Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tulsa Red-tailed Hawk Update from Jackie Dover Plus Betty the Tool Making New Caledonian Crow

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert
2009: Kay and Jay pre-copulation

Modified Images by Jackie Dover

There's a new twist in Tulsa when it comes to just what Kay and Jay Red-tail are up to this season. Jackie Dover of the Tulsa Hawk Forum fills us in--

Hi, Donegal--

Here is an update on Tulsa's Kay and Jay, the urban redtail pair who have for the past two years nested on the KJRH television tower, right under the lens of the live Hawk Cam. We watched their offspring "Thunder" successfully fledge in May 2008. Unfortunately, last year's nest (with two eggs) failed after a snowstorm.

Thus far this winter, our live cam views of the KJRH nest have been very rare; and we've not observed either hawk working on the nest, though ground observers have frequently seen one or both perching at various places on the tower.

It does appear, however, that the hawks are actively working on a new nest at a nearby location, 1/3 mile south of the old nest, and on the same street. The site is a cell phone tower that stands beside a Mazzio's restaurant. The nest is located on a platform on the northwest corner of the third of five tiers. The Google map photo I've included shows the tower.

The second photo is a recent screen capture from KJRH Hawk Cam video, looking south along South Peoria Ave. I've marked the area of the cell tower. The third attachment is a map of the area, including the Vacant Lot, site of past trysts between Kay and Jay. There was a sighting of Kay at this location on January 2.

The structure of the new nest is still rather unorganized, not yet as well-formed as the old nest. Recent photos of Kay and Jay, the old nest, and the new nest-in-progress are posted on the KJRH Hawk Forum at this link:

We're eagerly waiting to see what develops with our Kay and Jay. Will they succeed this third time around. Will we lose our live cam ringside seat?

Tolkien's got nothing on us--he had his drama of the "Two Towers," we have ours. Stay tuned.

Jackie Dover
Tulsa Hawk Forum


Thank you for the super visuals. They aid a great deal to our understanding of what is going on in Tulsa.

I'd no idea Kay and Jay were working on a new nest. I'd suggest that perhaps they were making the usual second nest so that the formel has her yearly choice but it sounds like though Kay and Jay are perching around the KJRH tower no nest building behavior has been observed at all. Of course their may be some but it's been missed. As no site is covered by observers 100% of the time. But still, it sounds like we all could be in for a change. I hope that KJRH will turn the camera on the nest at some point soon so we have a better chance to see if it is actively being worked on as well.

Some pairs do frequently change their nest sites whether there has been a failure or not. Mama and Papa in Queens are an example. Others may change sites after a failure, while pairs like Pale Male and Lola seem as firmly bonded to their nests as they are to each other, failed or not.

Photo courtesy of News BBC UK
And here is the amazing tool creating, using, and stashing Betty the New Caledonian Crow also from Jackie Dover. She and Robin of Illinois have been delving into the world of avian tool making.

There are actually three videos that are well worth watching at the following link. Two that star Betty plus a third of a New Caledonian Crow in the wild "fishing" for grubs with a twig that the Crow has detached, stripped, and then sharpened with her beak.

Donegal Browne

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blackwater Eagles Update, Red-tail Hawk Tiercel Norman, Another Coyote Does Manhattan

2010--Here is Nicola's photograph of Norman (left) and Isolde the Morningside Park Red-tails.
For those who have asked to see some photos of Norman--
Here is Stormin' Norman in 2008 guarding the nest while Isolde incubated the eggs on the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Unfortunately for our comparison the current shot is the posterior of the hawk and the 2008 photo is the anterior. We're working on rectifying that but let's see what we can see in the meantime.

Also keep in mind, though not obvious in this photo that Norman still had light eyes, he was a very young Red-tail. Currently he is fully mature and has gone through two molts during the time between the photographs.

Note the less warm colored patch on Norman's face just below and to the right of his beak. You can see it in the current and the 2008 shot. Most hawks have it but it can be quite varied in size and color depending on the individual. Norman gives the impression of being a more uniformly dark headed hawk.

For those who remember Tristan, there was quite a difference between he and Isolde's size. Norman is somewhat larger though not as large as Isolde, who is a good sized female.

The male's beak in the photos does appear different when looking at the past and present photos, this may be due to the sleeker summer feathers of 2008 when compared to fluffed up feather's partially obscuring the beak in the appearance of a hawk in winter.

contributed by Robin of Illinois

And from P. Greenwood of Virginia, there's their first egg!
Note the dates. Raptors do copulate for some time usually before a egg is actually created.

