Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pale Male Takes Up the Non-hunting Fledglings Problem

 Pale Male pushes off!
courtesy of

Wednesday-- from reliable, stalwart, long time hawkwatcher Katherine Herzog!

About 3pm today in the Ramble, one of Pale Male's newly released offspring was spotted by hawk watchers....after watching her fly to several trees near Evodia Field and Azalea Pond....she flew to a tree near the "balancing boulder" just off the path to the Boathouse.  Shortly, thereafter, pandemonium broke out with very loud hawk screeching.  Three Red Tailed Hawks had converged overhead in a  tree near the boulder and it was determined that the three were Pale Male, his new female consort, and Pale Male's youngster.

Pale Male had a Red-Breasted Woodpecker in his talons which his new female was trying her best to acquire....instead Pale Male delivered it to the youngster.  While PM and the female flew towards Fifth Avenue....the youngster clutched the fallen woodpecker on the ground.  After a few minutes and being surrounding by curiosity seekers as well as the hawk watchers, the youngster flew with the food to a quieter location - the rocky outcrop overlooking the gill....(where the bull frogs hang out).  She look her time, over 1/2 an hour to dismantle and devour the entire woodpecker, head, feet and all.  The rain drove us for cover and I left the park at 4:45.

I was aware that Pale Male had noticed the two birds on Saturday as he flew in circles over them shortly after their release, but, that he recognized them as his offspring and has provided food for at least one of them - is truly astonishing! 


But I am still not sanguine about the youngsters' changes for survival.  They are still flying low - like they were just before their poisoning (muscles atrophied during their long captivity?) and their hunting skills seem to have eroded. None of the hawk observers, who have been on almost dawn to dusk watch since Saturday, have seen any hunting behavior from either young hawk.
Will be interesting to see if Pale Male will continue to augment their food supply.


Katherine Herzog


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Raptor Migration Parade Part I and The Audubon Action American Eagle Compact

1:21:27PM  There was no crow alert this time.  I just looked out and there the immature Cooper's Hawk sat at ease on one leg atop the Sparrow Pile in the drizzle.
1:21:50PM  And there she continued to sit.
 1:22:05PM  She continued to scan.
 1:25:52PM  Here in the profile you can see the different slope of the skull and beak compared to a Red-tail.
 1:30:39PM  Her contracted foot comes down and her right wing stretches slightly

1:30:46PM  She stretches and appears to see me.  If she did she didn't seem to care one bit.
1:30:47PM The stretching appears to have unsettled the sparrows in the stick pile and activated them.  But not enough to flush.  They know better than that.

To be continued...

But in the meantime, give some thought to signing the Audubon Action American Eagle Compact!

Join the conversation at The Eagles Nest Blog-

Could this be a place to talk about Urban Hawks and Secondary Rat poisoning?

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Does Pale Male Recognize His 2012 Fledglings? And the Monarch of Central Park Still Knows How to Impress a Girl!

The two fledglings of Pale Male and Zena who were poisoned not long after this photograph was taken and are now back in Central Park.               Courtesy of  


I'm thinking of the Franklin step-dad, stepping in as a stranger, to raise another male's young, contrary to everything we thought we knew about RTHs. 
PM's hormones may be waning, and that may signal to us that these young RTHs are now strangers to him, but he was seen flying overhead and watching. As you've said, and time has proven, as we are able to see more of the private lives of the hawks, never underestimate a red tail! 

Who knows?He may indeed still recognize them in some way, and pick up the training (and supplemental feeding) with his two surviving progeny. 
I was considering whether the two young'uns might stay in the Park, over-wintering there, with PM's help. Just because we haven't seen that kind of behavior before, doesn't mean it can't happen. Franklin's T2 is certainly testimony to that! 
I'm glad they painted the toenails and suspect that Rob will be keeping a careful and caring eye out, to see if they stay or leave. That was an excellent idea. WINORR is the BEST! And Rob is too.
And your blog is too! Thank you. 

Indeed, one must Never Underestimate a Red-tail!

But in this case I've a little snippet of past experience that makes me believe that Pale Male likely does recognize his previous progeny.
Back in 2005, I was watching the 927 Fifth Avenue Nest.  Lola was sitting on eggs and Pale Male had just dropped in  for a visit.  When suddenly, out of-- it seemed nowhere-- but likely from Madison the next Avenue beyond Fifth, a third Red-tail  appeared perched on the overhang directly over the nest and looked down at Pale Male and Lola.  Pale Male looked up and in a nanosecond he'd zipped up to the third Red-tail  and instead of bowling him right over backwards, Pale landed with a quick turn, less than a foot away from the new hawk, leaned over towards him and glared.  Third hawk, appeared to realize his transgression, looked utterly startled and hot winged it out of there.  Unexpectedly Pale Male didn't give chase.  He calmly floated down and landed on the nest again, as if nothing had happened. Not a whiff of the usual hot-pursuit-adrenalined-out-look hawks usually get in instances like these.  
Remember this was the time of year when the territorial boundaries are utterly rigid and no birds except perhaps some pigeons or a few dickey birds are allowed to loiter.  Even Gulls and Turkey Vultures learn to keep clear.  But in this case something was very different and after much thought as to "Why?", I began to think it was possible that the third hawk was one that Pale Male recognized and likely a youngster from the previous year who had come to check out the old homestead.

