Saturday, December 16, 2006

Give a Pair of Urban Red-tails a Helping Hand

Pale Male the original urban hawk, stands on his nest.
Some readers will remember the 97nd St. hawks as they were called who, for a number of years, attempted to build their nest on an air conditioner at Mr. Sinai Hospital. And year after year, it did not work. The twigs just wouldn't stick.

Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte had similar problems at their site on The Trump Parc. With no pigeon spikes to anchor the twigs, they couldn't get enough material built up to keep the eggs in the nest. No matter what Charlotte did, the twigs blew away and the eggs rolled off. Then in 2005 as the eggs had gone over the edge yet again, they laid a second set. We had a bit of a drought that summer and therefore no cold drenching rain and less wind. The second set hatched nicely and with some luck and more nest depth, they should be fine again this year.

The point here is, that it's tough-going for urban RTs to find all the nest requirements they need for success in their urban setting. There are no doubt any number of factors that they take into account in deciding where a nest would work best. Perhaps, prevailing wind, prey availability, green space for fledges, protection from weather, morning or afternoon sun, privacy, distance from other raptor nests, are only some that may be at play. Only they know them all. And once they decide the optimum spot they'll try their darnedest to make a nest on just about anything, pieces of scaffolding, window ledges, ornaments, and the ever popular air conditioner that is in the spot they've decided is best. And they'll keep trying for years without ever having success.

We hawk watchers of course, think urban Red-tails are a grand addition to the urban ecosystem for many biologically sound reasons. And perhaps a tiny bit selfishly, we do love having a nest full of eyasses to watch and are very saddened when a nest fails. Forget saddened, we get downright depressed. Particularly when a pair fails year after year after year while we humans, stand on the ground looking up and thinking of all the possible things that might be done to help them to succeed in keeping their nest together.

Add the thought that in other cases, where there seem to be all the other territory and nest requirements hawk families need, including loads of rats that really could use some predation, but only blank walls or tiny windowsills for which there isn't the slightest chance of anchoring a nest, so Red-tails never even appear and try, that perhaps as was done with the Monk Parakeets, with the installation of the right contraption a pair of Red-tails might just be lured into taking up residence, building a nest, and starting a family.

Now that's a thought.

John Blakeman, our Red-tail answer man, reading all these discussions out there in Ohio, didn't just discuss, he decided to do something about it. He drew up some plans for contraptions, or as he calls them Nest Nooks, that could be installed and TA DA, where once there was a blank wall or a horizontal surface in which twigs would always blow away or just fall off, instead is the underpinnings for a lovely urban hawk nest.

Here's what John Blakeman had to say-

The attachment is a PDF document showing the RT nest support platform I designed. It's based upon wild nest dimensions, along with nest information I learned when I conducted a captive breeding trial with red-tails back in the early 1970s.

I'm not attaching the instructions and site management document -- which frankly just hasn't been written. But a structure could be fabricated from the drawing.

John Blakeman

(As I had trouble getting the picture big enough on the blog so the words could be read, here is a link, courtesy of Mark Brown, computer whiz, where the plan can be easily viewed. D.B.)

Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble understanding the drawings. In conventional engineering drawings, dashed lines represent hidden edges. They seem to be being used for something different here. I could figure out the wall attachment structure thanks to the side view, but I am baffled by the ledge attachment

Donegal Browne said...

Thanks Joyce,

Good question and as John Blakeman
made the drawings I'm forwarding your comment on to him for a more in depth explanation.