Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fordham's Rose Sits Her Nest, Blakeman Responds to Odom, the Unigue Nest of Charlotte and Jr.and an Update from Rehabber Bobby Horvath

Photo: Christopher Lyons
The Fordham Nest-Note the several evergreen boughs.

Photo: Christopher Lyons
Rose sits the nest.

I'd been emailing Chris Lyons and asking after Fordham's Hawkeye and Rose so he went in specially today to check. By the way, access to the Dealy roof is more difficult these days as one must be accompanied by Campus Security.

Okay, I went over to the campus yesterday (a day I did not have to go over there, I'll have you remember), and it looked bad from the ground. I couldn't see anybody in the nest, and this piece of black filmy material that has somehow gotten lodged at the rim of the nest was flapping around wildly in the wind. I was worried this might act as a 'bird-scare', and deter the hawks from visiting the nest. Plus it seemed to be causing the wind to have a greater effect on the structure of the nest than it otherwise would have. I only noticed it recently, and I wish there was some way to get it off of there, but a bit late now, and it would take a cherrypicker.

Then Hawkeye showed up, and added a sprig of pine to the nest--he's really obsessive about that. I didn't see any sign of Rose getting up to greet him. Then Dennis Cassidy of Campus Security returned my call and said he'd meet me over at Dealy. We went up on the roof, which was very wet, and very windy. I took a look over at Collins through my binoculars.And there was Rose on the nest. She absolutely was not there on Tuesday, the last time I got up on the roof. She COULD have started Wednesday, but I tend to doubt it.

From up on Dealy, the piece of black fabric, which seemed like a big deal from the ground, looked insignificant against the full bulk of the nest. No sign that it bothered Rose at all. Rose got up several times, and looked into the nest. She also flew off the nest briefly, soared around, then returned, and settled back in.

Two crows flew nearby, cawing loudly, but Hawkeye saw them off. I could not see all the way into the nest, even from a substantially higher angle. No way to be sure there was an egg in there. But IMO, there was an egg in there. March 20th seems to be The Day for these two.

I couldn't hold my camera steady in the wind--even with image stabilization, the pictures all turned out lousy, and I had to combine the optical and digital zooms, which degrades the image. But these should give you an idea, at least.

Christopher Lyons

Photo: Christopher Lyons
Fordham Hawk off for a soar.

I'd asked after the male Red-tail hawk with an injured leg for which there was some concern might be the adult male from the PS nest on the air conditioner. Here's Bobby Horvath's update on his condition.


The male adult is doing much better. I wasn't too sure about him at first. At least no fractures evident from the x rays but unfortunately they cannot rule out tendon, ligamint, soft tissue , and or nerve damage between his talons to his hip . He only had 1 working leg and couldn't stand for the first few days so obviously couldn't tear food unassisted so we had to feed him cut up pieces till he could eat alone. He's now perching and using the foot but it isn't 100% yet. Tomorrow or the next day Ill put him in the flight cage to see what he can do. Ill let you know.


Photo: Brett Odom
Charlotte comes out of her unique RT "cavity" nest, conceivably the only one in the world. More from Blakeman on that topic.

Brett Odom had questioned John Blakeman's take on young parents and scant nests, here is what Mr. Blakeman had to say in response-


I still think my observations on nest shallowness and adult immaturity, etc., are valid. The birds don't build nests with a calculating, intellectual consideration of depth, temperatures, or any other physical factor. They just instinctively throw the nest together, very ritualistically (a word I use a lot in describing RT behaviors).

The 7th ave nest, behind the glass window on the big ledge, is as weird as any anywhere. This is the world's only cavity nesting Red-tail. Although the cavity is the size of a small room, it's a cavity nonetheless. The nest is thoroughly enclosed on all but one side. Weird. Every other RT nest is out in the open, with nothing but sky or leaves arching entirely over the nest. This nest is not just on the big ledge. It's on the ledge wrapped around behind the glass window. The world's only inside-nesting Red-tails. They've got their own NYC flat. (Wonder what the rent is up there?)

