Thursday, March 14, 2013

An Afternoon with Pale Male and Octavia and What's in the Bowl of That Nest...and Why?

 Photo courtesy of
  Here are longtime Hawk Watcher Stella Hamilton's  saturday notes from the field-- Pale Male and Octavia of the 927 Fifth Avenue nest.

Dear Donna, 

 I spent most of the afternoon hawk watching at the Hawkbench.  

I arrived at approximately 3:15. Palemale was on the nest, and Octavia was soaring . 

 3:28 Palemale leaves nest and meets up with Octavia on her favorite mating tree , an oak tree on 76th and 5th, and guess why .... To mate.  Palemale then flies off .and 

3:31 Pale Male returns to nest at with a twig and places it in deep part of the nest bowl. 

3:55  Both hawks soar. 

4:00 Palemale flies with small prey and eats it on terrace of building we call the ship or boat building. Plenty going on here. 

I decided to check out what's happening at the Plaza Hotel. 

4:20 I arrived at the Plaza and stayed there for about a half hour , but saw no hawks at all. I walked back up town to watch Palemale and Octavia. 

There was a lot of soaring and nest time together . 

At 5:05, both hawks were on the nest, then Octavia leaves nest and flies to her favorite mating tree on 76th. No mating observed at this time. 

Octavia decides to roost on tree on 72nd and Palemale roosts on tree on East Drive a few yards west of Alice in Wonderland. 

Stella Hamilton 

Keep 'em coming Stella!
Photo courtesy of


When it comes time to line the bowl of their nests, many NYC hawks peel the inner bark from trees as their material of chose for cozy nest bowl lining.   I've watched Pale Male, Lola, Charlotte, Junior, Athena, and Riverside Mom all do it in person and many other NYC  hawks via photo.  Therefore I'd thought without really thinking about it,  that bark was, when available, the material of choice for nest bowls by urban Red-tails.

And that dear readers is what one gets for thinking something without really thinking about it.  One must watch for those sneaky assumptions.  

 As it turns out, my thought was just that,  an assumption.  And it was wrong.

I would have thought that the Franklin Institute Hawks would be using the inner bark of trees for bowl lining too.  Not so.

 The male T2 has lined the bowl with evergreen boughs.  Now I can't say for sure that there aren't some strips of bark underneath but it looks pretty twiggy below the needles from here. 

In Pale Male's nest in past years, it is dry grass from one of the adjacent terrace's flower boxes that is gleaned and laid over the bark.

Now I'm told there  are deciduous trees reasonably close to the nest site at the Franklin. Therefore it would appear that the bowl lining of choice there, as opposed to making do as the deciduous bark isn't available, for this pair is evergreen.

My question then is, was this lining chosen after experimentation or was this the lining of say, one or the other hawks natal nest?

Donegal Browne


Sally said...

Donna, the nests I have watched online, hawk and eagle, all bring at least a sprig of evergreen to the nest. I know the Cornell hawks did it last year, too, and I've seen pictures of Pale taking evergreen to his. I wonder why he doesn't use MORE ever green? perhaps its the particular type of tree that has soft easy bark to peel? I've seen speculation that evergreen is a pest repellant, keep buggies off the chicks and freshens the nest? Or ID's the nest as the "chosen one".

Anonymous said...

nyu hawk nest lined with trash in years past, lol - easter grass, fabric, paper plate, plastic bag

Donegal Browne said...

You are so right! Depending on the availability or the experience or perhaps just how urban the hawk pair is, things can get pretty eclectic up there in the nest bowl.

Now that you mention it, though we could rarely see directly into the bowl of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr.'s nest, they too had a plastic bag one year. Though the best strange article they had, though briefly, was one of those long styrofoam "noodles" kids play with in swimming pools. It was on the Trump Parc nest which was very high and often had a stiff wind. It didn't stay up there long but Junior did manage to get it up there in the first place.

Though I think for pure variety the NYU nest might just take the cake. ;)

Donegal Browne said...


I too have heard those two possibilities as the possible reasons for the single sprig or two of evergreen on a nest.

The most common trees in cities are the London Planes as they are city tolerant. And I have seen that bark peeled but it also seems to me I've seen other species used from time to time. Though I haven't dug up the right notes as yet to check.

Anonymous said...

FI nest has had its share of trash nest lining in the past- (don't remember them using much bark- maybe dried leaves)-newspaper, plastic bags; one year kitchen utensils including a spatula which many believe is still buried in there.
I subscribe to the evergreens as sign of committment- Like the white smoke a sign that this is "the one" You yourself said PM most years places token sticks around new places to present options to his mate prior to the ritual "choosing" and settling in. I think the greens are the 2nd step in this. This year at FI (my theory anyway) is that the abundance of greens is T-2's way of bending over backwards to signify his committment - Last year he got a nest, a mate and kids by default this year "I choose this nest, it is mine too"
Donna from Philly

Donegal Browne said...

Hey Donna from Phillie, grand to have you aboard.

T2 already has a big gold star for pulling out the stops with his remarkable behavior last season and saving the Franklin Institute's formel's gravy. You may well have a point that this male is a hyper achiever, he dots his I's and crosses his Ts and if most males might bring a few evergreens he's the guy who's going to bring a bushel just to make sure his making his point and covering all the bases...and yes, showing his very firm commitment.

I didn't hear he'd brought a spatula. That's very creative. You never know what your family might need. :)