Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wild NYC, More on Do Redtails Grab Dogs from John Blakeman, and Hawkwatching Bill at Police Plaza Passes Along a Hawk Sighting

Here are a couple more photos from The Wild NYC Symposium. Here's Abby from the Tenafly Nature Center talking about and holding a Red-tailed Hawk. Also let me point out, the wonderful woman who pulled the whole symposium together to the delight of so many, Myisha Priest, sitting on this end of the sofa wearing the white earrings. It was a very special event for all involved.

And here is the discussion involving owls, with a Barred Owl on the fist. There really is something about a raptor, as the room was packed, outside the windows was packed with a changing parade of excited viewers, and there was no one who saw the birds who didn't have a little catch in their breath, or at least a small quickening of their heart when they laid eyes on the raptor visitors.

Unfortunately I don't have any photographs taken inside the theatre during the speaker's talks and the lively discussion that followed. I was one of the speakers on the stage. Somehow I thought that me sitting up there popping off flash photos would be more than a little distracting.

Speakers included myself
, Meredith Comi of The NY/NJ Baykeepers, and Leslie Day author of "Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City".

Did you know that one single mature oyster purifies 50 GALLONS of water a day? I didn't either. Boy, do we need more oysters in the world and that's what the Baykeepers are up to.


The other day, I heard a women say that neighbors in her area have problems with Red-tails grabbing their dogs and carrying them away. Also that Red-tails, even those in captivity, don't know one person from another.


The lady, shall I say judiciously, is in error. (Well, she's ignorant on the matter.)

No, red-tails NEVER attack pet dogs of any kind, from the smallest little pooch breed on up to the largest wolf-like types. They certainly don't fly off with them, even if they come across a dead one. All dogs are too heavy.

Red-tails are just plainly too smart to attack such an animal.

And yes, my red-tail sure knows people. All falconers know this with their birds.

Interestingly, a red-tail, if it wanted to, could attack a small dog and kill it. But they just don't do this, at least in urban areas with human pets.

But here in northern Ohio, one of my apprentice falconers (now a master falconer) watched a wild haggard formel drop down onto a sleeping gray fox, sinking its talons through the eye sockets and killing the animal. It did this after studying the sleeping animal for some time, calculating how to quickly dispatch the fox.


John A. Blakeman

Meadow Environments LLC


Thank you.. Which of course leads to more questions. :-)

Did the Red-tail eat the fox?
Or was it a dispatching of competition kill?
Or perhaps are they wired, when opportunity presents itself, to kill predators that would kill fledglings?
Or do we know at all?



The haggard's kill of the sleeping fox was an atypical aberration, for sure. The bird spent a good time surmising the sleeping fox and calculating just how it could easily dispatch the mammal.

But exactly why it undertook this excursion into severe confrontation, albeit on the hawk's, not the fox's terms, is unknown. I don't think that protection of young or anything of the sort was a motivation. I do know this. Red-tails are drawn to fur of any kind, for which they have a strong experiential attachment to the flesh beneath. I would imagine that the sitting haggard saw the lush fur of the sleeping fox and that prompted a killing calculation. The bird may well have killed other smaller mammals it caught sleeping or resting.

We falconers (who see this more closely than anyone) know that experienced red-tails know to kill by sinking talons into the crania of their larger prey, often through the eye sockets. This old hawk would have been expert in the matter.

We don't know if the bird ever came back and fed upon the carcass. It may well have.


John A. Blakeman

Thanks John. Very perceptive. We do know that experienced Red-tails are quite willing to bide their time for the right moment.


Speaking of the Red-tail and the fox, one thing just occurred to me which hadn't previously. As we know that Red-tails can tell individual people apart given opportunity, perhaps they can tell other individual animals apart as well. Perhaps the hawk had something personal against that particular fox? Maybe it isn't as crazy as it sounds.

A while back on the blog, some of you may remember, I was called by a friend about a Red-tailed Hawk feeding on a fresh road-killed skunk. I wasn't far away and made it to the spot in a few minutes. The Red-tailed Hawk, not being able to take the heavy skunk into a tree, had been flushed by a fox who proceeded to pick up the skunk, run across the road with it, and disappear into the woods.

Fox are opportunistic and I wonder if it's possible that a particular fox might make a habit, given opportunity, of boosting the prey of the raptors in her territory. Which might cause an experienced very bright individual hawk to make an opportunistic attack on that particular sleeping fox.

