Saturday, April 04, 2009


Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

Tour guide and wildlife lover, Pat Gonzalez has been making the rounds of New York City's green spaces and has come up with a jewel of a discovery--A Great Horned Owl nest!

This mama Great Horned Owl and her new bundle of joy (there is another one inside that tree that I know of) live inside a hollow of a dead tree about 20 feet off the ground. I am standing on a slight incline about 12 yards away and have my 15x zoom lens all the way out. At first, mama was all alone and nice enough to allow me to do a nice photo shoot. Then a small, white, wide-eyed fuzz-ball popped up. The only other experience that topped this was my encounter with the red-tailed hawk back in February! Enjoy.

Pat Gonzalez

Kay and Jay of Tulsa Inexplicably Abandon Their Nest
From Tulsa Hawkwatcher Sally of Kentucky--

Since yesterday morning Kay has abandoned the eggs, refusing to sit on them even when she came back to the nest. Jay did the job of sitting on those eggs all day yesterday, all night last night and well into today, until Kay started coming and then he would leave, then he would return, she'd come back and he would leave again then return, then she would come again, and over and over until neither has returned tonight as 8:30 p.m. We on the forum are sad and confused but we hope that they continue to be a strong, healthy pair and decide to nest on the tower again next year. We wish we could understand what is going on to cause this behavior.

If KJRH continues having the camera trained on the nest, I for one want to see what happens next. Also I would like to know how Kay and Jay do this summer, though people on the ground in Tulsa will have to keep watch and let us know!


Thank you Sally for your diligent updates. It is a sad loss when a nest fails. Particularly in this case when we are at such a loss as to what went wrong. I too, would very much like to be able to know how the story of this pair plays out over the coming months. But in the meantime there is a kind of grief that settles in where watching the hawks you know so well, used to be.

The first year that Pale Male and Lola's nest failed I watched the nest daily anyway, though we all knew it there could not possibly be a chance of a hatch that season. I learned many things about behavior. And as the seasons have progressed with repeated failures, it is not that I have stopped watching Pale Male and Lola, they are beautiful to watch, are were my first loves when it came to Red-tails and are very very special to me. But I have now learned to also watch other nests during a season and get to know those pairs as well. Though often focusing on the Cathedral Nest the past few years as it has the next best visibility.

Keep in mind though that sometimes watching multiple nests can also bring multiple despair as was the case in 2008. But in other seasons it can bring many different kinds of joy. As the old saying goes, one takes the bitter with the sweet. In the end, we can experience life more deeply, learn more, and become better ourselves by living both.


P.S. This is the second post in the last few hours so keep scrolling down to make sure you've seen the first of the day.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Kay Leaves the Nest for Hours Again, Pale Male and Co. Plus What Happens When Eggs Don't Hatch

Screen Capture by Kentucky Sally of the Tulsa Hawk Nest Forum

An update from Sally about Kay of Tulsa's behavior on Thursday--

Drama continues...
Kay left the nest at 7:52 this morning and did not return until 4:56 this afternoon with an incredibly full crop. Jay has sat on the nest all day. She only stayed about an hour, calling while sitting and obviously full, then stood up and left. Jay is still on the nest as of 6:57 p.m.

Can a male keep the eggs warm enough -it is supposed to be 34 tonight-over that long of a time period without the brood patch females have?
If nothing else, this nest is giving us lots of questions to ask and things to learn. I attached a screen capture of Kay's crop. I think she ate a softball!

And the question remains, Sally, what is going on with Kay? Looking back, perhaps Kay's behavior was a little out of the ordinary even before she took to the nest.

Cheryl Cavert, who has taken many grand photographs of these hawks, reported that she observed an episode of copulation in which Kay seemed "uncooperative" initially. I've not seen an episode of non-cooperation on a female Red-tails part. Not that it doesn't happen, I've just not seen it. At the time I thought perhaps their footing or balance was wrong, or that Kay was uncomfortable for some reason. But now with the current aberrant behavior on Kay's part, I begin to wonder if there wasn't something out of the ordinary going on even that far back.