John A. Blakeman


A Dark-eyed Junco shelters in the birdie sized gazebo. His buddy cleverly forages in the snow under the picnic table. It provides some shelter from the snow but also from the resident Cooper's Hawk.

Not only has Stealth Robin returned to guard last season's territory from interlopers but I spotted my first Goldfinch of the season today. Wonder if he's thinking of coming back too early?

At midnight the snow was still falling and the Snow Wraiths had begun to dance.
Donegal Browne

Friday, March 21, 2008

Red-tailed Urban Nests-Scant Ones In Particular

Photo: D. Browne
Charlotte on the Trump Parc Nest-June 10, 2005
Note the depth and distribution of the nesting material.

Photo D. Browne

Night Falls: Charlotte on the Trump Park nest. June 14, 2005

Twigs had fallen from this side of the nest and we thought the "noodle" may have been added in an attempt to keep the twigs on. Now keep in mind this nest site had been used for at least three season and it didn't get larger it often seemed to get smaller until there was enough eyass feces to stick it down a bit better.

See the top of Big's head just past the item that looks very much like a kid's swimming pool noodle. (In order to use shorthand for the eyasses and minimize superflous words and typing , the largest eyass was named Big and the smallest Little.) Earlier they were Likes Rain and Doesn't Like Rain....too long and clumsy though originally funny

After reading John Brakeman's previous post that included some thoughts on the young hawks nesting on the air conditioner at PS 188, Brett Odom, who keenly watches Charlotte and Jr., emailed his thoughts on shallow nests and young hawks.


I read your post from March 17 and noted where John Blakeman discusses the shallowness of the PS 188 nest and equates that with the youth and inexperience of the PS 188 pair and could be problematic in raising a successful brood.

While I certainly do not argue that the PS 188 pair is both young and inexperienced and their shallow nest which is built on an air conditioner cover could pose incubation problems, I would like to point out that Charlotte and Junior’s first nest at the 7th Ave. location was also incredibly shallow and the bowl of the nest possibly had some exposure to the foundation that the nest was built upon.

I say last year because this year they have added more nesting material and it is a slightly larger and deeper nest. However, because of its location behind a dirty window, it is very difficult to see exactly what shape the nest was in, even with binoculars and a spotting scope.

The most significant difference I see between the 7th Ave. nest and some of the other photographed nests around the City is that the 7th Ave. nest is not built on top of a foundation with obstructions (e.g. pigeon spikes) or material made of an open network (e.g., tree branches, metal mesh or grill work). Instead, it is built on a solid metal ledge. I would not be surprised if Junior and Charlotte?s nest last year was more donut shaped with very little "floor" since there was no fear of eggs dropping through the bottom of the nest or windy updrafts that would interfere with incubation.

Instead, the pair appeared to be more concerned with building high nest walls to keep any eggs from rolling away. Most of the other City nests, with a few exceptions, are either built in a tree, on some kind of open man made material or on top of pigeon spikes. Pale Male and Lola's nest had the unfortunate experience in the past few years of being built on top of metal mesh, open grill work and pigeon spikes (let's hope that with the removal of the pigeon spikes the nest will be successful this season).

All of these nests would require much more substantial and deeper nests to allow for proper incubation and allow for the required egg rolling by the adults without obstructions or eggs dropping through the nest bowl. I would think that at least with regard to Junior and Charlotte, last Year’s shallow nest was a product of 1) it being a first year nest, and 2) the location since it not only sits on top of a solid foundation which prevents windy updrafts that could interfere with proper incubation,it is also behind glass which protects it from wind and other natural elements. So, at least in this instance, I do not think that a shallow nest necessarily equated with inexperienced parents or posed a problem with successful incubation and hatching.

As most of New York City knows, thanks to covers on the NY Daily News and New York Post, Junior and Charlotte successfully raised a very capable red-tailed hawk fledgling last year.


Brett B. Odom


I sent your email on to John Blakeman and no doubt we'll have his thoughts on your thoughts soon. But in the meantime your step by step breakdown, made me think of a few things as well.
We've discussed in the past that perhaps a very firm foundation for a nest, such as the carriage on PM and L's nest, might fool the hawks into thinking they have enough material when perhaps they don't. Charlotte and Jr. had a firm foundation on the Trump Parc but it's hard to tell if it affected how much material was brought to the nest, because without a perimeter of pigeons spikes, almost all of their nesting material blew off every year.