That said it does not necessarily follow that if Pale Male did recognize these two from the 2012 nest that he would necessarily pick up their training from where it was left off.   But then again, as Robin pointed out, T2 certainly surprised everyone didn't he?  
Though Pale Male may be a touch distracted at the moment with courting his now "New Girl", Octavia.  There are so many twigs and amorous flights and so little time.  
This of course does not keep the youngsters from watching Pale Male as he hunts.  Often the way adults teach techniques to their fledglings anyway.  
Though when the youngsters are six months younger the adult will make sure their attention has been taken from tussling with each other and killing rocks and twigs to the training at hand.  
At this point these two are old enough to pay attention on their own.  Therefore it may not be obvious that they are being trained but I believe their hawk eyes will be focused on the adult hawks in their environment.

And please God, no poisoned rats!

Photo courtesy of 
Pale Male and Octavia in courtship flight.  See the hanging talons?
 That's right!  Plus it's never too early to nail down one's mate for the upcoming season. 
Donegal Browne

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pale Male's Earlier Poisoned 2012 Fledglings Return to Central Park!

       Photo courtesy of Henry Willson / Senior Staff Photographer, Columbia Spectator
  Cathy Horvath releases one of Pale Male and Zena's previously poisoned Fledglings in Central Park.

I received an email this evening for Ellen Smithson, who recently relocated from Tucson, Arizona to NYC and who just happened to be enjoying Central Park when she stumbled upon the release of the two fledglings of Pale Male and Zena.  They who survived a bout of secondary rat poisoning under the care of Cathy and Bobby Horvath of WINORR, Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation.  

Ellen wrote in part-

I was taking a walk in the Ramble when I saw a long haired park ranger and a dark haired woman painting the toe nails of a large bird.  

I thought to myself, "Only in New York City".

There were others looking on during this phenomena so I too stopped to watch what might happen next.  

It was one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen. Two hawks  flew from the hands of a person into the freedom of  air and sunshine.  A sun that flashed off the gold in their feathers.  

Two hawks which were poisoned by anonymous people who'd set out to kill rats and who had been brought back to life by people who cared enough to do all the tending it took to get to this spot on this day.  It was a blessing.

I was told that there wasn't any guarantee that these birds wouldn't be poisoned again and that, I found, a very tragic thought.  How can people be so thoughtless?  Is there no other way? 

I then got my first look at Pale Male later.  I was befriended by some  very nice hawk people and we saw him fly over the younger hawks. I guess he recognized them as he didn't chase them away, which I'm told he would have done if he didn't know them.  

I think I'm going to like New York City after all. 

 Many thanks Ellen, and if you can be intrigued by people painting nail polish on a hawk's talons and wait around for the second act.  I think you definitely have the stuff to "like" the Big Apple.  Keep in touch!

Opera Star the third fledgling of this year's nest on 927 Fifth Avenue is believed to have succumbed to secondary rat poisoning,  as likely, did his mother, Zena.

A few of the  known lost to secondary rat poison are Ginger Lima, Pale Male's mate before Zena,   Hawkeye, mate of Rose, at the Fordham nest, Athena, mate of Atlas of the Triborough nest, and Intrepid, the beautiful Riverside Park Mom, who had lost three eyasses still in their natal feathers on the nest, due to secondary rat poisoning in a previous season. 

Though Pale Male's fledglings were poisoned while in or around Central Park by eating already poisoned rats, they were also released back to the area.  There are any number of reasons for doing this which include their familiarity with their natal territory and the fact that when it comes down to it, secondary poisoning is a problem all over the country. 

 Though Central Park has reputedly done what they can to remove poison, there are buildings which face the park which undoubtedly have not.

 Nowhere is truly safe for them. 

BESIDES...another reason why Central Park would be best, at least in my opinion,  is as these birds were so young when they were poisoned they had not had the time to be trained thoroughly by their super hunter father Pale Male in his many hunting techniques.  The ways of hunting are not innate for Red-tailed hawks.  They must be apprenticed to hunting by their parents.  The better the training  the more chance they have of surviving their first year, when a very high percentage of  young Red-tailed hawks die.

I'm hoping that Pale Male will pick up where he left off  as hunting mentor.  I realize that in young Red-tailed fathers the training of their offspring may come from hormonal urges.  A hormonal level that after six months Pale Male may not feel.  But just perhaps Pale in his many seasons of training young hawks, has the cognizance to know what they need and will do it because he knows it needs doing not just because his hormones tell him so. 

Donegal Browne