Can males who have no brood patch, keep eggs warm enough during cold weather? They certainly can for short periods of time or we'd never see a hatch. And I have noticed on Pale Male's part, the other males in Manhattan building nests may do it exactly the same way, we just aren't able to see them as well on regular basis, that he takes more care to fluff his belly feathers down over the eggs than Lola does. But then she doesn't really have to because of the brood patch.

As to the long term, the only information I found that compared incubation by males and incubation by females had to do with a question of reverse sexual dimorphism--the females being bigger than the males. Some thought that the females were larger because their increased would do a better job of incubating eggs. This possible reason for reverse sexual dimorphism was discounted as both sized birds were found to do an adequate job of incubation. Though the brood patch wasn't taken into account, one could surmise from the findings that conceivably the female might do a better job, but the male's incubation was good enough for continued viability of the eggs to be maintained in various weathers and temperatures. In other words, perhaps males would take slightly longer to hatch eggs but they'd still get there.

Beyond the fact that the Tulsa nest site has a solid bottom in the tower platform so no wind can puff up from underneath and is well twigged for insulation as well. As far as I can tell it shouldn't be a problem. Far more worrisome are the lapses in egg coverage.

It is drizzling and both birds stand where they are partially protected by the building overhang. Lola eats the pigeon that Pale Male has just delivered with her back turned. While Pale Male studies the nest or scans the territory.

Formels need a good portion of food daily while incubating. Pale Male has just brought Lola an entire pigeon, including the head which at times is left behind or eaten by him in order, we surmise to reduce the weight for the flight up to the nest. This particular pigeon was so meaty that Pale Male had to rest on a terrace mid-way up in order to be able to get it to the nest. Lola ate just about everything edible on the pigeon including the primary feathers of the wings.

Another good question from Sally--


Does Lola take a long break with her meals? And do you know if there is any "usual" frequency of meals for a nesting female-I apologize if this has been answered already. I was just curious if there is a usual length of time she is off the nest. If Pale Male is bringing her food she obviously doesn't have to catch her own, so does she go off and preen and stretch a bit? Kay seems to take long breaks 45-60 minutes usually, and I don't know if that means she's hunting for herself or if she's just chillin' taking a good break. Of course I know the limitations of comparing the two birds but what else can we do?

Thanks again.

Sally as you comparisons are limited, as Red-tailed hawks make many of their own decisions depending on their personal preferences as opposed to built in wiring "normal" normal behavior includes a broad. But we can look at what some of the behavior of the Manhattan females in regards to break length.

Lola rarely if ever takes a break of 45 minutes unless she has been on the nest well over the usual incubation period. Pale Male does all the hunting as far as we can tell during the incubation on that nest.

Early on in incubation Lola doesn't appear to be comfortable about leaving the nest for anything more that 5 to 12 minutes for personal business. And during those 5 or 12 minutes Pale Male is sitting firmly on the eggs. She often eats quickly on the nest, at which time, PM will stand on the nest with her, scanning the territory for something that might be a potential danger to her.

About midway through the incubation period, Lola seems more comfortable about eating at a stash point off nest or taking the food Pale brings to the nest to a spot a few buildings away to eat. She eats in a voracious and business like manner common in hawks. Then does a little quick preening and if she isn't on the nest, returns to it. These breaks last from about 12 to 20 minutes. Pale Male sits on the nest when she leaves it.

A break of 45 minutes would be extremely unusual for her unless it is past the hatch date by a good deal many days. On these breaks, when she is actually starting her retreat from the nest, she eats, bathes, preens, and does some strength flying. By the time she returns, she has to wait many minutes for Pale to evacuate the bowl so she can get in--and immediately replace some of the twigs to their original position which Pale moved to make the nest more comfortable for him or more to his taste at any rate.

My suspicion is, she has to wait so long for him to rise out because Pale has gotten into the bowl and is taking a wee nap.