Without the nesting material to raise the eggs up a certain amount I've always believed that the eggs tended to "drown" during intense periods of rain, then as the sides of the nest had blown away, the eggs being no longer alive lost weight and blew out as well. Or didn't drown, though I think water had something to do with it, (perhaps the subsequent chill with contact with the masonry, as their only successful hatch on the Trump occurred during the second clutch, warmer weather , and a drought, no water.)

It is very interesting to me that when they failed yet again and went looking for other digs, they chose a site in which there is very little wind. In fact they are doing something that I never thought that a Red-tail would do. They are virtually nesting in a box. I think that is a first. I know of no other RTs that have nested in a box but we don think that Jr. us urban born so more prone to creativity. It also shows that as C and J are building the sides of the nest high (as PM and L did yearly but not the bowl where their problem was perhaps coming from, because they were conceivably fooled by it's stability) they'd most likely wanted to build high sides but the material blew away, or fell off. Now they may have figured out that high sides keep eggs from rolling out so they aren't making that mistake again. Also note wind was a terrible problem for them..

They now have a virtually windless enclosure. Their initial criteria is definitely changed. No longer do they feel the need to be so far from people, nor so close to the park. In consequence they have far less wind to contend with and according to Brett far fewer neighbouring raptors at least for the moment. Jr. has done a number of observed firsts such as roosting on a building for the night as opposed to always roosting in a tree as the other urban RTs seem always to do at least so far. now he and Charlotte have gone and done it another first. And as always as other birds see it work they will follow suite.

But I still can not get over the fact that Junior and Charlotte are really and truly nesting in a box. They cannot survey a good bit of their territory without getting up, going to the door and sticking their heads out. I never thought I"d see the day.

P.S. One more thought on the AC nest, it has no perimeter of pigeon spikes, and therefore it may not be scant trips with twigs on the young parent's park it may be the twigs won't stay on. There were a pair of young hawks some years ago who repeatedly attempted to us air conditioning units and they could never get the nest to cling to the unit... no spikes, decorations, or protrusions to hold the nest together. Maybe that's how to help make nesting sites for RTs. Put perimeters of Pigeons spikes on large AC units. :-) Particularly if you see them attempting to use one.

P.P.S Rob from Bloomingdale Village and I were talking that in order not to have to call Isolde's new mate, Cathedral Mature Male just like Tristan her previous mate was called Cathedral Mature Male, which makes the whole thing generic and not specific, clarity after all being what science is about, forget just plain old communication, the new mate should have a name. We'd been calling him new mate, new guy, whatever but for brevity sake, we're looking for suggestions. You can either place your choice in the comments section her or got to the Bloomingdale Village link on the link bar and put your choice int he comment section there. Personally I like names that relate to physical characteristics or to behavioral attributes.

Tristan was a stealth hunter. He was extremely patient, standing around relaxed, one foot up waiting for game to come by. The new guy on the other hand is Mr. Energy. He whips around flushes pigeons in explosive clouds were ever he goes. I thought of Nitro, explosive but a bit too chemical. Currently I'm thinking about Flash or as he's Mr. Speedy there is Dash....
His penchant for squirrel--Squirrel Bane--too long. I did see him do something I'd not seen before. Most RT dispatch their prey with a squeeze of the talons or if young, hop up and down on it while holding it it both talons. The new male had caught a rat, it moved and instead of squeezing or doing the jump up and down bamming thing, he used one taloned foot and bopped it against the side of the tree trunk. Very unraptor like. Rather startling and unique actually. How about Bopper?

Donegal Browne

Thursday, March 20, 2008


KJRH Hawks' Nest

For those who just can’t wait, here’s a link for a continuing view of the nest of Kay and Jay. The pictures come from the Red-tail Cam of KJRH Channel 2 out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This pair of Red-tails nested on the local TV tower and the station, instead of being unhappy and attempting to oust the birds, embraced the pair and turned a camera on them. The CAM has a nice crisp close feed and an archive of the highlights.
(Oklahoma being a different environment than we've been watching, I can't wait to see what these Red-tails will feed their eyasses. D.B.)