From Bill down at 1 Police Plaza who sent in a Red-tail sighting a while back--

Haven’t written to you in some time as I have yet to spot another hawk down here at 1 Police Plaza.

However my buddy just took these photo’s on Ovington Avenue in Bayridge, Brooklyn. Thought you might like them. Evidently the pigeon got away!

Thanks Bill. Your buddy caught a moment that doesn't happen very often and he was ready with his camera besides. Those are great reflexes!

If you look at the photo above it appears as if the pigeon is actually banking toward the Red-tailed Hawk who is perched on the chain link fence.

Did the pigeon fly right into him? Did the wing go out to bar a get away? However it was managed the hawk may have one foot on the pigeon, who no doubt, is attempting to get away.

Presto, chango whatever the technique was on the pigeon's part, it worked, and she's on her way-- though having gotten a little rumpled in the feather department during the process.

Donna Browne

Pale Male, Neck Banded Geese Plus Will Red-tailed Hawks Grab My Dog? & John Blakeman on Do Red-tails Double Kill Prey?

A little recap here. This is the young Red-tailed Hawk, videoed by Pat Gonzalez at the NYBG, who first appeared with one squirrel carcass, dropped it, killed another squirrel and began to eat that one on the ground.

My thought was that the first squirrel was probably a left over. Something stashed which really didn't have much left on it and when the opportunity suddenly arose, our Brown-tail here went and nabbed something much more sustaining not to mention fresher. But I wasn't completely sure that Red-tails absolutely never killed more than one squirrel at a time. I'd never seen it but I thought I'd better send hawk expert John Blakeman an email just to make sure young Red-tails given opportunity, don't get carried away in the heat of the moment at times.

I mean I have seen young birds "kill" two rocks or sticks in a row, but then again, they aren't eating those.

And here is what Mr. Blakeman had to say on the matter--


The first, abandoned carcass must have been an old, rotten cached one. This red-tail, probably a tiercel, would NEVER have abandoned a good piece of meat, even if a prey animal would have trotted by. The first was not a fresh kill, by any means.

Nice video. A larger formel, most likely, would have carried the squirrel up into a tree to eat it. This smaller tiercel didn't want to expend the effort to do that, feeling safe on the hillside. Notice how often it pulls its head up and looks around.
--John Blakeman

Thank you John. Red-tails don't have to be lumped in with raccoons in a hen house after all.

Also thank you for pointing out that a tiercel has more reason to remain on the ground with something the size of a squirrel than a formel does.

Come to think of it, Lola always eats her squirrels up in trees and the only time I've seen Pale Male carrying one around he'd removed the head and flew up to 927 to give it to Lola as a courting present.

By the way, do you know of any confirmed instance of a Red-tailed Hawk actually grabbing a dog and carrying it away. This is always a story that the raptor uneducated seem to love to repeat with a dramatic shiver, but I've never found an instance where the story turned out to be true, in anyway.

A big Red-tailed female doesn't weigh much above 5 pounds usually, correct?

I've read that a Red-tail doesn't carry anything even for a short distance that is over a third of her weight therefore said dog would have to weigh less than 2 pounds. In fact more like a pound, for a hawk to grab dog, lead dangling, (Would you let go of your dogs leash? I wouldn't.) and flap rapidly away with it as the stories are often told.

I just can't see it happening. Weaned puppies are well above a pound. And if Pale Male and Company are any example, Red-tails stay as far away from dogs as possible. Urban Red-tails swoop past humans quite closely now and again in Central Park, but I've never seen any of them come anywhere near a dog. They are very wary of them.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Also from Pat Gonzalez, our observer at the New York Botanical Gardens--
Attached is photo taken by me yesterday at the NYBG. These geese were banded on their necks and leg with rather uncomfortable looking yellow plastic...thingees. Any ideas?


Colored tags are usually for keeping track of birds that are being followed for a specific study that involves different color tagged groups of, in this case, geese. I'd be very interested in knowing what the study is and who came up with these neck tags.
Usually a colored leg band is all that is used. I suspect that these have neck bands because geese spend so much time in the water. This way the observer doesn't have to "waste time" waiting for the goose to step onto land.

I have to say, I'm not fond of them.


Photo courtesy of Balcony Releasing
The Legend of Pale Male opens in a limited run in theatres on Nov. 24th.
Check out the link below for a clip of the beginning of the movie--


And another link with two different clips--

Donna Browne