Monday, March 10, 2014

The "Beresford Couple", Pale Male, and the Franklin Institute Red-tails

Photo courtesy of

Tonight I opened my email and found a note from long time blog reader and contributor Sally of Kentucky-

Lincoln has pictures at the end of the blog of two RTs labeled "Beresford Couple".  Also Pics of Pale sticking on  527. What new drama is unfolding?

Hi Sally, it may well be only the usual preliminaries of taking to the nest dramas (see also below after my comments those from watchers of the Franklin Hawks in Philadelphia) that are going on once again.

But first lets take on the "mystery couple" at the Beresford.

As you know it is common practice for Red-tailed tiercels to give their mates a choice of nest sites every spring.  

And for many seasons the second choice nest site for Pale Male and his mates has been on the Beresford.  

In fact Pale Male and Lola spent many mornings perched on the Beresford, sitting in the sun.  Early in the day sitting high up on the Westside facing east can be very pleasant and warming particularly on chilly Spring mornings. And in the meantime Pale Male would take twigs to a site on the Beresford as a secondary choice of nest.   But without fail his mates have always chosen 927 Fifth Avenue in the end. 

I can't be positive as I'm not on the spot, and light when using a camera can lie but it is possible that the pair in the photographs copulating on the Beresford are Pale Male and his current mate. The male is paler than the female and relative sizes do match.

We don't always notice twigging and copulation in the secondary spot so this behavior when we do notice can be unsettling.

That doesn't mean that all secondary nests are rejected but in the case of Fifth Avenue I cannot imagine Pale Male or his mates switching.  After all 927 is a very successful site and certainly one of Pale Male's selling points when he courts. 

And if it were a different pair I would think that the Fifth Avenue pair would have been seen taking measures by now. 

But as original hawkwatcher Ben Cacace used to often say, "Never underestimate a Red-tail".  And as I say,  "Never be surprised by new behavior in a Red-tail!" 

Though after 20 some years, Pale Male is very much bonded to 927, I would think something spectacular would have to happen in order for him to switch. 

Below see a report in  which the Franklin Hawks have been seen twigging a new site and their watchers are concerned.

From Kevin Vaughn, on the Franklin Hawkaholics Facebook page (link below)
Dear Hawkaholics,

Over the last 5 years, this group has been privileged to see Mom and Dad and then Mom and T2 raise 15 hawks at the Franklin Institute. In that time, a fine community has evolved with the shared interest in the observation of this nest.

Over the past two days, Carolyn Card Sutton and today, both of us, have observed T-2 and Mom gathering materials for nest building, but they are flying them to the light platform over the train yards at 30th Street. Unles
s their behavior takes a sharp change, it looks like they will be establishing a new nest there.

It is largely inaccessible, and view-able only from a distance. For all of us who have been enthralled by their story, this is difficult news. The platform has no nearby trees or buildings, and they are sandwiching the nest between the bottom of the lights and the platform that sustains them.

Last year, Mom and T-2 attempted to build a nest at the Glaxo Smith Kline building but abandoned that effort and moved back to the FI, although it was at an earlier point in time. We can hope that is what they will do again.

Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation, and will post some pictures of what we were able to see today, but we wanted to prepare for what might be a disappointing season of observation.
Note that the site on the tower, at least to humans and not just because of the lack of amenities for humans to watch, appears inferior to the site the Franklin hawks have used in the past.  The previous site has been used for five years so there will be bonding to it.  But also we should keep in mind that as last year there were fledgling fatalities, though this has never made Pale Male switch,  perhaps the Franklin pair, for that or other reasons known only to them, may be just a little more serious about the second choice this year but still keep their spot on the Franklin Institute.
As always though, one can never say never with Red-tailed Hawks.
Happy Hawking
Donegal Browne


sallyl said...

The Cornell University Red Tails Big Red and Ezra at

have been nesting on the athletic field light poles for at least the several years I have been following their nests. They did switch poles, much to the pain of the university folks who had to move the nest cam, and their fledglings to tend to end up on the ground in the bushes or strutting through faculty parking lots. Sometimes they do make the trees across the parking lot. I would think fledging in a rail yard is going to be a bad experience. I hope I am wrong.

Donegal Browne said...

Yes, sometimes Red-tails do make some "interesting" choices about changing nest sites and sometimes they do seem to choose a less desirable site than the one they used previously.

Tis a mystery. But one would suspect particularly with experienced urban hawks that they have their reasons, though quite baffling to us as we haven't noticed a particular problem.

Still hoping the Franklin Hawks are only twigging a secondary choice nest...

Fingers crossed!