Kay and Jay expect a hatch in late March or early April.

The station does say however—

Sometimes that camera gets used for news or weather purposes, and the encoder also gets used on occasion so you may see some video of things other than hawks :). Most of the time, however, you'll be able to follow along as Kay and Jay guard their eggs -- and hopefully, raise their babies!
I asked John Blakeman if there was anything new on the Plum Brook Station Bald Eagle nest he's been keeping an eye on:
The formel just continues to sit and incubate.

The first Ohio eagle hatched a few days ago. 160 nests have been discovered in the state this year, a remarkable record.

John A. Blakeman
It's that time of year. A whole lot of waiting going on.
Donegal Browne

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Odom on 888, Lyon on Fordham, and Eleanor Tauber Sparrows

Photograph by Brett Odom
A stealthy Charlotte waits for lunch to fly by.

I asked Brett a number of questions concerning the behavior and story behind the photo sequence he'd sent for us to enjoy yesterday. Here's the story behind the data--

Donna -

Junior brought the strip of bark and after a little struggle of getting the whole piece behind the window, placed it on the nest. As you can tell from the photos, you can really only see behind the window when the sun is shining directly on and through it. If it's an overcast day, or the sun is already in the west, it's very difficult to view the nest.

Optimum viewing opportunities are obviously a bright sunny morning. After about 10AM the sun no longer shines behind the building(this should get later and later as the days lengthen, I believe it was around 11AM on the longest day when you could no longer see through the window on a sunny day).

So once Junior brought the bark, I do not know what Charlotte did with it. And yes, she is leaning into the bowl of the nest. Sometimes I see both of them take a branch or twig away from the nest, circle for a few moments and then bring it right back without going anywhere or dropping it.

(I've wondered about that too and ended up with multiple choice thoughts as to the behavior. A. Showing off what a wonderful job I'm doing. B. Flying off frustration that the twig won't quite fit right. C. Magical thinking: If I fly around with it, it will become a new and different twig that I'll like better. D.B.)

Some of the most amazing things I have seen are when one of them is away from the nest, a piece of nesting material such as newspaper fragments or plastic bag blows out of the nest and one of them swoops out of no where (sometimes Essex sign, sometimes the tall all black building on Broadway and 56th with trees on the roof), grab the escaping material in midair (sometimes upside down) and returns it to the nest.

I'm not really sure what any of them look at when sitting at the edge of the ledge. They will sit there for several minutes just looking around, observing everything below. I have never seen any competing raptors on my side of the building. Only prey food birds and perhaps a few gulls coming in from the river.

Brett B. Odom

It just goes to show, as I told Brett, though I've watched nests for many a day, I've never gotten to see a Red-tail retrieve escaping nesting materials. Though I certainly would like to see it. Perhaps this year...and that is partially why we do it, isn't it. Seeing things we've never seen before. The wonder of the unexpected, the waiting for what has been heard of but not seen as yet...

Fordham Nest and eyass, 2007
There has been some discussion concerning nest sites and the amount of material that is used. This is the Fordham nest from last season. The twig density looks rather skimpy from below.

But from above it doesn't look as scant. Though keep in mind that that this site has been used for multiple years by Hawkeye and Rose, and there has been time to collect material over years. Also, they have good fortune in the fact that what they bring to the nest stays put. Collins Hall has the perfect configuration of pigeon spikes. A nice single strip across the front of that long runway so loved by their eyasses.

As for branching, there is a tree right in front of the nest. A tree that allows them to branch to other trees, to roofs, and then fly back or branch back to the nest.

And from Christopher Lyons an update on how the Fordham Red-tails are doing in 2008.

Hawkeye and Rose are certainly sprucing up the Collins Hall nest (in almost the literal sense, with fresh evergreen boughs, but probably not from spruce trees). The nest has been built up a lot.

It's definitely Hawkeye and Rose--no substitutions.

