Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is it Rose or Hawkeye? John Blakeman on Urban Nest Failures and More!

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
As many of you know Hawkeye and Rose, previously of Fordham have vacated their nest site there. There is thought that they just might be the pair that has moved into a very similar site atop the library at the New York Botanical Gardens.

Many thanks to Pat Gonzalez for getting these photographs so that those who know the pair well, might be able to say Yay or Nay to the theory.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Here is the scoop from Pat.


I started snapping away this series of photos at 4:45 PM earlier today (Tuesday, April 28th). Based on these images, do you have any idea as to the identity of this hawk? Male? Female? Is it one of the pair that lived at Fordham University?

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

This photograph and another coming up, make me lean toward this bird being a female. See the size ratio of beak to head?

Unfortunately I haven't watched Hawkeye and Rose in the field enough to positively ID them. Fordham has a closed campus for security reasons and so you can't just trot over any old time and watch the hawks. Though the regular watchers of Hawkeye and Rose who work at Fordham such as Chris Lyons might well be able to help us on this

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Unfortunately this hawk doesn't seem to be the least inclined to show us her ankles so we can check them. Though it is understandable as her calling in life at the moment is to incubate eggs.

Ankles are very helpful in sexing a hawk and besides Rose is banded.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
This is another photo that tends my opinion of the hawk's sex to be female. I'm not positive by any means.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
In a larger format the eyes of this bird seem just a touch lighter than your average 3 or 4 year old Red-tailed Hawk. It doesn't really show is this size and besides it might just be due to the angle and brightness of the sun in that position. We'll have to wait to hear what the regular Rose and Hawkeye watchers have to say.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
From Pat--
I and friend John were at the NYBG earlier today (Tuesday, April 28th). We were walking through the native forest when at 11:30 AM our nostrils were assaulted by the horrible stench of rotting meat. We anticipated running into some road kill that was how strong it was. Then an INCREDIBLY large creature flung itself up on to a branch on a tree further up. The branch snapped under its weight, falling to the path below. It then landed on the top of a dead tree. This monster seemed to have a wingspan of 4-5 feet. It had a red head, creepy round eyes and ridiculously large nostrils. I took these pics before it flew away. After looking at the photos on my PC and comparing them to the book as well as online photos, my suspicions were correct. It was a turkey vulture. Pardon my New Yorkese, but holy s^%$#!

Do you know if there has EVER been a turkey vulture at the NYBG?

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
I'm sure there have been Turkey Vultures in the NYBG in the past as they do migrate through the NYC area. Now and again while sitting on the Hawk Bench we see Pale Male "ushering" a Turkey Vulture out of his and Lola's territory.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Pat's shot of a Great Egret, Ardea alba, at the NYBG.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Pat asked if I knew what this was? It looks to me like an Oriole nest. Anyone else what to take a stab at it?
From Ohio Red-tail Expert John Blakeman upon hearing about Junior and Charlotte's probable nest failure--

This is very common in single-egg nests. If only a single egg can be laid, the pair is already stressed for food or other resources. The egg may have been undernourished and incompletely developed in its descent down the fallopian tube, or there could have been lethal incubation difficulties.

Again, single-egg nesting attempts are usually failures.

--John Blakeman
I asked John Blakeman if the ban on feeding pigeons in the Park might have had some bearing on Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte's behavior due to the lack of pigeons as prey.


A paucity of vulnerable pigeons following a pigeon-feeding ban could be a major, tipping factor.

Frankly, the red-tail nesting situation this year on Manhattan Island is just about what I would have always presumed it could be at its best. Red-tails aren't such happy or typical denizens of urban canyons of pavement and buildings. The entire urban ecosystem is so different from any of the other places they so successfully occupy in North America. The Arizona desert is really far more favorable for red-tails than the urban canyons of Manhattan.

So, I'm believing that this year is a typical one, where most of the NYC red-tails are barely hanging on in their reproductive efforts. Remember, these NYC birds are all refugees -- a well-considered word -- from normal wild and rural areas. These aberrant hawks have elected to take refuge in The City because the countryside is jam-packed with red-tails and there are very few open territories for young adults to occupy and raise a family.

Like a lot of former human refugees in New York, the red-tailed hawks are still struggling to learn how to persist and thrive in this alien environment. A few pairs, Pale Male and his consorts in former years, have achieved degrees of reproductive success. Still, New York City is a tough place to create and raise a family of red-tailed hawks, as this year's pairs are revealing.

It's clear that red-tails will continue to live on Manhattan and generally in Greater Gotham. But plainly it's unrealistic to expect nesting to go as well there as it does out in normal wild or rural areas. Red-tailed hawks have been learning to live in wild, rural areas since the Pleistocene, since the last glacial ice melted away in Ontario. That's some 10,000 years or so. The birds have been in Manhattan for a mere two decades or so in NYC. They haven't entirely learned how to play the life game yet that so-foreign environment.

But as a biologist, it sure is exciting to see how the hawks are learning to do this. And that includes watching them fail, a crucial part of the natural processes of adaptation and selection.

--John Blakeman

And to add to our environmental woes the Grey Wolf has been taken off the Endangered Species List, but there is something we can do
Just in from Jeff Kollbrunner of


As we discussed, the link to the Defenders of Wildlife petition regarding the recent removal of the gray wolf from federal endangered species protection in the Northern Rockies is at the end of this email. This petition is one part in the effort to overturn this recent ruling and restore the gray wolf's federal protection status. Under this new ruling up to 2/3rds of the existing wolf population could be killed in the Northern Rockies as far as I understand.

As you are aware wolves in the wild are instrumental to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Wolves are the essential part to restore the ecology through the trophic cascade. Wolves provide a positive impact on the entire ecosystem, some examples are bear populations increase, songbirds return, smaller trees grow, ground aeration is increased for better water absorption and cooler stream temperatures are restored increasing and restoring fish populations all by having wolves in the environment.

Many years of manpower hours and effort has been dedicated by many restoring and researching wolves. Significant tax payer dollars have also been invested in these programs and this ruling will have a significant impact on all the progress that has been made to date.

Link to the petition: (The link is long and therefore will not fit into the blog space without breaking in the middle, if it doesn't work for you, copy and paste entire into your address bar. D.B.)

All the best, Jeff



Karen Anne said...

No feeding the pigeons, but lots of trash accumulating which leads to rats which leads to poisonings all the way up the food chain. Wouldn't it be nice if the people in charge of the parks had some sense or regard for wildlife.

Donegal Browne said...

Where do visiting owls hunt rats in Central Park? They hunt the dumpster areas, behind the restaurants, and near playgrounds.

All places that lack careful sanitation.

Are there rules that children cannot eat in playgrounds? No there are not.

I've never seen rats at the places people used to feed pigeons. Why? The raptors hunt those areas for pigeons, and I suspect that if a rat did show up, rat would be immediately nabbed by said raptor.

Those are the facts, but the facts do not seem to have any bearing on the rules. It is easy to blame the pigeons (There is that phobia that one might get pooped on by a bird, heaven forfend!), it is much harder to actually get some people to clean up their acts.