Monday, January 31, 2011


Photo courtesy of Lincoln Karim on
Many thanks also to Lincoln Karim for the primary observations of both contenders for the spot of consort to Pale Male
January 30th, 2011
Pale Male and the new, New Girl

Professional photographer and longtime and almost daily watcher of Pale Male, Lincoln Karim of reports that Pale Male has taken up with a different female. She is a very light hawk who looks very much like Pale Male himself. If she wins The Monarch of Central Park , identification of who's who won't be a matter of a glance for hawkwatchers.

By the way, as usual, any musings I expound upon on the blog are mine and aren't to be taken as the opinions of any of the other blog contributors unless they say they are.

Sally of Kentucky, after scrutinizing Lincoln's photographs for possible differences between the two hawks, said this--

Pale Male's new friend, though very similar, seems to have no bands on her tail, a darker, less defined white "chin" with more brown stripes in it, and perhaps fatter spots on the belly band. I think he has whiter eyebrows as well.

All good differences, thanks Sally, though after looking carefully, I think in one photo I can see that the new hawk does have a very faint band on her tail, but it is pretty indistinct. People are going to have to be on their toes to catch the cues when they see one of them on the move.

And yes, the previous candidate, Ginger hasn't been seen around Pale Male for some days.


Photo Courtesy of
January 24th, 2011

Go to Lincoln's site, the 2011 Archives for January 24th, and look at the sequence of photographs which includes the above photo as the 13th in the progression. Then click back and read the following.

Barring some misfortune occurring within the last few days to Ginger the previous candidate for Pale Male's mate, here is what I think happened.

Late on the day of January 24, Lincoln photographed two hawks on the antenna of, I think, the Oreo building. He didn't think either Red-tail was Pale Male and neither do I.

First the back story--
Some years ago, there was a debate on original Regular and author of Red-tails In Love, Marie Winn's blog, as to just why hawks and other raptors have reverse sexual dimorphism.

To put it simply, the girls are bigger than the boys.

All the obvious things had already been scientifically discounted such as a bigger female keeps the eggs warmer and that would be a favorable adaptation. Turns out it didn't make much difference. As did any of the other things we came up with except...

I hypothesized that the females were bigger because they fought each other for the right to court an available male.

That is the accepted reason why males are bigger than females in species such as White-tailed Deer, correct? The biggest, strongest, healthiest males get all the females and make bigger, stronger, healthier babies.

Therefore my thought was, as attrition is supposedly higher in females of raptor species, and therefore need to be replaced most frequently in pairs, the biggest strongest, healthiest, and feistiest females would fight each other for the prize of an available prime male with prime territory.

It made sense to me though I didn't make total headway in convincing every last skeptic to say the least .

Since that time, I've been wondering, among many other things, why in some cases Lola was perfectly happy to allow Pale Male to run off single intruders to the territory while she sat the nest. But in other cases she'd whip off the nest like a missile, bear down on the intruder screaming and seriously chase that particular hawk away, leaving Pale Male to hot wing it to the nest and take it over. I wondered, "Are those particular intruders female?"

Ever since that debate on Marie's Blog, I've been trying to find situations and observations where my hypothesis could be tested.

First Lola disappeared, then Ginger appeared to be taking on Pale Male unchallenged. At least that's how it appeared, but during this time of year there are ever so many fewer observers than there will be once the hawks take to the nest. But that would be too late.

Then Lincoln photographed the sequence of events that could be the first documentation of the behavior that I was looking to find in Central Park, that I've heard anyway. (There was a possibly telling incident in Brooklyn that might also be documentation for the hypothesis.)

The first photograph of the antenna hawks, shows a hawk landing on the left of the antenna and the hawk I identify as Ginger is on the right. The hawks appear to be relatively the same size. Neither is noticeably smaller which Pale Male would be.

In the second and third photograph, the newly arrived left hawk, which is paler that the darker hawk on the right, takes an offensive stance and gives the hawk on the right offensive looks.

The left hawk then takes to the air and goes for the right hawk in a way I've seen hawks behave in the country when menacing a rival in a dispute.

Go to the 9th photo in the antenna sequence (or the 13th from the beginning of that size photo) Left hawk is above Right Hawk. Look at Right Hawk's belly band and head. That looks like the curve and saturation of Ginger's belly band and the darkness of her head.

Whether the hawk on the left is the new, New Girl, is quite possible or alternately it might be another female who was in on the female stramash as well.

In the 9th photo of January 30th, note the lighter eye color of the new, New Girl.

As the current consort of Pale Male is so pale herself, I looked up the synonyms for pale on . All of which it turns out, have rather negative connotations.

pale Part of Speech: adjective Definition: light in color or effect Synonyms: anemic, ashen, ashy, blanched, bleached, bloodless, cadaverous, colorless, deathlike, dim, doughy, dull, faded, faint, feeble, ghastly, gray, haggard, inadequate, ineffective, ineffectual, insubstantial, livid, lurid, pallid, pasty, poor, sallow, sick, sickly, spectral, thin, unsubstantial, wan, washed-out, waxen, waxlike, weak, white, whitish Notes: a pail is a bucket while pale means whitish in complexion or very light colored.

See what I mean?

Though I find it quite interesting that haggard which is used to identify a wild hawk also can mean "pale".

But in the meantime blog reader, Jane of Georgia, had sent an email with what she thought upon seeing the newest female--

After seeing Lincoln Karim's gorgeous pix of her, I’m suggesting we call her Pearl. As he describes her, I think she has that same warm buff, champagne color to her and that made me think of Pearl.

We love that Pale Male is so popular with the ladies!


And Red-tail females have the right idea, Jane. Forget the casseroles, and just get out there and dance!

Donegal Browne


Gemma said...

I love the name "Pearl Feather" for her, if this indeed is Pale Male's new mate.

Gemma said...

I love the name "Pale Feather" for Pale Male's new mate, if indeed she is that.

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Gemma,

Good to hear from you. I assume that once Pale Male is copulating with whomever that that will absolutely be the new mate.

Before that, we'll know for sure if there are more female interactions and Pale Male helps his female run the other female off. At least I think that's how it will work. :-)