Thursday, March 06, 2014

What Does a Red-tailed Hawk Nest Look Like? Take Your Pick! And a Paper Documenting a Red-tailed Hawk Nest Tended By Three Adults

Most of us are familiar with Pale Male's nest, but this 2008 photograph with Pale Male's late mate Lola on the nest, shows the proportion of humans juxtaposed with the familiar image of the Fifth Avenue nest.  You must admit that this nest is one of the more spectacular urban Red-tailed Hawk Nests.

For why those men are up there see the link below.

And a classic rural Red-tail nest in a tall oak tree with plenty of visibility for occupants.  This nest was active on County Highway M, a few miles outside of Milton, Wisconsin, in 2009.

The M nest was occupied by a very experienced and downright clever pair of Red-tailed Hawks.  They were nicknamed Mr. and Mrs. M.  This is Mr. M sitting on the nest.  When he became aware that I was watching him for the first  time, he began to pull leafy twigs over his head.  I have watched many many nests yet I have never seen another Red-tail do this.  As I say the M's were extremely clever.  They are also the pair I watched hunt in tandem.  One hawk flushed a bird, and chased it rather leisurely into the talons of the waiting mate.

For a further look at their nest, and their fledglings-

 The urban but tree nest of the Riverside Park Hawks, Intrepid and Builder, in 2008, precariously perched on the end of a limb over a busy urban highway.

The formel, Intrepid, sits the nest.  This was the first nest of two first year parents.  The pair got better at nest positioning as time went on.

  Today I went out looking at nests that I knew about and ran across this Red-tail sitting in a thorn tree, surveying the field in front of a treeline where last off-season I had thought I'd seen a nest.  
Note the nest down and left of the hawk in flight.  By far the greatest pecentage of Wisconsin's rural Red-tail nests are in oak trees similar to the M's nest above.  This nest is not in an oak and it isn't in the crown of the tallest tree either, though it does overlook an open area.  There are no strong crouches for a nest in the crowns of these trees as well as the tree not being the preferred species.
Here is a closer view.  These trees run along a railroad track and the railroads periodically clear out the growth along the tracks. The nest is a bit skimpy besides.  It is possible that this is a secondary choice nest.  Though in other ways the territory is quite good.  Just a very very short way to the south is a dairy farm.  Cows eat grain in the winter and grain means rodents so this could very well be a high prey area so perhaps they've made the sacrifice of a less than prime nest tree for prey availability.  As far as I can see with what would be the bounds of a territory there are no prime trees.  There are other Red-tails surrounding this area.  We'll see what happens as the  season progresses. 
Screen Capture by Jackie Dover of Tulsa
Another urban nest, that of Kay and Jay (Jay featured above) situated on the TV tower of KJRH TV Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Also from today's excursion, a very large nest situated in an oak tree some miles from the previous rural nest. .  In fact this nest is large enough to possibly be that of an eagle though I don't see any of the super large twigs visible that are often found in an Eagle nest.  Also there is a house not far across the road from this nest.  Red-tails are cheeky enough to nest this close to humans but so far I've not seen an eagle's nest this close to a house.

Now we've covered the criteria of a Midwestern Red-tail nest, a few more of the creative Red-tailed Hawk nests in urban areas.

Photo by Peter Richter of
The substantial nest of Atlas and Andromeda on the Triborough Bridge in New York City.

 Photo courtesy of UW-Madison
A window sill nest on the campus of UW-Madison in 2012 which sported its own nest cam. 

And while I was looking into this nest I incidentally came across a very interesting paper which documents a Red-tail nest tended by three adults...the second case on record.
  For more on triple parental care, click the link below.

 Photo courtesy of
 The Trump Parc nest of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr.

Photo courtesy of Brett Odom
Charlotte and Junior's next choice of nest sites after the Trump Parc site proved too exposed to reliably foster the hatching of eggs.

Isolde stands behind St. Andrews head at the nest of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Harlem, NYC,  just before feeding her eyasses.

As you can see, Red-tailed Hawks are brilliantly adaptive when it comes  to finding a site to build their nests.  Keep an eye peeled and you may find one in the least expected place.

Happy Hawking
Donegal Browne
Unattributed photos are taken by me.

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