Isolde of the Cathedral of St. John nest, often retrieves the food from the stash point, whips back into the nest and eats it there. There were times in the 2oo8 season when she had to do her own hunting as Norman was young and not altogether reliable about remembering to hunt for her. A few of those breaks may have been around the 45 minute mark. Though as Isolde sits in a spot where she can scan for prey while sitting, I believe she often has good hunting spots in mind and therefore doesn't have to do much waiting for prey to appear and can hunt and eat rather rapidly. There were occasions when Isolde wasn't fed, made sure Norman was on the nest, left to hunt, eat, then returned and sat on the roof of the building across the street watching the nest with Norman on it.

Often with her previous mate Tristan, this had been the pre-position for a nest switch. Whether she was just taking her ease or waiting in fact for Norman to get the idea that he should leave to the rear while she flew in the front wasn't clear

Charlotte, the female of the Southern Central Park pair, on occasion does her own hunting as a preference because there are episodes in which she looks disgusted by what Pale Male Jr. has brought and wants something else. So she rejects the prey he has brought. "WHAT, pigeon again!"and goes and gets what she wants, perhaps taking about 30 minutes from start to her return to the nest.

5/18/07 The eyasses on the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, watch as their mother heads their way with prey.

5/18/07 Isolde tears the prey and feeds them. Carefully making sure that whoever was fed first the last time isn't fed first this time. Or if the largest eyass had been first last time, she will give her a couple bites, then feed the other. If the first attempts to horn in she vocalizes deep and sharply and the larger eyass lays back while the smaller is fed. I know that both Isolde and Charlotte do this sort of portioning out of prey. I expect this is a learned behavior of more experienced parents, though I have no way of knowing for sure.

I also don't know that if there were a shortage of prey how the distribution would differ if any.

5/18/07 Note this is the same date as the above photographs. While other nests have progressed from hatches to eyasses already up off their haunches, the Fifth Avenue pair have been doggedly still sitting on their eggs. Lola's breaks have been becoming more extended daily.

And on this day, Lola has finally left the nest possibly for good. Pale Male has been sitting for hours, and is watching with focus (and concern if one reads hawk facial expressions) for her to return.

5/18/07 Towards dusk he is still there waiting for her to return. I believe this was the last day in which she sat the eggs that season. I was not there at deep dusk to know if Pale Male spent the night on the nest. As far as I can find out there has not been a confirmed sighting of him ever overnighting. Doesn't mean he hasn't, just means I don't know for sure.


From Tulsa Hawkwatcher Bob McCargar

I wrote to Blakeman and asked if the hawks could sense whether the eggs were viable or not, and about the "cold and wet nest and Kay theory. Here's what he said:

With certainty red-tails have no understanding or perception of egg viability or health. If they did, my red-tails back in my breeding trials in the early 70s wouldn't have so diligently sat on the wooden eggs I used to entice sitting before real eggs were laid in later years. Unhatched hawks in eggs do not make any noises that communicate to parents, at least not until the last days before hatching. And the bird will sit for many weeks on dead or wooden eggs. They don't count days of incubation. They merely give up when the day length is no longer expanding, when summer approaches, and nothing has hatched. The wet feathers and nesting material should have prompted the bird to get right down on the eggs and keep them warm. Again, this was very aberrant nesting behavior on the part of the female. I can't explain it. And let's see what happens. If the egg hatch, it will be a remarkable new piece of incubation knowledge regarding the lengthy cooling period of the eggs. We frequently see unprotected open cooling periods of 10 to 20 minutes, but seldom anything at all beyond that. Periods of 20 to 30 minutes are presumed to be the cooling limits to viability. I wouldn't be too concerned if this happened in the first days of incubation. Before the embryo begins to develop significantly it can withstand long periods of coolness. But after a week or so of constant incubation, the egg is committed to reasonable warmth during continuous incubation. Keep me posted on what happens.
John A. Blakeman

It's going to be an anxious couple of weeks for the Tulsa forum members.


