Friday, January 16, 2009

Red-tailed Hawks: Kay, Jay, Charlotte, Pale Male Jr. plus a Bald Eagle, a Doberman, and a Caffeinated Squirrel

Steam, the tiercel of Thresherman's Park, Wisconsin, with several feet of snow on the ground perches high in an oak beside the highway...

...and hunts in 16 below zero weather.

Screen Captures Courtesy of KJRH TV Tulsa

Hi, Donna:
We Tulsa Forum folk are musing over an occurrence today at the KJRH nest site.

Jay showed up at the nest this afternoon with a prey item, perhaps a rodent. In a span of about 7 or 8 minutes, he flew in with the little critter, mantled briefly over it in the nest, picked at it a bit, and then flew off with it.

Very shortly, both Kay and he flew back in, the prey still in Jay's possession. Both hawks huddled over it very briefly in the nest, heads down; and then Kay exited, soon followed by Jay.

We aren't sure who had final possession of the prey. We have not seen prey in the nest since Thunder was still visiting the Tower. We are wondering what, if any, significance this event might have had, especially in the context of anticipated courting behavior.

A gesture from Jay to Kay, perhaps? (It may or may not be relevant that Tulsa has for two days been experiencing bitterly cold weather.)

I'm attaching two photos of this brief interlude.

By the way, the two sycamore pods of recent interest are still in the nest, and we have noted their having been moved from time to time as the nest rebuilding continues.Any thoughts?

Jackie (Tulsa Hawk Forum)

Photos attached:

1. Jay with prey
2. Kay (foreground) and Jay huddling over prey
3. sycamore pods still in nest today, 1-16


It looks to me that what you have here is a Jay giving Kay a courtship gift. (As Marie Winn of has been known to remind at this point, Gentleman pay attention.)

This may be what is going on. First Jay brings his gift for Kay to the nest and mantle's it. Kay doesn't appear so he picks up his present and flies over to where she can see it, possibly flying back and forth in front of her if he wishes her to go with him to the nest, instead of presenting it to her where she's presently perched.

Kay follows Jay to the nest, they check out the present. If the female isn't hungry at that moment the male will stash the gift for her to eat later. Later in the season, the presentation of a gift can lead to copulation on the spot. Interesting that the nuptial gift is a mammal. It seems to me, perhaps keeping track of the species of gifts this season would help us decide if my unsubstantiated thought is true in the various locales, that mammals are given in a higher percentage of the time as gifts then are birds for gifts. Pigeons in most urban locations tending toward the most prevalent day to day menu item.

If anyone is on the ground near the site they might be seeing courtship flights going on in conjunction with the gifts.

Well there are those Sycamore fruits. Interesting. It looks almost like the birds are using them as some kind of specific nest device. It would be interesting if a few more appeared in mirroring the positions of the current fruit.


From chief watcher of Southern Central Park, Pale Male Junior and Charlotte--

Hey Donna.

You won't believe how upset I am. I brought my camera into work
both Wednesday and Thursday since I had seen Charlotte and Junior several times
on Tuesday thinking that I would definitely see them together.

They never showed up together either day. I did get a few photos of Charlotte on the Essex House building and I got a few photos of US Airways 1549 in the water. Then
Today [Friday] both Jr. and Charlotte visited the nest together several times and of course I didn't have my camera. Oh well. I'm going to try to go in one day this
weekend and see if I can get some photos of them together.

Brett Odom

It NEVER fails!

I faithfully try to carry at least a baby Nikon, having been burnt on this issue far too many times. On Monday, I had to run out to grab a few groceries before yet another snowstorm. Well, I look up just as I'm passing over the river and there...RIGHT THERE...flying over me and toward a near by copse of trees, where it then perched big as life, was a mature Bald Eagle. No camera.

And from R. of Illinois, Today's Go Get 'Em Moment

(Sent in by Karen Anne Kolling) From the inimitable

Donegal Browne

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Which Accipiter? Jr. and Charlotte, Mourning Doves Missing Tails, and the Red Bowl Moves

Photograph by Francois Portmann,
Francois took this amazing photograph of an immature Accipiter in Tompkins Square Park. Anyone want to take a shot as to whether it's a Sharp-shinned or a Cooper's Hawk?

Photograph by Francois Portmann
And how about this bird? She does have that hypertensive look in the eyes of a Sharpie, but then on the other hand she looks to have a neck. Sigh.

Photograph by Brett Odom

Have you been wondering what the Central Park South Red-tails are up to? Chief hawkwatcher of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte has some news.

Good news. Junior is back. I saw him this morning with Charlotte checking out the 888 nest site. According to my log, I haven't had a confirmed sighting of Junior since September and I haven't seen the two of them together at the same time since July.

Let's hope this year is more fruitful than last for them.

Brett B. Odom

Last season, as far as we could tell, Charlotte and Junior did not attempt to nest. Though they infrequently appeared at their previous nest site, Charlotte never appeared to lay any eggs.

In reference to the ongoing conversation about Mourning Doves and their lightly connected tail feathers--Here is the Mourning Dove, just below the squirrel, in my local flock who was missing most of his tail feathers. This photograph was taken on December 11th 2008. I saw him yesterday and new feathers have grown quite rapidly and are about half length currently.

And a word from the always informative John Blakeman about Mourning Doves and their tail feathers--


Mourning Doves are famous for loosing their tail feathers. On freezing rain nights the tail feathers get frozen to tree limbs or roosting surfaces and the next morning the birds just fly off, leaving their tail feathers behind.

