Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pale Male's Nest and the Red-tailed Hawk Nest in Central Park's Sheep Meadow--Offspring Are Allowed to Nest in Closer Proximity

Photo courtesy of

This is one of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks that has built a nest in a tree by Central Park's Sheep Meadow.  

The most prevalent common thought about this pair is that they are the hawks  who previously attempted to nest in the neighborhood of Central Park South, which is the street that borders the southern end of Central Park

Which brings up two questions a number of people who have contacted me have asked:

Where is Sheep Meadow? 

And how far is Sheep Meadow from Pale Male's Nest?

Time for a map of Central Park...
Starting at the bottom left (West)  of the park, cruise up (North) and hit the 65th St Transverse Rd.  Just above where those words are written on the map you'll see Sheep Meadow notated.  

(Tidbit 1: Sheep Meadow originally included a flock of sheep and a shepherd from 1884 to 1934.  During that time they were housed in a Victorian folly which in 1934 was turned into Tavern on the Green.)

Sheep Meadow in Central Park
Photograph courtesy of The Central Park Conservancy
 Sheep Meadow, between 66th and 69th Streets, is open from mid-April through Mid-November.  

Very soon the nesting hawks will have more company than they currently do. And the fact that during the summer, Sheep Meadow can be far more crowded than the above photograph reflects has some hawkwatchers concerned. 

Though as Sheep Meadow pair are obviously urban hawks or they wouldn't be there in the first place and the newest research has found that young hawks have a tendency to return to their natal territory to nest, one at least of the Sheep Meadow Red-tails could well be progeny of Pale Male and Lola or as the southern territory was altogether open,  Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte.  

(Though if Jr. was Pale Male's son as suspected, still related.)

By the way, I never saw Pale Male and Lola have very hostile interactions with Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte, which may be a clue to a relationship.

And as Pale Male and Octavia are allowing the new pair to nest so closely to the Fifth Avenue nest it may be a clue to a relationship there as well.

Some years ago before the research came out about the tolerance of offspring coming back to natal territory at breeding age to nest, one day during nesting season with eyasses on the nest, Pale Male and Lola were both on the nest when a third Red-tail landed on the roof of 927 Fifth Avenue just above them  and  looked down at everyone. (This was not a menacing posture at all.)  Pale Male was up there like a shot, but instead of screaming at the "interloper" and  knocking  him off the roof  for trespassing all Pale did was land on the roof about a foot from him and make an angry body posture.  The hawk stranger took on an OH, SORRY, kind of   look and zipped off.   Neither Pale Male or Lola screamed or chased him with blood lust in their eyes which is what happens if a stranger hawk even crosses the far borders of the territory ordinarily in natal season. 

After Pale's trip up to the roof, I can remember long time hawkwatcher Stella Hamilton and I just looking at each other with that kind of,  WOW, what just happened kind of look on our faces.   At the time, we talked about the fact that the intruder hawk acted like he just wanted to look at the nest.  No hostile body position, more like when Pale Male looks down from a tree at a person he knows and likes.  The only thing we could come up with that might explain the behavior, far fetched as it seemed, was that the third hawk may have fledged from that nest.  

Which some, no doubt, would have scolded us for anthropomorphizing, at the time.  As it turns out perhaps we weren't necessarily all that far wrong. 

If you happen to be in Sheep Meadow and want to see this nest, as tree nests are somewhat more vulnerable than building nests, and "which tree" is harder to explain than a building address,  a tree nest's  general location only, tends to be published,  look for someone with binoculars and they will very likely be able to direct you to the correct tree.

 Now onward Ladies and Gentlemen, move right (East) and up (North) and look for the ovoid blue shape on the map which is notated as the Conservatory Pond.  Some older maps label it as the Conservatory Waters but most patrons of  Central Park just call it the Model Boat PondAnd that is what you should call it too if you ask for directions, as most patrons of the park don't know its name of record.

(Tidbit 2:  The Central Park Conservatory was never built but periodically there will be regattas of beautiful little model sail boats, including a wee pirate ship with grog barrels, racing in the pond so you can see how the name morphed as it did.)

As we all know, Pale Male's nest is on Fifth Avenue, the right (East) border of Central Park and 74th Street. The street nearest to the center of the Model Boat Pond if it ran into the park that is, is 74th.  Or if you would rather figure it for yourself,  go down to the 65th St. Transverse and count up.

For those of you interested in computing distances the crosstown blocks or Big Blocks, as they are called,  are four to a mile.  The Little Blocks, uptown/downtown blocks, are twenty to a mile. 

These nests are not all that far apart at all, now are they?  

Tra La! Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne


sally said...

COOL! Thanks for that. I was thinking one of the pair look like a relative, perhaps, of Pale Male and Lola. I had read on another blog about Red Tails on the Museo Bario also? Or in that area. Do we know if there is a nest to the north? I remember no ill will between Pale Male and Lola and Jr. and Charlotte and their young in the park, either, and I think they used to be in that southern area of the park post fledging, didn't they? Wasn't Ziggy released into the trees just at the south end so his parents could find him?

sally said...

Is there another nest cam on Tompkins Square? Francois must have something set up, wonder if tis streaming or just for his use.

Donegal Browne said...

I asked Francois and he said there are no plans to stream it at the moment.

Donegal Browne said...

You're right Sally, I never ever saw any negative interaction between Pale Male/Lola and Pale Male Jr./Charlotte. Yes Juniors youngsters always ended up in the southern part of the park after fledging And also yes, Ziggy was placed in the south to be found by his parents as well.

In fact one year in which the Fifth Avenue nest had failed, Lola was photographed by Lincoln playing with a first year hawk on the buildings in Charlotte and Juniors territory without any fisticuffs from the keepers of that territory.

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Sally,

Isolde and Norman's nest at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is just north of the north boundary of Central Park overlooking Morningside Park. And yes, Ziggy was placed in the southern part of Central Park, in a tree with Ranger Rob and his sleeping bag underneath...just in case. Ziggy did her part by begging loud and and continuously, and the next day Charlotte and Junior showed up and started feeding and looking out for Ziggy as if there hadn't been a lag at all. Red-tailed Hawks are amazing!

Donegal Browne said...


Francois has been sending me video of the particularly good parts to post on the blog. Here is the latest if anyone hasn't seen it yet of dad attempting to feed the eyasses and mom finally taking over as he rather makes a hash of it. :)