Saturday, June 04, 2011

Pale Male's Swollen Foot, Eldest Takes First Position, and Pip Swallows It Whole

Pale Male's photograph courtesy of

I admit it. Since the episode of Violet of Washington Square Park's hugely swollen foot and leg, I find myself automatically scrutinizing Red-tail feet and tarsi.

I was looking at photos of gorgeous angelic Pale Male and eeeeeek! The tarsus and foot of his left appendage are swollen.
Not as bad as Violet's thank goodness but certainly bigger than the other side.

Double click the photo above for a larger version and look for yourself. It's his left leg but on the right as you look at the photograph.

My mind immediately flashed on the fact that this is the leg that when sometimes perched on the Linda building he stretches out in front of him with the toes curled in a "fist" and just sits that way for awhile.

Now I'd wondered about that foot before and its strange positioning. I mean he did look very relaxed while doing it. Now I wonder if it eased it somehow? Had I missed a chronic perhaps intermittent condition all this time? He wasn't just relaxing that leg in an odd position for most of the years I've watched him?

I don't know yet but I'm going to try and find out.

Photograph courtesy of Rob Schmunk, Bloomingdale Village blog.
But in the meantime, Rob Schmunk reports that the newest "Eldest" has taken up the Divine nest pre-fledge position for hopping and flapping.

Because of the configuration of the Divine nest site, the eyasses tend to find the best locations within the limited space up there for particular stages of development and as they've chosen well, those locations tend to be the same year after year. As Rob points out the youngest eyass in the group of three is still relegated to the rear area most of the time.

Middle Child will tend to be up near Eldest who is in the pre-fledge position on St. Andrew's hand watching him hop and flap. And may on occasion actually get a chance to use the spot herself when Eldest isn't using it, depending on how long Eldest remains on the nest.

Once Eldest fledges, Middle Child will have first dibs on The Hand, with Youngest looking on.

Eventually Youngest will be up there all by herself and she will not like it.


Because the main action of the parent's attention will have moved to the trees and to Morningside Park. Oh, Youngest will still be fed well and nurtured, but Isolde will be off the nest much more often than she has been previously, helping Norman with the two that have fledged already.

The last eyass on the nest often but not always makes a decision to fledge, not an accidental swept-off-by-the-wind-exit that may happen to the first eyass. After two have gone Youngest gets the picture that it can be done and if she wants to hang with the family again full time, making the leap is the way to get there fastest.

Oh, and why is the oldest eyass called the newest Eldest? Because when we started out watching the St. John the Divine Cathedral nest, one of the first nestings we watched had two eyasses and they were called Eldest and Youngest. It is interesting how hawk watching traditions concerning a certain nest start, work, and then just--continue.

The best hawk names often say something important about how to identify the holder of the name. With eyasses the names tend toward information about age or size. Unless, of course, like Pip of Washington Square there isn't an issue of telling one from another.

For more about this Divine threesome, click on Rob's link under the photograph above.

Eldest could go off any day now, or last another week and a half. One never does know.

Next up from Robin of Illinois-Pip is now at the stage where she will swallow things whole which rather surprised some watchers of the cam. And I mean a great portion of a whole squirrel for instance.

On occasion this may backfire and the item will be too large and lodge in her throat. Often with the eyass's beak pointed straight up with a portion of the prey sticking out of it.

I remember one instance in which Little of the Trump Parc nest, stood for the longest time after swallowing a complete and fully feathered pigeon wing, with his beak straight up with about 4 inches of a long primary feather jutting up. He was breathing fine, he just couldn't get it down.

It was the first time I'd observed the phenomena and I was horrified that Little would suffacater ore strangle or have so life threatening food mishap. But Charlotte just stood and watched him for what seemed like an eternity before grapping the primary and tugging the whole wing back out for him so he could put his head back into a normal position. Undaunted he immediately did it again.

If this happens to Pip, Violet will allow the stuck prey to stay stuck for some minutes before dragging it out of her throat. There is a lesson to be learned here after all. Some eyasses will just swallow whatever it was whole immediately a second time, upon its removal like Little did. If Pip does this, Violet will then let it stay stuck for a longer period. Eventually pulling it back out, but also eventually the eyass will learn what "too big" to swallow is-- before leaving the nest. Off the nest she won't have the aid of a parent immediately to hand, so it is an important lesson to be learned before taking the big leap.

Watch a feeding in which Pip swallows "it" whole.

John Blakeman answers many questions about Red-tailed Hawks, in case you missed a chapter here and there. Well worth the read for the new watcher and a refresher for those who may be a bit rusty...

Donegal Browne


Karen Anne said...

I looked, not systematically, at a sample of photos on Lincoln's site and found this (I am not sure these are PM and not one of his mates):

first photo march 28, seems okay?

photo april 7 something wrong?

Is Pale Male banded? It doesn't look so, although wasn't he in rehab at one point? So at least there is not that complication?

Sally said...

Pale's foot does look a bit swollen, and I think i see what might be black scabbed bite marks on the "ankle"? Perhaps he got nipped. I have seen pictures of many RT's sitting in that same one leg out resting position you mention and if I weren't so covered up today I'd go looking for other examples but I cannot right now. Does give one pause though about a chronic condition.

Donegal Browne said...

Karen Anne,

No Pale Male is not banded. Most rehabbers, at least in NY, are not licensed to band or choose not to.

And yes Pale Male has been in rehab only once. He was cared for by Manhattan wildlife rehabilitator Vivian Sokol and she does not band. First Love, PM's mate who went to rehab at the same time went to the Raptor Trust in N.J and she was banded.

So no band on PM and yet he's recognized around the world.

I'd gotten a number of hits from a birding website in the UK and I clicked back on the referral to see what the conversation was about that was sending people to my site. It seems someone was asking if we were sure that Pale Male was actually the original bird Pale Male if he wasn't banded? The answer from the moderator was that not only is Pale Male the most photographed bird in the world. Hundreds if not thousands of pictures are taken of him on a daily basis but his special coloring makes him recognizable to thousands and thousands of people. Also I think that after having watched him for years, many people even with the variation in light on feathers just recognize him by facial expression, poses he takes and places his visits.

I think I see the photo you're talking about and will go nab it and zoom in for a close look. Thank you.

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Sally,

Thanks for pointing out that there might be marks I missed in the published photos. Should have zoomed in for a look. Will go do that now. :-)