This is actually a selective advantage for these relatively long-tailed birds. When bird-eating hawks such as Cooper's Hawks grab a fleeing dove by the tail, the raptor ends up with a fist-full of useless feathers. The dove escapes.

But on the other hand, the now-tailless dove is not so maneuverable, so until it grows a new tail, it will be the bird in the flock that hawks will target.

--John Blakeman

If you'll remember the last time we viewed the red bowl, so mysteriously loved by a Rainbow Drive squirrel, it was on the dark patch of ground to the left of the tree.

Now it is nearly to the flower bed. I suspect that the red bowl was rediscovered after the early January thaw by squirrel. Also note it's now right side up. The position in which squirrel carries it in his mouth.
Jeff Kollbrunner of sends this link for an update on the Wilderness Protection Legislation

Monday, January 12, 2009


Eagle Photographs by Park Ranger Rob Mastrianni
I love your site and wanted to share my Bald Eagle sightings with you. I'm a Park Ranger at Inwood Hill Park and lead a Winter Eagle Watch program every Saturday at 8am on the Dyckman Ballfield (the very northwest of Inwood Hill Park, at the Hudson River).

On 1/3/09 we saw 2 adult eagles and 1 immature at 8:10am. This week, 1/10/09 at 8:20 and 8:50am we saw 2 adult eagles. It is such a rush to see these amazing raptors so close to the city!I did not see any bands on them.

I attached some photos. The overcast sky are from yesterday and the others from 1/3/09.

You too can may see Bald Eagles at the Winter Eagle Watch up in Innwood Park on Saturdays at 8AM.

Pale Male sits on the railing of Stovepipe, April 4, 2008

Lola takes a break and preens her tail, April 4, 2008

Jeff Kollbrunner went into his archives at and the NOAA weather data for New York City on relevant dates in March, 2008.

Egg Date & Weather Data,
From my recent news archive here is my March 8, 2008 post on Pale Male and Lola egg status from March 2008:

March 8: The heavy rain interfered with us being able to search for our hawk family today. Please see the many new images from 2/16 to present, including Mama sitting in her new nest that I have added to the raptor photo gallery on page 20.

Additional good news, Pale Male & Lola have produced their first egg(s) of this nesting season on 3/6 a day or two after our Briarwood family. Red-Tailed nesting season is now officially well on its way. Stay tuned for continued updates and new

Per NOAA weather data
On this date the weather was as follows:
March 7, 2008:high 43low 34M rain 1.22"
March 8:high 55low 37rain 0.95"

The rain basically continued steady from 3/7 at 6pm through 3/8 to 8pm with only a couple very minor breaks less than an hour during this time frame.

On March 19 & 20th once again:

March 19, 2008: high 50, low 40, rain 1.00"

March 20:high 57-low 37-rain 0.24

The rain basically continued steady from 3/19 at 3pm through 3/20 to 5pm with one or two very minor breaks less than an hour during this time frame.

I don't have the wind data for any of these dates.

All the best,

Senate to consider expanding wilderness protection

Sun Jan 11, 6:50 am ET

WASHINGTON – Congress is considering whether to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as wilderness in an early showdown that threatens to derail pledges by Senate leaders to work cooperatively as a new administration takes office.The largest expansion of wilderness protection in 25 years has bipartisan support and would include California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

The bill was scuttled last year after objections from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who said spending in the bill was excessive — nearly $4 billion over five years. Now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is seeking a rare Sunday vote in an apparent effort to punish Coburn and antagonize his GOP colleagues.

The scheduled Sunday session would try to limit GOP stalling tactics and move the bill forward.Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the measure represents years of work by lawmakers from many states and both parties. The legislation combines about 160 bills covering nearly every state.

Besides new wilderness designations — the highest level of government protection for public lands — the bill would designate the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton in Hope, Ark., as a national historic site and expand protections for dozens of national parks, rivers and water resources.In a statement, Coburn said the "earmark-laden" measure "makes a mockery of voters' hopes for change.

"For example, Coburn said, the bill includes $3 million for a "road to nowhere" through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska; $460 million for a water project designed to save 500 salmon in California; and $3.5 million to help celebrate the 450th birthday of St. Augustine, Fla., in 2015.

Environmental groups also oppose the Alaska road. The rest of the bill, they say, would be a huge accomplishment for Congress.___

On the Net:
Information on the bill, S. 22, can be found at

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen--Keeping those feet warm (a previous storm).

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen--Several of the doves had ice on their tails today. I don't think I've seen that before.

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
Why do the doves have ice on their tails? Is it only because the ice has melted off their warm bodies, but the tail not being directly heated by the body doesn't melt the ice off? Or did the birds shelter somewhere in which their tails were exposed to the elements while their bodies were under cover?

Phtograph by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen--"And two each had a loose tail feather, maybe dislodged by the ice or attempt to preen the ice off?"

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
Goodness, this Mourning Dove's rump looks like it exploded. And her long tail feathers? They all appear to be missing.
The top most splayed feather almost looks like it is in backwards.

Photograph by Karen Anne Kolling
A Mourning Dove's long tail feathers fall out very easily as an anti-becoming-lunch strategy. If the tail feathers of an agitated dove are touched with any pressure at all, it's as if the dove pulls a tail feather release lever, and poof, they're no longer attached to her body. The predator ends up with a pile of long skinny feathers in foot or mouth. But I've never seen the exploding rump feathers issue, and I've seen any number of doves who've "dropped" their long feathers.
Donegal Browne