Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Has Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park Moved in with Bobby of Washinton Square Park?


Photo by Francois Portmann
http://www.fotoportmann.com/birds/


The only hawk that I knew who was so human habituated that she'd go about her business within a few feet of humans on a regular basis, no matter who the humans were, was four year old Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park, seen above.

That is until the new female appeared who has taken up with Bobby over at Washington Square and displayed the same sort of behavior.


Interesting.

Then a few days ago professional photographer and hawkwatcher Francois Portmann asked me to compare the physical characteristics of Dominatrix and Bobby's New Girl.

I did.
Hmmm.

Even more interesting.

Photo by Francois Portmann
http://www.fotoportmann.com/birds/
This is Dominatrix of Tompkins Square Park. She is as far as I know the darkest Red-tailed Hawk of name in Manhattan. Somewhat of a rarity in the Eastern United States as the population tends towards a paler hawk.

She also has a very heavy belly band that extends rather far down her sides beneath her wings and it also peaks down in the center onto her lower belly.


Her pale parts tend toward the creamy rather than bright white and she also does not have the white patch on her neck beneath her beak that many Red-tails have on the East Coast. The area is slightly lighter than her head but definitely not the usual contrasting area we often see here.

Also check out her mantle. That's the extension of her head color down over the sides of her shoulders and the top portion of her breast. Hers is quite long. In fact a number of hawks around the area don't really have much in the way of a mantle; their head color stops near the bottom of their necks.

(Isolde up at the Cathedral Nest of St. John the Divine has a distinctive mantle.)

Photo courtesy of roger_paw
New Girl who was seen checking the nest with Bobby in Washington Square Park.

I was going to call this hawk Bobby's new mate but having had the recent experience of Pale Male and his revolving females early last season, we probably shouldn't technically call her Bobby's new mate until courting and copulation occur. So I'll stick with the New Girl.


Check the New Girl's mantle, the belly band, and the other details observed as characteristics of Dominatrix.

That's it. Compare each characteristic. Keep looking.

What do you think?

Early on Francois brought to my attention Dominatrix's feet. Compare them with New Girl's feet and tarsi.

Taking into account the difference in light on the days the photos were taken, the feather coloration looks remarkably similar. As does the belly band pattern, long on the sides and peaked down at center, the saturation saturation, eye color (same age), mantle length, feet, tarsi, under beak patch...

Photo by Francois Portmann
http://www.fotoportmann.com/birds/

Back to Dominatrix again.

Look at the slope of her skull, the proportion of beak length to skull, depth of brow, and the light patches which constitute her "back pack straps".

And how about that attitude?

Photo courtesy of roger_paw
Bobby's New Girl hunting in Washington Square Park.

Compare the characteristics of Dominatrix just observed above with this photo.

I know. They do look alike don't they?

And Tompkins Square Park and Washington Square Park are 8 crosstown blocks (of irregular width) from each other.

See
Google Maps Move the map east of Washington Square Park to find Tompkins.


Not far at all is it?

Those who have been watching the New York City hawks over time have found it initially rather remarkable that if a female in a bonded pair is lost hard on breeding season that another female will be seen
with the male almost instantaneously.


The commonly accepted explanation for this is that there are unbonded hawks who are waiting near by with an eye on a pairs prey deep territory and likely even more important in New York City- their well proven nest site.

Last but not least, take into account the very similar and remarkable human habituation factor seen in the female observed in Tompkins Square Park and the female observed in Washington Square Park.

It is really quite out of the ordinary.

Are Dominatrix and Bobby's New Girl the same hawk?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Donegal Browne

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the hawks in question are those in the second and third photographs, they are definitely two different birds. The breast of the upper bird is much darker than that of the bird in the third photograph.

The new formel at Washington Square Park has incomplete coloring in her irises, indicating she’s in her third year. The eye color of the other bird (with the darker breast) appears to be dark brown, indicating an age of four or older.

The two birds are two birds, separate as to morphology, and perhaps also to geography.

But they may be sisters, hatched 3 and 4 years ago in some NYC nest, allowing both to have become markedly habituated to humans and rodent prey in parks.

–John Blakeman

sally said...

Interesting comparison. They both even have some faint banding on their "pantaloons" as well! I wish Fran├žois would take some comparable pics of the New Girl of similar quality. I know light makes a lot of difference, I have seen the color change on Pale Male with varying lighting. But there is something about the heads up, in-your-face posture of Dominatrix that I don't really see in the 2 pics of New Girl. She seems to carry her head flatter, less arch in her neck so to speak. And Dom seems to have the slightest light area on her eyebrow which NG does not? However the attitude and other characteristics certainly match! Francois has a new mission! wink wink...

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Sally,

I asked Francois if he might have time to do a little reconnoitering over at Washington Square Park and see if he could get some shots of the new girl. It would be very helpful to be able to compare photos from the same camera and same hand.

Not sure if I mentioned it in the blog but Dominatrix hasn't been over at Tompkins nearly as much as previously.

I would love to have reports come in with as many times as possible from watchers in both parks so we could more completely check that Dominatrix and or New Girl weren't sighted at the same time in both places. If they were we'd know for sure that they weren't the same bird. :) That would clinch the question.

Anonymous said...

Bird feathers change colour so much according to light. It is hard to compare color.

Daniel D.

Donegal Browne said...

Absolutely, Daniel!

Donegal Browne said...

Hi John,

I've now had more photos to compare of the WSP hawk. We may have to discount color completely along with light/dark and only look at markings and patterns due to the vagaries of ambient light, and the differences between photographers. camera settings and equipment. It appears these cause such striking differences in the reproduction of feather images that the images can't really be compared or relied on for comparison of color, saturation, or exposure. Hawks do look remarkably different even to the naked eye depending on where they are sitting and what the day is like.

D.B.

m.pipik said...

As to eye color, check out these two sets of photos
Portmann on 11/21
http://www.fotoportmann.com/birds/2011/11/21/rth-tompkins-sq-nyc/

and Roger_Paw on 1/1
http://rogerpaw.blogspot.com/2012/01/rosie-settles-in-bobby-arrives-at.html
Look for the photo on the street light You will also notice further on that her eye color changes with the shadows.