Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pale Male's Mates-the Eye Color of Ginger and Lola and Which Buteo Are the Crows Chasing in the Backyard

Photo by Francois Portmann
Ginger, Pale Male's New Girl

From Sally of Kentucky--

Hi Donna.

I was looking back at pics from 2002 trying to figure out if we know if Lola was an older bird or a pale-eyed bird when she joined Pale Male? In most of the pictures it looks to me that she has more rusty/chocolate light in her eyes, not the bright pale eyes that Ginger has, so I wonder if we even know how old she was? She could have been older than Pale for all we know...Just curious since you've been around the hawk bench and know people, do we know if she was an older adult when she arrived?

Thanks! Sally

Hi Sally,

Good question. Though do keep in mind that some Bench Lore like mythology has evolved from the bare facts and I've no way of knowing which parts have evolved away from what may have been the original facts over the years. Though I suspect the dates have not evolved and are literal.

It’s my understanding from what I've been told at the Hawk Bench, that young Lola appeared in 2002, and was thought to have been hatched in 1999 by the color of her eyes. She was considered a three year old hawk. Therefore she was originally called Lolita after the novel of the same name as at three, she wasn't considered quite mature as she wasn't 4 years old as yet. And as Pale Male having first been sighted in Central Park as a brown-tail in 1991 was the older "man" the book came to some people's mind.

This I think was the first instance of "The Naming Conflicts" which have haunted Manhattan's hawkwatchers to a lesser or greater degree ever since. Some people thought that the name Lolita was so disrespectful they couldn't bear it and there was a schism amongst the hawkwatchers at the Hawk Bench. (At some point later the name was shortened to Lola, possibly as a compromise.)

In fact one gentleman who is a wonderful observer and still watches raptors in other parts of Central Park has not returned to the Bench I'm told, at least in the daytime, for two decades because of how disrespectful the name Lolita was to him. He did rather magically appear one evening while Marie Winn, Lincoln Karim, I, and possibly another watcher were still at the Hawk Bench. It was one of my most informative nights sitting on the Bench as this astute Regular, along with Marie, were absolute founts of information about Pale Male's early night roosts and any number of other choice bits of information.

A bit of a tangent, just to say, that Pale Male and First Love were both very young hawks working on their first nests in 1992 and as John Blakeman has pointed out is often the case, a pair in which both are inexperienced often have a year or two of unsuccessful nests before they get everything right. And such was the case with Pale Male and First love. They built a nest on the backstop of one of the ball fields and the eggs fell out and smashed on the ground. They then attempted to nest in a tree, and that is when they were mobbed by crows, both were injured, rescued, and taken to rehab.

When First Love had not returned in the Fall of that year Pale Male took Chocolate for a mate. Chocolate was an older hawk who was blind in one eye but she knew her stuff when it came to nesting. She showed Pale Male, (at this point some might also be considered disrespectful as they called him her "boy toy" as he was young and inexperienced), how successful nesting was done.

Therefore as Pale Male was lucky to have had Chocolate to show him the way, so were and are Lola and Ginger lucky to have had and have the very experienced Pale Male to teach them.

Now back to answer the original question, Lola as a three year old had darker eyes on her first sighting than the lighter eyes that Ginger has being she is only two years old, the age quoted for her by Red-tailed Hawk specialist John Blakeman.

As far as I know, Ginger is Pale Male's youngest mate to date. Though not as young as he was when he took up with First Love.

I hope that helps Sally.


This is now where we are taking up again. But first the preamble, earlier today I had looked out the door as I'd heard cawing and watched the Christopher Crow family mobbing a juvenile Cooper's Hawk. The hawk was just taking a dive into the human sized nest when I looked out. I got a great view of his tail as he heading down and I ran to grab my camera out of another room. When I got back there wasn't a bird in the back yard to be seen. And I'm talking not even a sparrow.

Later I heard the same kind of cawing and went again to the door. This time with my camera. And once again there were Christopher, Carol, and Junior but this time they were sitting in a tree to the left vocalizing.

But what were they talking about?

Christopher moved up with Carol and then suddenly a buteo I took to be a Red-tail headed from the left somewhere and flew across the yard to the Maple tree in the far rear.

She landed and looked back at the crows. Note her tail isn't visible but she seems to have the "backpack strapped" back of a Red-tail.

In actuality this was her size from my view. See her center near the right edge of the spruce?

She surveyed her surroundings. The crows didn't give chase.

She then decided to make a break for it. This is where things got a little weird. She has a patagial mark though a lighter one than usual, which is supposed to be seen only on Red-tails. Now look at her right wing. It looks to have a large white area on it. Red-tailed hawks don't have a white area there. Then again, Wisconsin is the world capital of albinism so perhaps that wings is albinistic in that area.

Is that a red tail? Not so one could tell it isn't.

Gosh on the down flap it turns out that it can be seen that the left wing matches the right when it comes to that white area.

By the time hawk gets across the yard, two of the crows have begun to give chase.

The crows do a few dives at the buteo.

They chase her further into the park and out of sight.

A little later Christopher does a fly-over. He appears to be checking that the area is still free of raptors.

The hawks are on the move. Driving down the highway I saw any number of Red-tails and also a mature Broad-winged Hawk on a pole by the road. The Broad-wing was certainly traveling through because there are no confirmed residents of that species in this county.

Was that hawk a Red-tail? If so what's with the white patches? Now a Rough-legged Hawk has white wing patches but it doesn't have a patagial mark and it's belly is quite dark as opposed to what appears to be a reasonably light belly with a faint belly band on this bird.


Slightly later I looked out and the the little birds were having a feeding frenzy at the feeders. With the raptors around they'd been taking the better part of valor and not exposing themselves. Now apparently gone, the Juncos, House Finches, Chickadees, and House Sparrows were on a feedng frenzy. and they were eating at levels that weren't their usual feeding heights. The Chickadees who ordinarily eat from the sunflower seed feeder were foraging under the glider as the House Finches and the Juncos, yes those normally never-leave-the-ground-to-feed-Juncos were vying with the House Finches for that feeder. And all of them having been kept from the feeders by the raptors were chowing down like there was no tomorrow. Though there wasn't a Mourning Dove in sight.

Later, after dark, I discovered five Mourning Doves feedng by the back porch light in the seed area, with Doorstep, Friend, and Buddy doing their pre-roost warming in the distance. That's where those photos near the top come in.
I've seen them at the bath that late in the day frequently. But eating in the dark? Nope.

Adapting to the day.

Donna Browne


sally said...

Red Tail I think too, but then I am not that familiar with other species. zoom further on that pic of the bird flying off, about # 4 or 5 before it is a sliver int he sky, wiht both wings down, and I think the taail looks reddish.

Donegal Browne said...

Thanks Sally, I thought the tail looked reddish in that photo also. I'm thinking after reflection that it's a pale Red-tail with possible feather albinism in spots.

I get an eye out but didn't see here today, which of course doesn't mean she wasn't here. Just that I didn't see her.