From Bob McCargar--
One of our members had a computer failure, and so she's been going to the local library in Bartlesville. She found your friend Marie Winn's Red Tails in Love, and used the computer there to send this note:

Hi, bobd and company: Still no computer at home, but I wanted to post something relevant, even if not on the observation thread. In light of the dramas we are seeing and have seen at the nest, here are a couple of thoughts for your consideration from Marie Winn's Red-tails in Love book. I think you will find truths here that touch your hearts:

"Bird-watching is a sport, a hobby, a skilled occupation. Hawkwatching is an obsession. Like love, it exhilarates. Like love, it brings anxiety. Birdwatchers watch and listen, ever in hope of something exciting just around the corner. Hawkwatchers exalt and despair." (p. 204)

"The red-tail fledglings hung around a few weeks and then they, too, were gone, God knows where. Only unhappy stories have real endings, after all. You never find out how the good stories end." (p. 263)


We've all exulted with Kay, Jay and Thunder over the past year. We've had our despair, as well, with little Spirit. Maybe we will despair again this season. Maybe there will be another unhappy story with a real ending. But then we will still have Kay and Jay, and we will still have one another, hawkwatchers all. We will exult again, sooner or later, and one way or another. And we will continue to hope that Thunder is out there living her own hawk's life--and that, for us, may be the Good Story with the hidden ending.

(An aside here. If you have not read Marie Winn’s glorious book, Red-tails in Love, run do not walk to the book store or the library and get it! You will be so very glad you did. Marie also has a second book, Central Park in the Dark, which continues the saga of the Watchers of Central Park with some cameo appearances of the Red-tails with the inclusion of the night creatures-the owls, the raccoons, the moths.)

From me--
Bob, thank you for keeping me in the loop. John’s great isn't he?

He's right of course the parents don't know if the eggs will or won’t hatch. Every failed season, the last five I believe, Lola sits for an extra month and the weather becomes hotter and hotter up there on the building, she becomes more bedraggled and worn. Poor bird, she gets itchy, she gets giant bags under her eyes, the flies torment her, and when the pigeon spikes from the undercarriage were still poking up through the lining of the nest, her brood patch became completely purple from bruising. But she still did that extra month.

Pale Male faithful and diligent to the end keeps bringing her food and taking his turn at the eggs. They both seem to know "something" isn’t right but not what. They begin remodeling the nest, searching for new materials and poking them in with focus.

Then Lola’s breaks get longer and longer and Pale Male sits and waits longer, looking very concerned, watching for her to return to the nest. Then a day comes when she just can't do it anymore and he will sit all the day long waiting to be relieved. His little face staring out searching for her return. Then if he sees her sitting nearby, he'll fly off the nest. He’ll raid a passerine brood of a chick and fly back and forth in front of the nest, trying to tempt Lola into returning. She may fly to the nest for his offered treat but then she leaves very quickly again. Her hormones are no longer urging her to be there and it has been physically miserable for her for weeks. He then often takes the egg sitting job for himself until he too can't do it anymore.

Then they start their journey from the nest in the reverse order of how they came to it at the beginning of the season. Copulation, courtship dancing in the sky, nest refurbishment, until they pass once again into the trees of Central Park to do the things they usually do come winter but a little earlier as there are no fledglings to train.

Lola was photographed playing with a juvenile not her own, in one of those failed years after she and Pale Male had left their nest. Perhaps she was playing with one of Pale Male's grandchildren..

The hawks do not seem to grieve as we might and do, they are practical and take things as they come. They will start all over again when the cycle of the seasons returns them to January's nest building and it all begins again. So we try to take a cue from them, and every season there are hawkwatchers sitting on The Bench even now-- watching with their fingers crossed...hoping.

Beyond that, as you know these birds are beautiful, they fill us with wonder, and the surprises never stop no matter how many years you watch. Sometimes the surprises are terrible and in other years so full of joy they are nearly miraculous. Marie is right; hawkwatching is an obsession.

How could one not want to see what happens next? We wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Every year we hope beyond hope that Pale Male and Lola will succeed, and then deep in the season, comes the despair—at least so far. If Pale Male and Lola are ever successful again, there will be true exaltation in New York City and in many other places too, as so many know the Fifth Avenue Hawks.

I have my finger's crossed for Kay and Jay too, though I don't logically know how the eggs could still be alive. But do remember the hawkwatchers adage..Never Underestimate a Red-tail. Besides there is always the next hawk season. When not only do the birds begin anew but the hawkwatchers once again gather together as well, a flock of old friends return to their former places almost as if they have never left. They catch up with each other, and with eyes ready for wonder, wait and anticipate just what this new season may bring.