Also from Robin of Illinois--Once again a coyote makes it way into Manhattan.
Coyote captured in Harlem
New York (CNN) -- One wily coyote traveled a bit too far from home, and its resulting adventure through Harlem had alarmed residents doing a double take and scampering to get out of its way Wednesday morning.

Police say frightened New Yorkers reported the coyote sighting around 9:30 a m., and an emergency service unit was dispatched to find the animal. The little troublemaker was caught and tranquilized in Trinity Cemetery on 155th street and Broadway, and then taken to the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, authorities said.

"The coyote is under evaluation and observation," said Mary Dixon,
spokesperson for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dixon said the coyote is a female, between 1 and 2 years old. She said the
Department of Environmental Conservation will either send the animal to a rescue center or put it back in the wild.

According to Adrian Benepe, New York City Parks Commissioner, coyotes in Manhattan are rare, but not unheard of.

"This is actually the third coyote that has been seen in the last 10 years,"
Benepe said.

Benepe said there is a theory the coyotes make their way to the city from
suburban Westchester.

He said they probably walk down the Amtrak rail corridor along the Hudson River or swim down the Hudson River until they get to the city.

Donegal Browne

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Red-tail Update: Isolde and Norman, plus More on Louie the Amazon Parrot and his Tool


From Fire Escape Nara in Harlem--

She's baa-aack!

After an almost week-long hiatus during which we began to wonder if our hospitality was being permanently spurned, tonight the hawks are back! "Our" hawk (I assume Isolde) is once again roosting on the floor of the fire escape. Her mate arrived a little later and roosted on an escape a couple of apartments up from ours.

After dusk our four-year-old suddenly looked up from his activity and said, 'let's see if the hawk is there!' He must have a sixth sense, because lo and behold, there she was, staring in the window. She stayed that way--facing into the window, a foot and a half from the pane, eyes open, occasionally pivoting slightly so we'd get a silhouette of her beak, for perhaps two hours. Once we knew she was there, we tried to keep the lights out and would creep up and check on her every so often. She was a bit hard to see in the dark, but the gleam of her open eye told us she was awake (I assume they don't sleep with an eye open?). This time the Christmas tree that had partially blocked the window has been removed, so there she was (is) in full view. She seems completely unfazed by our presence. Alfred Hitchcock would have had a field day with this.

It's definitely colder tonight than it has been the past several nights. We first saw the hawks last Sunday (1/10), when it was really cold. They came off and on over the next several days. Then we had that warm spell. Tonight it's colder again, though not as cold as those other nights. We need to find data on temperature over the last ten days to confirm that impression--or better yet, hang a thermometer outside so we can keep track ourselves.

So far no sticks on the fire escape--or dead squirrels for that matter. But you will be the first to know if there are!

Excellent!!!! It's interesting how often they perch TOWARDS the window. Perhaps to shelter their fronts from the wind but also two more things, I think---Isolde can keep an eye on you, plus she can watch behind herself using the reflection in the window.

Could you tell which way the male was facing? At any rate I'd guess he is facing out.

Oh, as to Isolde's open eye, with a hawk's uncanny sight and hearing she no doubt hears and sees you, though obviously isn't freaked out or she'd leave. Plus, like most birds, hawks sleep for a few moments, wake, check things out, go back to sleep for a small amount of time, wake up again, on and off all through the night. I once timed a formel on the nest as she slept and woke and her sleep cycles ran under two minutes, sometimes under one. Though as she was sitting on newly hatched eyasses she may have been being hyper-vigilant.

If I understand her correctly, Winkie says she lives on the same corner as you do but her's faces Columbia. Also that your fire escape isn't one that she's seen them on before. Very interesting that your spot is new. Also when Isolde wasn't on your fire escape on Saturday she was roosting in a tree in the park on Saturday night.

(By the way, Winkie asks if anyone happened to catch Norman going to roost on Saturday evening? If you did get in touch.)

Photograph courtesy of James O'Brien of

(Check out James' blog, he's got some beautiful photographs of this Red-tail, plus a male Kestrel)

Is this Red-tail that James photographed the same one Winkie has been seeing only about 125th St.?