I saw Hawkeye in the nest yesterday, sort of fiddling around and looking a mite impatient--Rose was nowhere in sight, and he flew right off--I doubt there were eggs. Generally speaking, Rose seems to start laying her eggs around March 20th.

And now for a look at an offering from Eleanor Tauber from the Spring Migration

Song Sparrow by Eleanor Tauber

Fox Sparrow by Eleanor Tauber

As Eleanor says, it's amazing how these sparrows blend into the leaves of the season.

Donegal Browne.

Monday, March 17, 2008

888 Nest Update:Charlotte and Junior Do Bark and Is It Hot in There? Plus What Happened to the Third Egg on the Briarwood Queen's Nest Last Season?

Brett Odom who has the best seat possible for a view of Junior and Charlotte's nest, sent in these wonderful photos. Charlotte has just entered the nest and here comes Junior with a rather large and unwieldy piece of bark. As they came in together, and I've seen female Red-tails strip bark, let it dry and retrieve it for their nest lining, I'm wondering if Charlotte, feeling somewhat hormonal or gravid perhaps, may have "asked" Junior to do the heavy lifting on this one.

Notice Charlotte's tail in the air as she works on the nest. Junior on the other hand is still doing his best to get the bark into the nest. Another instance where Junior tries very hard to "please" Charlotte. A few season's ago when he was doing another task on the Trump Parc nest, Charlotte watched carefully and when he was done, she went up to leave a few feet and then touched beaks with him on her way out. A Red-tail kiss. (Jeff Kollbrunner reports that he has seen Mama and Papa "kiss" as well.)

A zoom closer, in order to check the condition of the bark. See the thin dry strips on the edges? Either they found the perfect piece or it was stripped some days ago and allowed to dry before bringing it to the nest.

Charlotte comes out into the sun and checks the territory. Now I've always wondered if the hawks on this nest might get extremely hot in that recessed compartment out of moving air with the sun streaming through the glass. I'm supposing it comes to mind, as those of you who were around for this pair's double clutch hatch on the Trump Parc in 2005, saw Charlotte and the eyasses do quite a bit of panting under the afternoon's very hot westering sun for many days.
I asked Brett what he thought--

From what I understand from talking with the management of 888 7th Ave., the floor of the building that the nest is on is a storage floor. There are louvres on the walls of this floor. I wouldn't be surprised if the floor was slightly air-conditioned and some of the cooler air escaped from the louvre slats, cooling off the area of the nest somewhat.
Also, last year, I noted that the eyass would change her position frequently during the day to always stay in the shade. When the sun would move and reposition the shadows, the eyass would move from one area to the next, staying in the shade. The Trump Parc nest obviously had no shade during the afternoon when the sun was in the west. So, I'm not so worried about the parents or eyasses overheating. The nest is very well ventilated.
Brett Odom

That's a relief. And Brett also mentioned that the residue on the windows also helps cut some sun penetration into the nest space. Just another handy use of baby hawk poop.

I also asked Jeff Kollbrunner of if he knew what had happened with Mama and Papa's third egg last season. The other two eggs produced nice strong eyasses and I knew that shells are removed from songbird nests but what happens to an egg that doesn't hatch or remains more or less complete on a hawk nest? ---


The third egg may have hatched. I'm not sure, when I saw the egg the eyass's were about four weeks old. The third egg had a small oval shaped hole at the top side about the size of a half dollar. I could not tell if it hatched and died or it didn't hatch and the eyass's broke it open, or maybe the parents. The egg was otherwise intact. Mama picked it up and flew off with it when the eyass's were about a month old.

(I do like getting those loose ends tied up.)
Donegal Browne

Blakeman On Downed Eyasses and Horvath on the Timing of the Placement of Artificial Branching Devices

Cathedral Nest 2006: While Youngest is still in the bushes cooling his talons and considering how to get into a tree...

Eldest has made it to safety on the scaffolding and is considering taking the stairs even higher.
John Blakeman's comments on downed eyasses and the number of young Red-tails in the city--

The conundrum of eyasses on the ground is a very sticky one, a conundrum indeed.

It's something that could turn out to be something of an annual problem in NYC. What happens when another eyass or two drop to the street from the 7th Ave nest? An eyass in the schoolyard? What about a Riverside eyass dodging vehicles on the road beneath?

