Friday, March 12, 2010

The Red-tails at 1 Fifth, the Pros and Cons of Naming Hawks, and Another Precious Condor Egg

One of the pair nesting at 1 Fifth Avenue
Photograph by Zach Lemle

Note the bit of silver on or near the bird's right ankle. What is that?

Part of the wall? A band? What?


The photos were all taken between 9 and 11am this morning. (10/11) One of them buzzed the terrace a few times, I tried my best to get a picture but it was moving too fast.I can't tell which is which, I'm trying to distinguish by the markings but I'm having a hard time.

They were both very active this morning. As for one being from Tompkins, I did watch one of them fly directly down 8th street in the direction of Tompkins yesterday...and they do disappear for periods of it's very possible.

If we get a good photograph of the female, Francois Portmann, who photographed Valkyrie many times in Tomkins Square Park may be able to give us a yea or nay on that ID.

Photograph by Zach Lemle

Tips on telling a pair apart. In this case as both birds are big it's hard to use that but if you see them siting together the larger of the two will be the formel (female) and the smaller (the tiercel) Atlas and Athena are both big but Athena is banded so that helps a good deal in IDing them.

Also look at their belly bands, the streaks, dots, or splashes on their middles. These do shift with wind and movement but what pair was I looking at earlier....on yes, Vince and Rose, I think Vince's belly band is much more dotty then Rose's streakiness. Vince also has light eyes as he is younger and as he is very young a brown-tail.

Valkyrie, I believe still has some gold in her eyes as opposed to the dark brown of a three or four year old Red-tail. The hawk in your photos seemed to have dark eyes but it was a rather overcast day so hard to totally tell.

Also look at their tarsi, their ankles. A female with have thicker ankles. But all these things are relative. You'll be able to get a better handle when they get into the mom and dad activities. Mom will do most of the sitting. while Dad will only sit to give Mom a break. Mom will develop a brood patch of bare skin on her breast to better warm the eggs. The bare brood patch is often visible when the wind blows.

With some hawks the color of their heads tends to go down their necks and “puddle” on the left and right top of their breast, often called a mantle. One of the pair may have more mantle than the other giving you another clue to identity.

Basically Zach, it’s about practice and paying attention to specific details over time to be able to absolutely tell two hawks apart. Be aware light can make the feathers and color appear quite different plus then they’ll go and molt on you and the subtleties will change a little and you’ll have to learn those too.

Photograph by Zack Lemle
I've never heard the Washington Square hawk called anything but that.

He may have a name but I’ve never heard it either.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to naming the hawks. Hawkwatchers who are against naming the hawks often think it is less scientific to name them plus it depersonalizes them, putting more distance between humans and other animals.

I am of the school who thinks that the hawks should absolutely be named.

1. Beyond that it is a New York City tradition to name Red-tails, when it comes to the less or more scientific question in the area of naming, I figure it worked out well for Jane Goodall and Dr. Irene Pepperberg, both imminent scientists, I see absolutely no reason not to name them Plus I find it far more respectful. Besides as we are observing so few birds it seems silly to give them numbers which is the actual old school scientific method of identification.. We aren’t talking thousands of hawks, or even hundreds, it’s often little more than a dozen so. there is no real need for any other method.

2.. A named animal is much easier for your regular folks passing by to relate to, watch, learn to love, and then care enough to protect. them.

3. Saying the male Washington Square Park Red-tailed Hawk is just too long to be practical. when for instance the hawk could be called just plain George for George Washington the namesake of the park or by some specific coloration like Pale Male is, or for personality like Stormin' Norman..

4. What if the current male Washington Square Park Red-tailed Hawk died and a new male appeared? With that technique the second one would have the same generic moniker as the first and it would be confusing as well as LONG. :-)

Pinnacle National Park

From our man, W.A. Walters, with his eye on the New York Times gleaning for news--
Condor Lays Egg in National Park
Published: March 9, 2010

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Biologists at Pinnacles National Monument in central California are celebrating the first condor egg laid by a mating pair inside the park boundaries in more than a century.

The egg is the latest encouraging development in the slow recovery of the endangered birds in the regions they historically inhabited. The effort has been hampered by hunters and lead poisoning of the birds.

A female released in the park in 2004 and a male released the same year 30 miles west at Big Sur had been observed engaged in courtship behavior earlier this year, Carl Brenner, a park spokesman, said….


Donegal Browne


Your Man in NY said...

RE: Hawk naming... for the Washington Square Park/Number One Fifth Avenue pair... Georgina for the female, Archie for the male. Of course Georgina after George Washington, and Archie after the Washington Square Arch which stands at the entrance of the park just steps away from Number One. If Georgina is not acceptable, then Eleanor (Mrs Roosevelt lived at Number One) or perhaps Ethel (Merman once entertained at the night club at Number One)

mental mosaic said...

I agree with naming the hawks. It is just easier when an animal you are watching has a name. Heck - I've named a large lily pad loving water spider Monet, and the gecko who frequents my windowsill Umberto.

Excellent name suggestions from the other commenter! Archie - very cute. I'm not big on Georgina, though. I vote for Ethel or Eleanor. Maybe Eleanor is better, because in a George/Eleanor pairing, they'd both have presidential links.