Friday, May 28, 2010

Red-tail Updates-Survivor at the Cathedral, Briarwood, Emerald Grove Rd Nest, John Blakeman on No Talons, Portmann Ravens, Noah the Nurturing Pigeon

When I looked up and saw only one eyass standing on the rim of the nest, I realized my sense of foreboding about the other eyasses when only seeing one on my last visit became a reality. It is 90 degrees with humidity as high as it can be without droplets falling on you. Any self respecting eyass of this age will be up on the rim attempting to catch the least puff of moving air. The other two were no more.

So the Emeralds had only one jewel left. And Jewel was panting her brains out.

She'd take a second to stare now and again but then she just stood and panted for long moments on end.

Until she suddenly dozed off for a moment.

Woke up, panted, and then did a moment of chest preening. The fluff to fledgling feathers transition is a very itchy one and in this heat no doubt uncomfortable when dealing with all those new prickly pin feathers.

Then a look through her nictitating eyelid.

She folds her legs and gets down onto her haunches.

More panting and preening.

And a cocky stare.

She picks up a stick and drops it.

More panting mixed with a couple of begs. I look but don't manage to see a parent.

More scrutiny.

Then a pace forward to look between the branches.

My way.

Preening with a bit of fiest to it,

Another look between branches.

And guess what? More panting.

What is over there?

Yup I'm still here and I'm beginning to feel the urge to pant myself.

After more of the same I picked up my stuff, without even a whiff of another eyass, and started walking back. I left the area so that Jewel would be fed by her wary parents. I couldn't help wondering what had caused the deaths of the other two. And why were both urban and rural hawks loosing so many eyeasses this season. Frounce would be a very unlikely culprit here, as there are are no dairy herds for miles and miles. and without dairy cows with their comfy barns and daily supple of grain--no pigeons. Unless of course Mourning Doves can carry the protozoan disease.

Could the cause be at least partially, all the chill weather with drenching rain? Could just plain old exposure be a contributing culprit in the eyasses deaths?

Quess who made it BACK to the nest? From Jeff Kollbrunner of

Hi All,

The Briarwood fledgling has returned to the nest this morning. Not sure how long it will stay, this is a very good sign its gaining the strength it needs to explore its new world. This is the first fledgling to return to the nest at this particular location over the years this soon after fledging. It had to fly upward at least 75 feet and a very good distance from the rooftops below where it has been hanging out since May 22nd. There is also many unexpected wind currents/up drafts at that level so landing in the nest is not always easy either.

Have a great Holiday Weekend!

Best, Jeff

5/26, Photo courtesy of Robert B. Schmunk, for more go to--

In from Cathedral Hawkwatcher Mitch Nusbaum--Last Tuesday I was at the Cathedral and yesterday's post of Bloomingdales village show that Survivor is OK.
And from the original blog contributer on Red-tailed Hawks John Blakeman in regard to Isolde's use of beak instead of talons when in contact with the dead eyass on the Cathedral Nest--

You nailed it exactly, regarding the difficulty the haggard had in removing the dead eyass from the nest, without using its feet to grab the eyass carcass.

There is a rather profound (and necessary) behavioral constraint that suppresses the use of feet and talons to grasp anything at the nest. This contrasts so markedly with red-tails' use of their powerful feet in the killing and transport of prey away from the nest.

Remember, these are not thinking birds. Pretty much all of their behaviors are "go through the motions," ritualized actions. Grabbing anything at the nest is likely, sooner or later, to result in the inadvertent grabbing and killing of an eyass. The grasping ritual and response is turned off at the nest.

A close study of how the parents pull prey apart and feed tibbits to the eyasses also shows this. Away from the nest, the haggards use the strength and grasping capabilities of their feet and talons with alacrity. Not so on the nest, where they step delicately and virtually never grasp anything with force or speed.

It would be interesting to learn the cause of the eyass's deaths. I would presume that it was either some rodenticide, or frounce, a microbial infection from a pigeon.