Local Harlem hawkwatcher Winkie with yet more on Isolde, Norman, and a mystery Red-tail above 125th--

11:35AM, 01-18-10: Hawk sighting alert

A call from my husband, a lucky man with a day off! A lone crow led him to a hunting hawk around 120th entrance to MS Park. A hawk was trying to catch a squirrel when a crow sent up the alarm. This must have been the sentinel, as two others came rapidly from the east. The hawk flew back into the tree and seemed to want to wait out the crows. After my husband finished his run (about 10 minutes), the hawk was still there, but the crows were gone.

Because he was very close to the hawk’s flight, he thinks that this hawk is the one that James has posted from January 6. (Great work from James on the local kestrel! ) It has a dark belly band and a break between the primary and secondary feathers on the right side. My husband and I have recently seen this hawk flying along Convent Avenue and around St. Nick’s park: that is north of 125th. We also saw it last year around in the early winter, but always above 125th Street. Anyone with a positive on this hawk?


A Birthday Buzz

It was the last light of Saturday, when I decided to go for a nice long walk. It was my birthday and I felt in need of fresh air. No sooner had I gotten over to Morningside Drive when out of the sky to the west, Isolde dropped down into the park. She buzzed right over my head, not twenty feet above! Then she landed in a nearby tree, sitting for several minutes. She gave me the “So it’s you again” look.

Yes, Donna, I know these tolerant notices that “our” raptors give us regulars. She stretched, scratches and gave the park the once over. Glancing my way again, she glided over to one of her favorite trees. There she sat actively looking around for about five minutes, maybe she was looking for Norman or maybe not. Whatever, she decided to glide into the lower part of the park into the trees that Tristan had so commonly used at night. Because there is a high cliff on my side of the park and I couldn’t get down all that fast, I lost her in the growing dark.

As far as I know, Norman was not around. But Isolde must have gone to roost in the park or nearby, as I would have seen her silhouette if she had taken off to another area.

Thanks, Isolde, that buzz was by far the best birthday greeting of the day! Winkie

Louie scratches his ear with a molted feather.

Linda, Robin of Illinois friend who owns the tool using Louie said:
Amazons are prone to sinus problems so as he is using his feather to scratch inside his ears, he also does the yawning thing. He switches feet to hold the feather so he can do each ear.

Linda also said that only one of her Amazons, Louie, uses the feather ear scratcher. Sam, another Amazon, does not.

More from Robin--

I wondered if Amazons were copy cats....seeing Louis scratch his neck and clean his ears, would the other birds (specifically Amazons), imitate. She wrote:

I don't know. We had another Amazon, Spanky (he died a couple years ago) who was in the pic with Louie. He never did the thing with the feather in the ear. He would watch Louie but I guess if the ears don't itch, they don't need to do it.

Never saw Spanky or Sam do the yawning thing. I sympathize with Louie because sometimes my ears itch all the way down my neck. Maybe I could borrow a feather from Lou?? At night before I put him to bed I scratch his head and check his neck/shoulders for pin feathers and sometimes I’ll just put my fingers where his ear openings are and rub. The look on his face is priceless. His eyes almost roll back in his head.

Robin, I wondered the same thing but as Linda says if you don't have the problem of itchy ears, you don't need the tool which does complicate testing any hypothesis concerning the issue.

Here is a question for Linda if you’d please pass it on to her Has Louie always used the feather on his ears from the time he came to live with her? If so he may have learned it from another bird--or not.

And as it turns out, Louie isn't the only Amazon who uses a feather as a tool. There is at least one other unearthed by Jackie Dover of the Tulsa Forum--


Interesting video of an Amazon parrot's self-taught tool-using skills:

Jackie Dover
Tulsa Hawk Forum

Note that this is a different Amazon who uses the technique. The title does say that the Amazon was self-taught, I'm supposing in the way that she was not taught this as a "trick" induced by humans. Which still leaves the question as to whether these two parrots discovered the use of this tool independently or whether it was learned from another bird.

Donegal Browne

Next up--Here Comes Eagle Season!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Louie Uses a Tool and a There's a Wood Duck Where?

A fascinating avian moment from long time contributor Robin of Illinois-
I have a friend here in East Peoria who has four rescued big birds -- cockatoos, parrots of various kinds, including an African Gray. She sent this photo of Louie using a shed wing feather to scratch himself. Does Silver do that kind of thing too?

