Monday, May 23, 2011

Violet, Pip, the Sullen Fledgling, Lola, rat poison

I was watching Violet and little Pip sleeping away this evening.

When suddenly Pip snapped up and twisted very fast.

And plopped back down again.

Then up again. At the time it looked like Pip was putting his beak to some part of his body and working his beak (maybe), I thought perhaps he had pin feathers coming in and as they itch something dreadful he was trying to get his beak on them to help open the sheaths.

But now, I'm not so sure. Is Violet's wing squashing him a little and he's reacting to that?

Is he attempting to turn over and he can't because of mom?
Or is it itchy pinfeathers.

He curls deep in.

Then plops back down on his face. But I think he may have resituated himself.

Because now look at those feet.


Earlier in the day, I'd seen a House Finch male feeding a slightly younger fledgling than the one pictured above. The chick was up in Dad's face, Dad was feeding as fast as he could, but fledge was flapping his wings so hard and so fast right in dad's face Dad was having to squint.

Here we have part 2 in the process, with a different dad and an older fledgling. this fledgling has been "told" by his parent that this frantic begging thing has got to stop and fledge must forage for himself. Dad then goes about making obvious and big feeding choices in hope that fledge will pick it up. But fledge liked it ever so much better the old way. He isn't impressed in the least that the gravy train has come to a screeching halt and it 's now up to him. In fact fledge has gotten, well, downright sullen about the whole thing. He doesn't even want to watch. He has a very bad attitude.

Does dad care? Not in the least.

Dad just keeps on with the program. And fledge refuses to try.

Wait! Something has caught his eye. And he might well be a little hungry by now.

But not that hungry.

Wait! What's this?

And suddenly he's stretching out to pluck something that looks tasty.

And there he's done it, Face festooned with dandelion fluff.

He still likes the other way better, but maybe, just maybe the new way isn't as bad as he thought.

From reader and contributor Diane D'Arcy concerning the rat poison theory of infertility in Lola--

Blakeman's theory is interesting but why would this effect females more than males? After all PM has been around "forever" and is still potent?

Diane, regarding the infertility issue--Male and female physiognomy is very different so no telling what process might be affected in a female and not a male or it might affect both the same. Actually I wasn't looking at the infertility issue regarding the sex of the individual hawk, but rather the individual's diet.

This doesn't of course rule out that there might actually be something that happens to a female's physiognomy and not a male's. But I'm not able to test that hypothesis but we might be able to test the one I posited about diet.

Lola seemed to prefer mammals. In rural areas, the female with her larger size is the one who goes after bunnies more frequently. And as Central Park has no bunnies, Lola often used to hunt rats and squirrels for herself and Pale Male, during courting, would hunt them for her as food gifts. (Wise bird, knows what his female likes.) Though he himself given his druthers it seems to love to eat pigeons. (Actually at his smaller size, the larger mammals are more work, squirrels also more dangerous due to possible wounds from bites that get infected, and he has lower calorie needs so even a smallish pigeon will do him for the day. ) Pale just does not eat many that I've seen. Therefore he is less likely to be having issues with rat poison. Or that's my impetus anyway.

I've often thought that was part of the reason he had outlived so many mates. He mainly sticks to his pigeon diet and therefore isn't prone to outright poisoning, long term low level issues like the proposed infertility, or the accidents that have gotten some of his mates, which now we know might have been due to neurological issues-- another side effect of levels of rat poison in their bodies.

I'm hypothesizing. Actually getting testing for rat poison itself instead of just physiological changes consistent with poison, is too expensive for the New York State wildlife pathology office's budget ordinarily so the only way to test the hypothesis is to collect prey data and if new mom suddenly becomes infertile in a few years, the data might support the current hypothesis.

Besides like Lola, sadly some hawks just disappear and we never get a chance to know what happened to them or to test them. The possible sample for anything is very limited when it comes to urban hawks.

For those who don't believe that human sanitation can with care absolutely control rats, (They don't eat? They don't live and propagate. Duh!) and is in reality is the only way to control rats or for those who really want to understand the issues behind rat poison and how rats get on in life in general, I highly recommend Robert Sullivan's book, RATS! And you can order a used hardcover online, with shipping your cost will be a whopping $4.22.

Donegal Browne

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