From John Blakeman—
I wouldn't take any concerns about the pair failing to return to the nest site next year. They've been there now for, what, two yeara? If they didn't come back, it would almost surely mean that both birds would have died. After red-tails nest consecutively at sites like this (and at 927 Fifth Ave in New York), the birds will come back. They aren't coming back because eggs hatched or failed to hatch. It's the nest site itself, one that they've grown accustomed to and feel "at home" in.

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Urban Hawks-Pale Male Jr., Charlotte, Kay & Jay plus Ospreys, Eagles, and Dinosaur Hip Bones

Photograph of Charlotte heading for the nest by Brett Odom
Where did the bark/dried stalk come from in Charlotte's beak? Did Charlotte go and get it and leave the eggs? Or did Junior just drop it off at the door and take off again?

Here are some thoughts from Brett Odom, chief watcher of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte, the Southern Central Park Red-tails in NYC--

Hey Donna.

I just thought that I would provide some additional info you wondered about with regard to my question to you. I had also thought about the air coming from the vents being warmer than the outside air, but didn't think it would be warm enough to keep the eggs at the 99ºF which is my understanding the temperature at which most avian eggs need to be incubated. There was no rain on this day so that is a plus. The eggs were dry.

As for leaving the nest to hunt. I have not seen Jr. in the past 5 days. So I haven't seen him bring any food for Charlotte. That isn't to say that he hasn't brought any prey to her, though. The layout of my office keeps me from having an eye on the nest at all times. I could easily miss a drop off.

Also, I'm not sure where the stick came from. I turned around and Charlotte was already on the ledge with the stick. I don't know if Jr. dropped it off, she brought it in or if the wind blew it off and she went and retrieved it.It's Monday morning at 9:15AM and I can tell that one of them is sitting on the nest now. I just can't tell who it is yet through the grimy window. I only see movement whenever they move their head.

Photograph by Brett Odom
And a second email from Brett when he caught Junior in the act--

Well, I sent out that email to you this morning a little too soon. I just happened to turn around and see Jr. at the nest today. I didn't see if he brought food or anything with him. I just noticed him perched on the ledge and then he took off for the Park.

Hi Brett,

Thanks so much for the updates. Also got your second email saying that you'd seen Jr. Sounds like he is doing some very quick ins and outs. So he most likely has been doing his support-the-nest job quite swimmingly as he always has though it is difficult to catch him at it.

Even at Pale Male and Lola’s nest on Fifth Ave, which has a very broad view to catch the hawk coming and going plus numbers of people watching, we still miss switches at times because everyone for whatever reason looked away at the same moment. Personally I think the hawks try to time their switches to just those sorts of moments.

They do keep an eye on our eyes so they are aware of where we are looking.

Also sounds like Junior brought the stick, dropped it off, and zipped back out again. He is a busy bird who seems to be taking his many responsibilities seriously.

By the way, in 2005 Junior did a wonderful job teaching Little, the fledgling tiercel, his personal bag of very clever pigeon hunting techniques. Junior started training the moment that Little was off the nest.

Which could be something to look forward to watching this upcoming season if all goes well.



More very helpful information on the weather during Kay and Jay's nest absence from Kentucky Sally of the Tulsa Hawk Nest Forum--

It was 36 degrees in the morning after she left because I remember checking that, and the eggs were in the sun for a while when she first left, and the temperature warmed during the day. According to Wunderground the temp warmed quickly in the morning to 40 at 10:00am, 45 by 12 and 50 around 2:00pm, reaching 60 by 4:00pm. Wind was very still in the morning and increased a bit by evening.


From our Blackwater Eagle and Osprey reporter Robin of Illinois--
The Blackwater Osprey Cam web log, has links to a variety of other osprey cams around the world. Finland has some spectacular ones but these pictures are from the Kentucky Osprey Cam (link above). The first photo shows the light color that the osprey are soon after hatching, and the second one shows the osprey young in their "reptilian phase."
See the lizard-like creatures sleeping on the left side of the nest? Those are young sleeping osprey. Dinosaurs as progenitors of birds?

