Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lacking Red-tailed Hawk Ms, Tailless Mourning Dove, and Maligned Pigeons

Since I returned to Wisconsin on June 27th and through June 30th, I've been stopping in at least once a day to check in on the Ms. Unfortunately I've not had a bona vide sighting of any of them since the 22nd.

I had suspected that this might be the case when I returned as just as I was leaving, the fledglings had begun to spend more and more time off the nest tree and were to be found in trees on the perimeter of the cornfield.

Late on the 27th, I pulled the car over on the shoulder and saw, far in the distance along the treeline, a flying Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by Crows. (My camera battery took that exact moment to expire and these distant interludes don't last long so no pictures of the moment were taken.)

The M parents have several standard tactics to elude the Crows; the most common of which is to just out fly them. Crows are not swift. They are heavy bodied, and considering that, they fly very well for their proportions. Red-tailed Hawks are considered a little chunky themselves but if a Red-tail takes a straight path (with space to do it for distance without intervening buildings and the like) and flaps with gusto, the Crows are often left in their metaphorical dust. And that is exactly what the M parents most often do to get rid of the pesky crows.

But that wasn't what was happening in this case. The hawk was flying and attempting to elude the attacking Crows by a harried constant change of direction. It wasn't working out all that well. Finally after getting struck several times the hawk headed out along the treeline and I'm reckoning as it was a straight path and therefore eventually out distanced the Crows.

Therefore I surmise that this was either Primus or Secundus in one of their first personal attacks from Crows. But since then, there hasn't been a feather, a beg, nor the typical mixed species mobbing that occurs constantly to fledglings. It was--quiet. Very quiet. Too quiet, at least it seemed to me for there to be any hawk activity going on within sight.

I check the nest. Somehow it has taken on that deserted look that nests get this time of year. There is a complete lack of energy in the area which manifests itself in no avian alarm calls, no bright white bellies displaying purposefully in the trees, no raucous begging, nor no mobbing passerines.

Just a hot day with a bit of a wind without those little intuitive cues that make us think to ourselves. "I know you're out there somewhere. "

The corn is getting taller. It rustles slightly against itself in the wind I suspect making it a little harder to hunt voles in, but not tall enough for a Red-tail to just skim the tassels, fly in the direction of the rows until a rodent breaks cover, and a kill made.

WAIT! WAIT! There is a bird on the favorite hunting electrical pole. But when I zoom in, it is a Crow. The Crows do seem to think they own the place these days and perhaps they do.

I'd been concerned, as I said, when I left that it was about time for the fledglings to spread out, though still being fed by their parents, and discover a wider world. It is the next stage and they are always more difficult to find than they have been previously when this happens.

Though yet for awhile in NYC we will still find them most days. We have multiple eyes looking and unless a roof is involved we have access to most anywhere they may go.

Not so the case here. I and they are surrounded by acres and acres of private property therefore I can't go tromping about looking for them but they can take to the next treeline and I may well never see them.

Photo by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen Kolling of Rhode Island is the owner of the Gonzo Deck which has hosted a fox, Raccoons, and possibly a skunk plus many other feathered creatures one would expect. Today "Weird Bird Stuff" from Karen--
Weird bird stuff - I found some feathers by my steps, and thought someone had met their doom, but it looks like he just lost his tail. He's been like this for the past few days, and seems okay.

Hi Karen,

It's been my experience and John Blakeman concurs that Mourning Doves loose their tails at the drop of a hat. If a dove is agitated, a touch can make their tail feathers fall out. I expect that it is an anti-predator device. I can well imagine a mammal predator pouncing at the Mourning Dove, the dove is on its way up and the carnivore gets the end of the bird, the tail and , the feathers fall out and predator if left with a mouthful of feathers.

Wildlife observer and Red-tail expert John Blakeman says that in the winter, Mourning Dove's tails sometimes freeze to the roost branch. When the Dove flies off in the morning, the tail feathers remain behind.

And you're right, the lose of the tail feathers doesn't seem to hamper the Dove very much at all. It may affect the whistle that occurs when a dove with a complete tail flies but that is about the only difference that I have observed.

Photo by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen continued--
A moment later this was going on (I had looked away, so I don't know if it was the same bird) but another moment later he or she was up and about and seeming fine:


Your dove is having a sunbath nestled in the seed bowl. While any number of other species will spread their feathers to dry them in the sun, Mourning Doves will spread their dry feathers in the sunshine. Doves have several habits that suggest they are particularly fond of absorbing heat, whether sunbathing or by nestling down on a surface that has earlier absorbed and retained the heat of the day.

Subject: Chelsea Piers trapping pigeons

Chelsea Piers, a health club and recreation center at the edge of the Hudson River in New York, has been trapping pigeons for at least a year and a half in cages with one-way trap doors. The traps are boxes about three feet long and are on fire escape stairways.

This is illegal, according to the NYC fire code.

It is not determined what the Piers do with the trapped pigeons. The traps, provided by a New Jersey-based pest-control service, ensnare the birds in a wood-and-wire cage to prevent them from massing freely on fire escapes. The company then collects the birds and claims to release them back into the wild, although the Health Department-issued permit does allow the birds to be euthanized humanely. It is heard that the pigeons are gassed or have their necks broken in the extermination process. Erica Shietinger, V.P. of Corporate Communications at Chelsea Piers, said they had previously tried humane methods which had failed. An alternative simple and inexpensive device made of plastic or wire, as well as sloping surfaces, are an effective way to keep pigeons off buildings and they don't kill. Droppings still remaining can be hosed off. Killingor removing pigeons does not work since others simply take their places.

It's the same with all wildlife. Shietinger claimed disease as her reason for trapping pigeons, however, according to the NYC Health Dept. pigeons do not get or transmit bird flu or West Nile virus, and they do not transmit disease to humans any more than other kinds of birds. If these were any other kind of birds,Chelsea Piers would think twice about trying to rid itself of them. Removing pigeons from buildings is up to the owner, and it is legal, but there is a kinder way than trapping them.

Please contact the following and ask them to use sloping surfaces or plastic/wire devices instead, instead of traps from which there is no escape.

Dana B. Thayer - Senior Vice President, Director of Marketing & Sponsorship
Mike Braito - Senior Vice President, Chelsea Piers General Manager
Keith C. Champagne - Senior Vice President
Stuart Sheinbaum - Vice President, Director of Communications Erica Schietinger - Vice President, Corporate Communications
Chelsea PiersRoland W. Betts, ChairmanTom A. Bernstein, President
David A. Tewksbury, Executive Vice President
212-336-6800;Fax 212-336-6808
Pier 62 23rd St. Hudson River
New York, NY, 10011
Fire Department:Ask them to remove the cages which obstruct fire escapes.

Use this online form to send a message to Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta:

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