05 AM Calling in series of threes--continuous through 8:1408:20 AM Kay looking around and calling in bursts of three.08:32 AM Kay stands up and looks around, walks around nest, looks like she might take off, and finally settles back into nest08:42 AM Calling out, adjusts the eggs, and rotates slightly, from 9:00 to 1:00, 08:44 AM Kay up and about, calling out08:53 AM Kay still up, standing at 1:00, facing the nest09:00 AM Camera shifts to downtown, off nest.09:14 AM Camera back on Kay09:34 AM No one has seen Jay09:40 AM Kay "sitting" quietly09:43 AM Kay calling, stands up and moves off nest.09:47 AM Kay still off eggs.09:50 AM Temp 36 degrees, sunny, no wind09:50 AM Kay gone, eggs in sunshine09:54 AM Kay still gone, eggs still in sunshine09:59 AM Kay back, standing on edge of nest and calling.10:02 AM Kay Still standing and calling. Hasn't been on eggs.10:10 AM Jay in, stands over nest. Kay calling. Eggs in shade. Kay looking around10:12 AM Jay leaves10:15 AM Kay now off the nest for more than a half hour.10:20 AM Kay still moving around platform10:25 AM Kay still moving around, calling10:27 AM Kay doing the same.10:28 AM Kay preening, calling intermittently.10:30 AM Moves to bar right under camera, then to nest edge on right.10:35 AM Kay hops onto bar above camera and off screen.10:45 AM Eggs still untended, temp 40 degrees10:53 AM Eggs still untended10:50 AM (approx) report from ground observer that Kay was on bar above nest cam, calling out "Hollering her head off" He flew off to a tree to the west, started "hollering," and took off. Lots of squirrels and pigeons around.11:02 AM Brief visit by unidentified hawk, evidently Jay dropping off a stick. temp 42 degrees11:09 AM Eggs still untended11:20 AM Jay back, starts to settle on eggs but Kay shoos him off.11:22 AM Kay walks over to eggs, looks at them, but flies off.11:26 AM Eggs still untended11:36 AM Jay in again. He sits on the eggs. Eggs had been untended for 1:5011:40 AM Jay leaves nest.11:41 AM Kay back, stands over nest, calls out, preens11:46 AM Kay stands at far edge of platform, calling and preening11:47 AM Kay still off eggs, standing and calling11:51 AM Kay moves to camera support bar11:56 AM Eggs still untended11:58 AM Kay calling, standing in front of camera12:16 PM Kay continues to stand under camera, looks like she is shivering12:35 PM Kay still under camera12:37 PM Kay still standing under camera01:18 PM Kay disappears off camera01:50 PM Jay back, sits on the eggs02:00 PM Jay on eggs02:14 PM Jay still on nest, quiet02:21 PM Jay still on eggs02:22 PM Jay up, moves eggs, sits back down02:27 PM Jay still on nest03:00 PM Jay up, rolls eggs03:02 PM Jay sits back down03:12 PM Kay back, full crop. Jay gets up, moves off eggs, and leaves. Kay looks like she's going to sit on eggs, but just looks at them and moves to far edge of platform.03:17 PM Jay back with shredded bark, exits right.03:21 PM Kay standing on far edge of platform, then moves to eggs, picks up bark, tries to place it in nest, but wind blows it away03:24 PM Kay still standing, moves toward eggs, then turns away.03:25 PM Kay moves back and forth around the platform, looks at eggs occasionally03:40 PM Kay has been looking around and calling out, standing in front of the camera. Full crop noted03:55 PM Jay flies in, settles in nest04:14 PM Jay stands, moves eggs, sits back down
04:21 PM Jay still on eggs
04:45 PM Jay still on eggs
04:54 PM Jay readjusts his position over eggs
05:22 PM Jay still on nest
05:28 PM Jay still on eggs
05:37 PM Jay still on eggs
05:46 PM Jay still on eggs
05:50 PM Kay back, Jay leaves. She tidies up sticks and bark, then sits on eggs.
06:05 PM Kay on eggs06:12 PM Kay gets up, picks up bark, but loses it in wind

06:14 PM Kay back on nest06:34 PM Kay still on eggs06:48 PM Kay still on eggs
07:10 PM Kay looking around, calling out0

7:14 PM Kay looks to right, calls out0
7:30 PM Kay up, stretches, hops over to rail in front of cam0
7:34 PM Kay preens
07:35 PM Kay back on nest, then gets up, rolls eggs and sits back down

07:55 PM Kay sitting low in the nest
08:00 PM Kay back up, looks around, back to the camera, fussing with unknown object, sits back down0
8:05 PM Kay tucks herself in for the night.




None of this sounds good. Something's wrong. Red-tails commonly leave the eggs untended for as long as 20 minutes. But 4 hours is way out of line. They almost surely died at those temperatures.

Again, something is not right. The sitting female should not be crying, especially with a full crop.

Frankly, I have no good explanation for any of this, except to say that red-tail behavior often takes unexpected turns, sometimes for no apparent reasons.

Is there a new, competing nest within a mile, diverting the attention of the resident pair from incubation to territory defense? The crying of the sitting female may indicate that. And there may not be a nearby nest, just a new bird repeatedly flying into the old, occupied territory. keeping the pair from full, normal attention of the eggs and incubation.

Let's see what happens. Wish I had an answer.

Not good.

John Blakeman

Keep watching, that is what we do with Pale Male and Lola's nest even after numerous years of failure, because you just never know what might happen. And if the nest does fail in Tulsa, there are things to be learned from that as well. Your observations no matter the outcome will inform your understanding of hawk behavior for the future.

Yes it can be sad, but quite possibly more for us than for the parents. These things happen to animals in the wild and the hawks will stick to the nest often far longer than it would have taken for the eggs to hatch, but then, in my experience, they will gradually reverse the actions they took taking to the nest, often with copulation and courtship before drifting into an easy season without the exhausting responsibilities of parenthood.

And if the eggs have failed to hatch, and the parents seem to have regained their senses, you could always try removing the non-viable eggs, and hoping for a second clutch if it's thought there is time for the eyasses to learn their trade before the realities of feeding themselves in winter comes to the fore.

Though as this problem, if it is a problem, looks to have been parentally induced, some real thought might be given before trying for a second clutch as the same behaviors might occur again.

D. B.


(You can see some of the beak scratches in question in this photograph. In the photo Karen was referring to, I don't have permission to use it, there was also something sticking up from the beak.)

Karen Anne Kolling of Rhode Island had a question about the Riverside Mom’s beak for John Blakeman--

John,Do you think there is more damage to the Riverside Mom's beak, or did I just not notice this before. I only remember her left side being damaged, and I thought that had healed, although it wasn't fully grown out yet. Maybe I just didn't see this side before.


That's not a fracture. It's a piece of food, probably a feather of a pigeon, or a slight scratch. Beaks don't, can't, fracture in that direction.

The beak is growing back nicely.

--John Blakeman

There were many more offerings in the past few days from blog contributors but as Blogger isn't being particularly cooperative I'll try to get them posted coming up soon.
Donegal Browne

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