As to Dinosaurs being progenitors of Birds? Absolutely. Back when dinosaurs were “definitely” considered cold blooded the progression wasn’t noticed. Then a few flying dinosaur fossils were found if for one place China, in which—Wow! Those look like the images of feathers on that dinosaur fossil! Then the debate began, starting with “Are you sure those weren’t FAKED?” More feathered Dino fossils were found. Hmmmm. Then paleontological anatomists and avian anatomists began some cross pollinating talk and got into the game. And my, my they realized that there was a portion of the hip in birds and in dinosaurs that was exactly the same.

According to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, it is now “believed” that yes, the progenitors of our avian friends are dinosaurs. Also if you have watched birds very much live and keep their movement in mind as you watch the Jurassic Park movies you will see that the special effects folks used birds as models for the movement of the dinosaurs. I particularly found movement similarities in Jurassic park to be acutely familiar from watching Quicksilver, my African Grey Parrot.
From the Blackwater Eagle Cam and Robin of Illinois,
Lisa posted this close up photo of what the current eaglets would look like up close, with their gray down and their pinfeathers growing in.
Lisa writes: "The beaks and talons of young bald eaglets grow faster than other parts of their bodies, and by about mid-April, their beaks and talons will be close to adult size. Full-size beaks allow the eaglets to feed themselves and full-size feet allow them to hold on tightly to the nest when they're moving around during windy weather or when they're flapping their wings in practice for eventual flight." Further down in the web log, she has links to some awesome photos from the Norfolk Eagle cam, adults, feeding their eaglets.
Our favorite Squirrel rehabber, Carol Vinzant, isn’t only interested in Squirrels, here is her offering for today—

Madeleine Pickens is trying to start the world's biggest wild horse sanctuary. The Bureau of Land Management wants to allow shipping horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter instead.
Click on this URL to take action now
Donegal Browne


Screen Capture by Sally of the Tulsa Hawk Nest Forum

To Red-tail Expert John Blakeman
From Hawkwatcher Bob McCargar

(Many apologies folks, but everytime I straighten out the formatting in Bob's letter Blogger publishes it all crammed together again. Guess we'll just have to live with it at the moment.)

Hello again, from the KJRH "Hawk's Nest Forum" in Tulsa,Again, thanks for your explanation of "putting over" the crop yesterday.

I hope I'm not imposing, but as often happens, more questions have cropped up, to coin a phrase, and a whole bunch of anxious hawk watchers (is there any other kind?) would love to hear from you again.Here's the crucial question, with a chronology of events below (in both narrative and time schedule forms) for reference should you need additional details: How long can hawk eggs remain untended and still be viable? These eggs were laid on the evening of 3/9 and early morning of 3/11. On 3/29, they were totally untended (except for about a minute and a half when Jay sat on them in Kay's absence) for a total of four hours from mid-morning to early afternoon. During that time, the ambient temperature rose from 36 degrees fahrenheit to the low 40's, with little wind. The eggs were in sunshine for perhaps 20-30 minutes of that time.Besides the viability of the eggs, we're puzzled by Kay's behavior of staying off the eggs for so long. The best hypothesis I've heard is that the driving rain melted the snow and soaked both bird and nest and both simply needed to dry out. She even shooed Jay off the nest when he first tried to settle in. Kay's belly certainly looked a mess this morning. That doesn't explain, of course, Kay's constant calling out, even after she returned to the nest with a full crop in the mid-afternoon.We'd really appreciate hearing any thoughts you might have on this series of events.Bob McCargar

***********************************Chronology Narrative:Saturday,

3/28, it snowed heavily. That night it turned to very cold, windy rain––enough to melt all the snow that had accumulated around Kay. As far as we know, Kay didn't eat all day Saturday.

When she got up, at 7:15 am, she immediately started calling out. She got up about 40 minutes later and walked around, evidently not eager to get back on the nest, but ultimately doing so.

At 8:05 AM, she started calling out in bursts of three calls, pause, and then three calls, for about ten minutes straight, while in the nest.