In areas where a nest sits over a typical city landscape (hardscape), this could be a problem. At 927, the eyasses are naturally going to try to float over to the trees in the park. And they are starting out at 120 feet up, allowing them a bit of awkward maneuvering before crashing into the foliage of a tree. But at nest sites that have only typical streetscapes below, eyasses that fledge before being fully able to ascend on-wing are going to encounter problems, doubtless.

And I haven't any ideas on how these can be obviated. It may just be a hazard of living in The City, something Red-tails haven't much of a history doing.

An unrelated point. Recent photos by show the eyes of the schoolhouse hawks. As with the new pair at Riverside Park, the new pair at PS 188 don't have uniformly dense, dark brown irises, a clear indication that these are young adults, almost surely in their first nesting attempts. The photo of the nest on the air conditioner screen looks still pretty shallow. It looks like a loose, first-nest attempt. There is still time for some more stick additions, but if they don't happen this could be a problematic nest. The photo seems to show light coming from above, down through the sticks. It's still a bit thin.

But the very interesting thing for me is the preponderance of young adults in all of the new NYC nests. This substantiates my contention that these birds are colonizing Manhattan because favorable rural and suburban nesting areas are no longer vacant. The Red-tails in New York City and other large urban areas indicate that populations in historic wild and rural areas are now saturated with older, more defensive adults. All the good nesting areas outside of the city are occupied. Red-tails are seldom being trapped or killed out there anymore, so rising young adults no longer find annual, human-caused territorial "holes" that they can fill. As with Pale Male in the 1990s, the new birds have come into the city because it's the only habitat with ample prey and nesting sites yet available.

How soon, then, will Manhattan and the other boroughs become saturated themselves? How many Red-tail nests can Manhattan support? From it's prey base, with literally tons of rats and pigeons, there's enough food for 20 or 30 nesting pairs, or more. But Red-tails are not noted for being even quasi-social in allowing adjacent, close-by nests. Red-tail nest saturation of Manhattan and the rest of Greater NYC is likely to be controlled by the species' social tolerances, not the biology of the prey or nesting territories.

It will be fun to see how this develops in the coming years. Will the species retain its social intolerance of too-close adjacent nests? Or, will the abundance of prey tend to negate this territorial defensiveness? In California, where ground squirrels are ample, nest densities are greater than in the Midwest and East, where prey are harder to find. So who knows how many urban Red-tails might become residents of New York City? With several new nests just this year, how many might show up next year?

--John Blakeman
I'd asked the premier wildlife rehabilitator in the city, Bobby Horvath, his thoughts on placing artificial branching options, and as I suspected it is too late this year for the immediate areas around the nest, but---

Hi Donna,
The weather has been very mild here and the season will be in full swing earlier than normal I believe. About any possibility for erecting branching devices for the fledglings unfortunately for this year I think it might be too late to do anything. Any of the known breeding pairs that have nesting and or breeding activity could cause nest desertion if disturbed now.

The most common time for abandoning is just prior to or right after laying . In addition if they are uprooted it can cause them to look elsewhere for future nest sites. A few weeks after babies are born and flourishing the parents are much more likely to defend their territory and family but now could be a disaster for any type of new construction.

I've seen the pictures of the scaffolding [ At St. John's] but it was there before breeding so they are probably already adjusted to the structures presence. Many peregrine and osprey platforms do have additional perches attached for this purpose and they do provide additional exercise perches for the young to explore and practice on before the big leap. This one might have to wait till nest year to attempt.

We're keeping busy here. Already calls for baby grey squirrels.
Take care.
As folks have already worked up viable branching options on Osprey platforms that work, I asked Bobby about materials and design. Plus I've inquired about what might be needed to help eyasses back into street trees when no branching opportunities such as smaller trees or bicycle racks present themselves. We'll see what Bobby has to say.
Our friend from Illinois has also been investigating options. We may yet have something that could help the eyasses at St. John's and perhaps an even longer shot, those at 888 7th Ave. before the it's time for them to fledge.

Donegal Browne