Friday, June 03, 2011

Do Red-tails Drink? Violet of Washington Square, Home Depot Duck, and Being Passionate

Photograph courtesy of
It's hot up there! Pale Male pants after a trip to the nest. But he and Ginger Lima can fly down and get a nice cool drink from any of Central Park's numerous bodies of water. What about little Alpha who is stuck up there on 927 with the sun glaring down on her?

Photograph courtesy of
No water for her. In fact a reader inquired about how the little guys get water in this hot weather. Actually they don't get water.

The first nest of eyasses I watched when I first started watching New York City's urban hawks, was the second clutch of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr., on the Trump Parc nest. Those eyasses were even later in the season than these, I believe. There was a drought that summer and it was excruciatingly hot just watching them, let alone being up on that concrete corbel with no shade whatsoever.

I was anxious about the eyasses, stranded in the sun, no water...

I went home and started looking at the Red-tailed Hawk literature online. It turns out back in 2005, in the published materials which included information on the Red-tails that nest in Alaska to those that nested on cliffs in arid areas, no one had ever seen a Red-tailed Hawk drink. (Well no scientist, who'd published had anyway.) It said right there in black and white that no one knew if Red-tailed Hawks drank, or even bathed for that matter.

How weird. Well, prairie dogs don't drink, maybe Red-tails didn't either.
(The reason you never give a prairie dog a potato chip.)

So the next day, sitting on the Hawk Bench, I asked Marie Winn, author of Red-tails in Love if she knew if they drank. She said, "Ask Anne Shanahan". Anne Shanahan?

It turns out that Anne Shanahan and her camera walked past the Hawk Bench every day but she never stopped. Too shy?

Whatever the case, the next time Marie saw Anne she pointed her out and I trotted after her and asked my question. Actually I'm pretty shy myself so in order for me to do it, I really wanted to know the answer to my question.

It turned out that Anne knew many things that folks who spent much of their time on the Bench didn't know. She walked the Ramble and knew where Pale Male cached food for Lola. She knew the places that Lola ate it. She knew where they took the garbage to throw it away.
AND she knew if they drank or not. In fact she had documenting photographs that yes they did drink and they took bathes too, thank you very much.

Not having realized previous to that time how difficult it is to watch rural hawks. No human habituation for them. They're a big GONE. And not having put together that in Central Park there are literally hundreds of sets of eyes most days watching every move that the hawks, or owls , or warblers make. I suddenly realized that that some of the urban hawk watchers with their constant attention, and proximity, knew a whole lot more about Red-tail behavior in the "wild" than likely anyone else in the world. Certainly more than the scientists who'd published knew.


It was a revelation.

The next day Anne brought me a series of photographs of Pale Male drinking at Azalea Pond. Yup, he was drinking alright. Leans forward, comes back up beak dripping. That certainly answered that question.

But what about the eyasses and water? This one was in the literature. In fact the literature for all altricial birds. It's not like the parents can fly down and bring a Slurpy back for them. No money and no equipment for carrying water, right? Not quite true, eyasses get all the "water" they need when the parents bring prey to the nest and feed them.

Though the parent Red-tails weren't like Prairie Dogs, the eyasses were. They get the moisture they need from their food.

Evolution is a wonderfully handy thing.

Courtesy of NYU
When last I checked in on Violet and Pip, Violet had actually tucked her head and was having what looked like peaceful hawk sleep. I'm hoping that now she isn't having to crouch so often over Pip that at least a little of the swelling will go down on her bad foot.

Home Depot Duck

In from Jackie of Oklahoma,

BANGOR, Maine -- Aisle one: light bulbs. Aisle two: plumbing supplies. Aisle three: duck.

A mother duck opted to move out of her swamp residence and nestle her home -- eggs and all -- among the gardening supplies inside a Maine Home Depot store.

Instead of escorting the duck off the premises, Home Depot employees have been taking care of the bird and trying to give her some peace of mind.

Read more:

And for those who didn't catch the following link on mariewinnsnaturenews Here is a second chance in case you, like me, have been accused of being too "passionate". Vindication at last.

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