Silver will chew the ends of molted feathers and sometimes play with them but using them to scratch himself as in tool use hasn't happened while I was watching at least so far.

Which brings up a whole new area of interest in the parrot area. We know that there are other species who do use tools but are there other reports of tool use in parrots? Is using something to scratch oneself officially considered tool use?

I can't wait to find out! More to come!

Pat Gonzalez was photographing wildlife in her favorite place, the New York Botanic Garden when she ran across an interesting duck.

Odd duck is down right in this photograph.
She thought it might be a female Wood Duck and sent it along to me to see what I thought.

I agree with her. This hen certainly looks like a Wood Duck, Aix sponsa, though most of her kin will have gone south to likely somewhere in the Carolina's by now.

Of course, we've all seen or at least been reading about how migratory birds have begun to fly less far south, sometimes as far as a couple hundred miles, likely due of climate change. Though Mrs. Wood Duck still seems to have stopped short. But that is part of the magic of the artificial habitats of NYC, sometimes because of the specialized habitats and the open water a bird who ordinarily would go further, for whatever reason, whether physical, disoriented, or just that perhaps she liked the look of the place, will stop for a longer sojourn than the others.

Wood Ducks are beautiful. I'm told that their scientific name translates into "waterbird in a bridal dress". Who says all scientists and naturalists are sticks in the mud?

Well Folks, there was much more wondrous news in my email box today from many contributors-- including copulating eagles, more on Louie the Amazon, hawk sightings in Morningside park, the Blackwater Eagles, more Morningside Park history from Winkie....the wonders continue. But it is 4:30am currently and your bloggist is a bit under the weather so it will not be coming to you this minute but rather COMING SOON!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Lump, the Parrot, and the Very Black Cat

Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot was bored. Not only was he bored, he was tired and out of sorts. A tired bored out of sorts parrot is much the same as an overtired two year old human. They fret. They fuss. They just can't find a way to get comfortable and therefore fall asleep which is what they really need to feel better.

In a parrot, or at least in this parrot, his fussing isn't whimpering and wiggling, it consists first of saying he wants up insistently, frequently and loudly. Okay we can do that, but wanting up to go where is the problem. None of the places are satisfying. Now remember satisfaction isn't going to be anything besides sleeping but he doesn't know that and he'll want to attempt all his different perches, ferried by the human to see if it helps. It doesn't. The human will eventually tire of being the ferry boat, put him on a perch, give him a toy, make sure he has food and water and then with determination attempt to go do whatever it was the human was attempting to get done in the first place. Still unsatisfied, the parrot graduates to making all the noises that ordinarily bring humans in a household in at a hustle ---dinging like the timer on the oven, the ping of the microwave, but best of all when all else fails there is the maddening beep of the smoke alarm which with duration increases in volume and pitch. I begin to understand how the Red-tail Hawk parents might feel about the incessant begging of eyasses anytime their little ones lay eyes on them even when their crops are stuffed full. One can't win.

Eventually the human, not being fooled by any of these, but driven a bit round the bend by the beeping, will arrive exasperated and say,"What do you want?" Silver will then get frantic eyed, listen to the human's question, begin beeping some more while playing the pathetic card. What is the pathetic card? Bringing his wings an inch from his body and doing bitty little begging flaps like a chick.

This doesn't happen frequently but yesterday evening was a dandy. When finally put into his cage in a vain attempt to get him to nod off, instead of mumbling to himself while standing on his perch when getting ready to sleep, he climbed round and round the cage on the bars while running his beak across said bars, much in the way that prisoners created a racket by swiping their tin cups across their bars in old movies. He'd worked himself into an anxiety attack. And he was quickly giving me one.

Okay, okay! I went in, got him out of his cage, went into the dining room which was dark, though the open patio curtains allowed some illumination from the park lights, put him on his perch, and was turning around when I realized that Pyewacket, the cat, was making strange little mrrp, mrrp, noises with her face plastered against the glass. Hmmm. AND Silver had suddenly clammed up and was staring fixedly through the glass himself.

What was I to do? I went to the glass and peered out too. Wow, there is a big lump a few feet from the door by the glider that wasn't there earlier. Gosh. I flip the back light switch.

The lump continues his business. It isn't Fluffy the opossum this time it's a chunky raccoon who doesn't seem a bit fazed by the sudden illumination.

