Friday, May 13, 2011

Regarding Violet--John Blakeman

Trying to get up off her haunches and toddle after eating.

My apologies everyone, Blogger has been down for two days. I've got quite a backlog so instead of putting it all in one post, I'm doing mini-posts, and I’ll try but things my not be strictly chronological as they've come in.) so keep checking back and scroll down to make sure you've seen the previous posts of today.

When the news came in that there would be no intervention regarding Violet's foot, I asked John Blakeman if he had any comments in response to that decision. Here is what he had to say--


As you've surely seen in the NYT web article, I concur with the decision to take no action in regard to Violet. I watched her all day, and noticed just as the those on site did that she appeared very normal and un-distressed, particularly as revealed by her rousing.

Here's my perception of what's happened. I think she very clearly had some expanded swelling in the foot in recent days (but much subsided today). I think this was caused not so much by the band but by plastic or nylon filaments that got caught in the band and then got wrapped around her leg. I saw some of those threads or fibers last week, and I wondered about those in this regard, which I believe has so helpfully come to pass.

We falconers put leather jesses around the legs of our trained hawks. These, of course, are loose enough to allow full circulation, with no pinching or constriction, but the gap is small enough so that the hawk can't pull the jess off its leg. Just as with Violet, the hawk soon learns that the jess will remain and that it can't be bitten or torn off. After a few hours of trying to do that, the falconry Red-tail just forgets about it, just as a dog forgets about its collar and a horse its bit and bridle.

But falconers know, from the required two years of apprentice training, that if a jess is put on too tightly the hawk will not learn to accommodate it. Instead, it will incessantly bight and tear at it until it is worn away. That's exactly what happened, I think, with the plastic or nylon materials that got wrapped around Violet's leg, partially ensnared in the band itself. Some how, she was able to extricate herself from that ensnaring stuff, a matter the people observing her today on the nest could readily see (as could I on the web cam images). There is no longer any artificial material wrapped around her leg. Her swelling is subsiding.

Yes, the band is still too tight, and should probably be eventually removed, if Violet can be trapped in the summer. But it's very clear now that she's living adequately with the band, and there was no present need to try to capture her and snip the band off.

Clearly, the bander (licensed by the state and federal government -- that's the only way to even acquire one of these bands) used a band one size too small. There is a lot of banter on the message boards about how cruel and inappropriate it is to put these metal bands on free-flying birds. Those thoughts are not accurate. Literally hundreds of thousands of wild birds are banded each year by licensed bird banders, and the data these activities provide are invaluable in knowing with certainty the movements and migrations of the banded birds, and even more importantly (something that needs to be learned about NYC and other urban areas with Red-tails) is the typical life spans of the hawks in these unique populations.

Bird banding provides invaluable scientific information on wild birds, and when done correctly, banding causes absolutely no harm to the bird. This case was a most rare and unfortunate one.

We now understand the reproductive and migratory biology of urban Peregrine Falcons, solely from falcon banding activities and data recovery. Bird banding is not an evil thing. Quite the contrary. It provides invaluable and otherwise impossible insights into essential avian reproductive and migration biology.

John Blakeman

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