--John Blakeman

Francois Portman had a thought about Isolde's intention--
"Watching it [the video] again, I noticed that the eyass’ body is still limp, hasn’t stiffened up (how long does it take?), so it should have died soon before, maybe the mother was “testing” it and not necessarily removing it! Just a thought.

ps: little Ravens feeding frenzy:
Looks like mam is trying “come and get it strategy” to get them out of the nest, so far they are still glued on it!


I wondered about whether the eyass was freshly dead too.

If I remember correctly, rigor comes on and then dissipates again after a certain amount of time- depending on temperature, the weight of the body, and other variables. So the eyass could have been stiff and then gotten limp again. Though for want of a better word that might be too descriptive for some--it didn't look yucky--

Rigor Mortis, a stiffening of the muscles, usually starts to take place at around 3 hours after someone is dead with full rigor occurring at about 12 hours after death. After the 12 hour mark the rigor slowly ceases and at around 72 hours rigor disappears.

Take into account this is for a human that weighs much more than a hawk and therefore cools more slowly.

I can't remember ever seeing an adult put a beak to an eyass for anything can you? I'm trying to remember ever even seeing an adult help with those pesky pin feathers at the base of the head. I have seen Lola give Pale Male a couple of decisive pokes (closed beak) when it appeared that he had fallen asleep or was unwilling to vacate the nest promptly enough for her when she had come back from a break.

Wait. One of Jr. and Charlotte's eyasses in 2005 hated rain. So at the first drop he'd dig his way under his mother. He'd gotten pretty old for this and may have nicked her with a talon one day, and then it seemed she may have given him a little nip because she appeared to make an abortive hack at him and he jerked backwards. Though maybe her motion was just really scary and he reacted.

Isolde very much looked like she was attempting to lift, I thought. Testing or an attempt to get a response might have initially been a poke I suppose and it escalated?

We're kind of in fresh territory here.

As to the young Ravens, I'm with them. Leaving the nest would be a little like being plucked from a nice cozy bed and breakfast and dumped in the wilderness with a very dull pocketknife you didn't know how to use.

Photo courtesy of Bob Lenham
A sweet find by Robin of Illinois--
Noah, the Homing Pigeon/Rock Dove and the Bunnies
These little bunnies, about 6 days old, were attacked by a dog and orphaned. Two out of the litter of five did not survive, and these three were not doing very well.

Enter Noah—the non-releasable, one-legged homing pigeon/rock dove that we have here in rehab.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bluebird Courtship and Isolde Attempts to Remove the Second Dead Eyass from the Cathedral Nest

Reggie Bluebird was busily twigging the nest box when Marian Anderson and I arrived to see the eating of the mealworms. Twice a day live meal worms are brought out, once in the morning and then again at around 4 in the afternoon, and placed in the mealworm feeder for the enjoyment of Reggie and Madge Bluebird. And they've come to expect them, thank you very much.

In the meantime Reggie has been turning into Kamikaze Bluebird whenever birds come anywhere near the nestbox. He sits in stealth mode, an unsuspecting Grackle or House Sparrow cruises by and whoosh, Reggie is on their tail and they're heading the other direction.

That is every bird that I saw come by except Mourning Dove here, who was allowed to actually sit on Reggie's perch for awhile. It becomes clear it isn't just any bird that flaps by, it is the birds that might be detrimental to breeding success. It turns out Reggie is selective. A House Sparrow would just love to take over that nestbox and a Grackle? Well, they're Grackles and will eat eggs and young if given half a chance but Mourning Dove, doesn't want a nest box, the food that bluebirds eat, or anything to do with their young or eggs. Mourning Doves just go peacefully about their business of eating seeds and a crawling insect now and again. No reason for Reggie to waste his energy on them.

But where are the mealworms, it's after 5PM?

Even Madge has begun to wonder, and flies down for a look see, but sees us, does a double take and heads back to the trees by the pond.

Reggie is not in the least amused by any of it. Now he'll have to deliver the mealworms to Madge up in the tree as opposed to the handy spot on the clothesline bar she usually uses to wait for her mealworm treats.

Finally the Master of Mealworms arrives with the wiggly snack, deposits them in their special feeder and whistles his way back into the house. That's the signal.