I'd dumped the Nutri-berri remnants, a seed and fruit parrot food, out of Silver's bowls for the birds earlier in the day, and raccoon seems to be finding them delicious
Raccoon has begun vigorously digging in the snow and is chewing something which seems to stick in his teeth periodically which must be dislodged by a paw.
Pyewackit now having backup from a human and a parrot, begins mrrp-ing much more loudly.

Raccoon is finally disturbed but instead of taking off, takes the offensive and heads for the glass. Whoa! Pye scrunches down a little but holds her ground.
Oh my! It's Rocky Raccoon. Complete with a split ear and irregular "fingers". We stare at him and he stares at us. Either feeling we've been properly menaced or that we're harmless--

...he turns around and goes back to chewing. Pyewackit has decided to stop mrrp-ing, take a low profile, and stare at him sideways.

Silver on the other hand has become, very very still--and blessedly quiet. He is giving me a "You see that, right?" look.

Then a change of posture which says, "No really, I think that something absolutely must be done." But still not a sound.

Rocky being otherwise occupied, Pye sits back up. Silver turns his head to keep one eye on me to check for my reaction and one eye on Rocky. Not having watched much Raccoon behavior, in Silver's mind Rocky's behavior is likely a big mystery and he truly does bear watching. But Silver has to keep one eye on me as well, because he will take his cue as how to feel about and react to Rocky from me. Pywackit doesn't even get a glance. Every bird knows that you can't trust cats for that sort of thing at all.

Rocky has switched food excavation areas. More eating, and mock washing motions even though there isn't any water right there.

More digging.

More chewing. Rocky seems to have been in a relatively recent fight. He has two areas on his rump where the hair is missing. Raccoons are known to have interactions with coyotes, domestic dogs, and sometimes other raccoons.

I'm not sure why, but Rocky suddenly takes notice again. Silver says, "Wanna go cage" sort of under his breathe.
Whatever the issue, Rocky begins walking further towards the far side of the yard. Silver repeats a little louder, "Wanna go cage!"
And wonder of wonder, Silver really does want to go to his cage. He immediately settles in, says, "Brush your teeth" to me, sends a couple kiss noises my way, and his eyelids almost immediately begin to close.
Now if Rocky could only be trained to appear whenever Silver is having trouble going to sleep...
Donegal Browne

Red-tail Update-Morningside Park Hawks, Plus NYBG

Isolde by D. Browne
From newest hawkwatcher and fire escape hawk presence contributer Nara regarding Morningside Park Hawks Isolde and Norman--

Hi Donna,

Well, our friends have decided not to spend the night the last two nights. I assume they sought alternative accommodations as it was warmer. We saw a flutter of wings at sunset out the window yesterday, but then nothing. One of them may have been in the tree right across the way in the park, between 119 and 120, but we couldn't see well as it was dark.
So unlike the rest of the city, we're hoping for cold temps again so they come back!

It turns out the guy I thought was the handyman is one of the security guards that patrols Morningside Drive (we just moved here in September so I'm still figuring out who everyone is). So he's outside all the time looking around, including at the birds, and noted that they were around a lot in the fall. I ran into the people who previously lived in this apartment (and are now down the hall) and asked them if they'd ever seen the hawks on the fire escape. They hadn't, so this seems to be a new haunt for them.


From Pat Gonzalez, this is a flight shot of the mystery mature Red-tail from yesterday's post. Anyone who knows this hawk, please get in touch.

Immature Red-tailed Hawk at the NYBG

Also from Pat-


I went back to the NYBG yesterday. I saw our mystery hawk again, but couldn't get a decent shot, but in another section I came across a younger hawk that let me take a few pictures.

Black-capped Chickadee

After four visits, I finally found some chickadees! Waaaaaaay out, by the Bronx River. I even got some of them to land in my hand. Sadly, the wild wetland trail is now a temporary wasteland, still frozen with hardly anything for the birds to hang out. Looking forward to all this settling down so our fine-feathered pals can return.

Speaking of return, the mystery farm duck is back!

{Long time readers will remember the lengthy discussion about this duck in particular as to what kind she is and farm ducks in general as to what kind they are.
I'll be heading back to the garden next week, the battle plan is to go on a sunny day and get a bright, clear photo of a perched red-tail. My zoom lens is working O.T. Still no sign of the GHO [Great Horned Owl]h. Scanning the native forest with my binoculars and nada.

To be continued.

Pat Gonzalez

And that's today's catch folks!
Donegal Browne