Friday, December 25, 2009


Merry Christmas from the Central Park Great Horned Owl,


Jamie, Claire, and Roger the Sand Hill Cranes,


the Barn Swallows,

the Wild Turkeys,
Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Kay, Jay, and all the Tulsa Red-tails,
Photo by Cheryl Cavert
the peeing Red Fox,

the Dollar General Red-tailed Hawk,
Photo by James W. Blank Jr.
the fawns hiding behind the fence,

the squirrels and bunnies,

the wheat field that lured the turkeys,

Primus and Secundus,

the Kingbird,

the Killdeer,

the Robins,

the Turkey Vultures,
Photo by James W. Blank Jr.
the copulating turtles,

Riverside Park Mom and Dad,

the Skunk that cheered me up when I was lost,

the ducks,

Canada Geese,

Blue Jay,

Doorstep and Friend,

Steam the RT,

the Crows,

the bizarre and cheerful Lichen,

Mr. and Mrs. M,


the Monk Parrots of NYC,
Photo by Brett Odom
Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte,


all the Red-tails of NYC that haven't been named yet,

Rose of Fordham and the New York Botanical Garden,

the Screech Owls of Central Park,
and of course, Pale Male and Lola!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pinkie Sits, Star Lays an Egg, and Did Charlotte Think?

Pinkie the Laughing Dove
Whenever I get back to NYC, the first thing that has to be done is a good scrubbing of all the bird cages. Not that the birds aren't cared for, and their cages cleaned by the family while I'm away, they just don't drag the cages out to the terrace or into the bathtub for a periodic scrubbing.

Above is a photo of Pinkie the Laughing Dove. Many will remember that he arrived after I received a call about a white dove stranded in a snowbank a few winters ago. Being a completely domesticated variety of bird, Pinkie is very interesting. When the other birds are out they go about whatever business they feel the need to go about, whilst Pinkie if put on a perch---any kind of perch...

...first checks out his surroundings, mostly for any possible rivals he can beat up on...

...and then he just sits and watches whatever is going on. And I don't mean sits a few minutes, we're talking hours here. As a matter of fact, during my daughter Sam's and my cage scrubbing extravaganza, Pinkie sat on that compote for two and a half hours. We were interested in how long he'd stay before hopping off. He never left the spot so we finally put him back in his cage so we could let the cats back into the area.
In the meantime, Star laid an egg. She had just laid right before the photograph and had been resting with her eyes closed. Laying an egg being very hard work. When I got near her with the camera she opened her eyes and if you know bird expressions you can tell that though she is looking at me she is still focused internally.
Note her body is still cocked in the contraction that expelled the egg and she remained that way for some minutes. Star is unreleasable as she had a shattered wing that could not be mended. No we won't have a hatch. Her egg is infertile. Though she flirts with Blue and Dot the unreleasable cocks, copulation isn't part of the fun.
And just in case...'ve ever wondered what a pigeon track looks like, take a gander.

Speaking of ganders, Sam came home from college, (She's a Biology and Theatre major) with an interesting behavioral tidbit about Canada Geese. Scientists were wondering if the retrieval of an egg that has rolled from the nest in geese was wired in or whether the goose just understood the situation and rolled it back into the nest.

So they tied a line on one of the eggs. Not an easy task, if you know anything about geese and the wing battering that can dish out, now that I think about it. At any rate the field people would pull an egg slowly out of the nest and then watch to see what happened. The goose would get off the nest, walk over to the egg, and using nudges from her bill, roll the egg back into the nest. Dandy.

They then pulled the egg out again. The bird went to retrieve it, began to nudge the egg back and the scientists while the motion was in progress then pulled the egg another foot away from the goose. The goose though it could see that the egg was another foot away, continued to make the nudging motion at air all the way back to the nest. Then seeing the egg out there again returned to the egg and nudged it back to the nest in reality.
The scientific opinion was that this proved that egg retrieval in geese was a hard wired behavior triggered by seeing the egg out of place. Okay. But also, at least to me, it doesn't discount the goose knowing what she is doing while all this is going on but as it is a triggered behavior she can't stop the motion until visually cued by the nest itself or the other eggs or whatever, that the motion has been completed. What if geese are a species that eventually learn by experience as Red-tailed hawks do?
Keep in mind this only proves whatever it proves in Canada Geese it does not necessarily cross over to all avian species.
Speaking of Red-tails learning by experience, it is believed that an eyass on a Red-tailed hawk nest is pretty much on it's own when it comes to falling out of the nest. And no question this does happen periodically. Most of the NYC hawkwatchers have had some real heart stopping moments as eyasses just off their haunches headed for the edge but then stopped in time without falling out, while their parent sat by seemingly unconcerned.
But then there was this moment in 2005 on the Trump Parc nest of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte, that made me wonder about hawk parents learning from experience. Good mannered eyasses of a certain age seem to be wired to defecate off the edge of the nest so they do have business there but this was different.
That year we'd nicknamed the eyasses Big and Little.
Well, one day as Charlotte was sitting with the eyasses as they tootled around the nest corbel, Little, recently off his haunches and practicing walking took off toward the edge at a rapid clip. Charlotte got up, made it over to him a few inches from the edge and abruptly sat on him.
Wow. That just didn't happen. Adult birds just don't ordinarily plop down on a running youngster. Or on any youngster. After a certain point of mobility, if it begins to rain or it's chilly it's the eyasses job to go burrow under the tending parent if they need the warmth.
For a number of reason I'd always thought that Charlotte might well have been mated and had young before hooking up with Junior. Is it possible that she'd had an eyass fall from the nest and had learned from the experience? Not having any completely nonlethal ways to keep an eyass from the edge--given the non-choices of a raptor's feet and beak, is it possible she somehow put it together that he should be stopped as he could fall off at the clip he was going and plus that sitting on him would stop him from falling?
Donegal Browne

Sunday, December 20, 2009