Reggie churr-ups for Madge but she's not coming down.

He's definitely holding it against us.

Down to the Worm feeder he goes and eats one for himself.
Then selects another nice fat wiggly one.

Hops to the top of the feeder and waits.

Nope, Madge isn't even going to look at him. Churr-up or not.

Okay, okay, she'll look at him but she isn't coming down and that's the last word.

And she gives us the mad Bluebird look to prove it.

But Reggie, knows his part, and gifts of food are in the program. And not just gifts, he feeds her as he would and will feed both she at times and the chicks. Soon he arrives and places the mealworm gently in her beak.

And so one day fewer before the eggs are laid and the start of this season's young Bluebirds. And we take Reggie's look to heart and leave quietly.
Francois Portmann reported that he had seen Isolde of the Cathedral attempting to remove the body of the second eyass to die from the nest but she had been unable to do so. He also had videotaped the sequence. I asked if he was going to post the video, which he has now done.
While the sequence is not gory in any way it may be disturbing to those who may be feeling sensitive so give a moment's thought before going any further.
From Francois--
Just posted on youtube
The eyass is clearly visible ~00:02:00 min


Amazing video, well shot besides incredible timing and yes, she is definitely manipulating a dead eyass, no question. It is too heavy for her to lift with her beak, as you said, and she does almost over balances.

Did you note, she does not try with her talons. And what is the stick all about? (I have seen what I took to be unsettled Red-tails begin to re-twig the nest.) Is the RTH wiring so strong, I wonder, about talons around eyasses that somehow she is precluded from even thinking about using her talons? They would necessarily puncture the body. I wonder when it becomes less of an "eyass" to her if she will do it?

All rhetorical questions of course, we've no way of knowing until someone sees it happen. You're one of the first to actually observe a removal/attempt at any of the nests, (there may be a scant few others but of much younger eyasses) and as far as I know THE first to be onsite and get it on video. I don't know if anyone saw/saved the feed of the removal from the Briarwood nest.

Well done Francois.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


From hawkwatching and blogging Jeff Kollbrunner--

Sunday, May 23rd


Our remaining eyass has survived and fledged the nest at just the start of seven weeks of age. I believe most likely its a male based on size and the early fledge. The eyass fledged the nest prior to 10:30am est on Saturday May 22nd. It took a couple hours before I could gain access to the rooftop of the nest for a good vantage point to view the immediate area and quickly spotted our fledgling preening on a sixth floor ledge. The people at the building were exceptionally accommodating and went well out of their way to help out as weekend access is very difficult.

After dedicating four hours to make sure the fledgling was fine I was only home for thirty minutes when the fledgling got into some trouble yesterday late afternoon as it flew on top of a large spool of razor wire and was having difficulties. I was notified with a frantic call and immediately went back to the location for a potential rescue. Fortunately, as I was in transit back to the nest the parents Mama and Papa were observed swooping low over the fledgling a number of times as if to say "what are you thinking get off the razor wire!" and luckily it was able to free itself just prior to my arrival.

I have many images to post on my website from the last couple weeks and this weekend. I'm also asking viewers to submit names for the fledgling, we must remember it has been fortunate to have survived. One of its siblings was most likely predated and the second sibling perished from frounce about two weeks ago, so we need an appropriate name.

The fledgling had a good meal early this afternoon, we think probably the first food since its leaving the nest and for now its in a relatively safe location on a sixth floor roof.

Best, Jeff

Thanks Jeff, great news and good to know that Mama and Papa, experienced parents that they are, were on the job to keep junior out of trouble.

Also excellent to hear that the fledgling is on a roof. Roofs often having varied levels due to railings, stairwell sheds, water towers, pipes, and the like, seem to be the urban fledglings best substitute for the young rural hawks branching experiences.

Can't wait to see the photos.


Are Elephants Self Aware? What kind of question is that?


Hi Mom,

This absolutely BLEW my mind when I saw it, some Pelham friends showed it to me:

Love, Sam

My mouth is still hanging open....D.B.