At 8:32 she got up and walked around the nest platform, s if she were thinking of taking off, and then got back down. She got up again at 8:44, calling out, and stayed off the nest until at least 9:00, when the camera shifted to focus on the downtown area (It's originally a weather cam).

When it returned to her at 9:14, she was back on the eggs.

At 9:43 AM, Kay got up, walked around the platform called out, flew off at 9:50. She returned 9 minutes later, but just stood at the edge of the nest and calledJay arrived for the first time at 10:10 AM. They both looked at the nest, but neither sat in it. Jay left 2 minutes later.
Kay continue to move around the platform occasionally preening (her chest plumage looked heavily matted and possibly still wet). She hopped up to a bar above the camera and moved out of view at 10:35.

An observer on the ground say her perched on a bar sticking off of the tower, at a little before 11:00 AM

With the eggs still untended since 9:50 AM, Jay came in with a stick and placed it in the nest, then left. The observer on the ground said that Kay was "hollering her head off."

Jay returned at 11:20 AM and started to sit on the eggs, but was shooed away by Kay, and he left. Kay left two minute later.

At 11:36 AM, Jay returned and sat on the eggs for four minutes, then left.

Kay returned at 11:40 AM, but just preened and called, walking from point to point around the platform. As she stood right in front of the camera, it looked like she was shivering. At no point in this visit did she sit on the eggs.Kay went off camera, perhaps just to perch on a pole sticking out from the tower, at 1:18 PM, leaving the eggs untended until Jay returned at 2:00 PM and sat on the eggs. Jay stayed on the eggs, rolling them periodically, until 3:12 PM when Kay returned with a full crop.

Jay left on Kay's return, but she still didn't sit on the eggs. Jay came back at 3:17, shredded some bark and puts it in the nest, and then left again. Kay fussed with the nest material for a while and walked around the platform, as if deliberating. She flew off at 3:55 PM, and Jay arrived a moment later and promptly sat on the eggs.Jay stayed on the eggs until Kay returned at 5:50, at which time she tidied up the nest and sat down on the eggs. She stayed on the nest for the remainder of the night (as of 12:10 AM, CDT, on 3/30).*************************************************Time-based observations from early AM on 3/29/0912:17 Am Kay gets up, rolls eggs, and preens briefly06:55 AM Kay Asleep, head tucked under wing07:15 AM Kay awake and calling out--flare from sunlight in camera07:40 AM Flare from sun worse, Kay calling out more vigorously07:44 AM Camera adjusts to improve visibility07:50 AM Kay calling out vigorously07:54 AM Kay up, off the nest, deliberates, walks around, and finally sits back on nest08:05 AM Calling in series of threes--continuous through 8:1408:20 AM Kay looking around and calling in bursts of three.08:32 AM Kay stands up and looks around, walks around nest, looks like she might take off, and finally settles back into nest08:42 AM Calling out, adjusts the eggs, and rotates slightly, from 9:00 to 1:00, 08:44 AM Kay up and about, calling out08:53 AM Kay still up, standing at 1:00, facing the nest09:00 AM Camera shifts to downtown, off nest.09:14 AM Camera back on Kay09:34 AM No one has seen Jay09:40 AM Kay "sitting" quietly09:43 AM Kay calling, stands up and moves off nest.09:47 AM Kay still off eggs.09:50 AM Temp 36 degrees, sunny, no wind09:50 AM Kay gone, eggs in sunshine09:54 AM Kay still gone, eggs still in sunshine09:59 AM Kay back, standing on edge of nest and calling.10:02 AM Kay Still standing and calling. Hasn't been on eggs.10:10 AM Jay in, stands over nest. Kay calling. Eggs in shade. Kay looking around10:12 AM Jay leaves10:15 AM Kay now off the nest for more than a half hour.10:20 AM Kay still moving around platform10:25 AM Kay still moving around, calling10:27 AM Kay doing the same.10:28 AM Kay preening, calling intermittently.10:30 AM Moves to bar right under camera, then to nest edge on right.10:35 AM Kay hops onto bar above camera and off screen.10:45 AM Eggs still untended, temp 40 degrees10:53 AM Eggs still untended10:50 AM (approx) report from ground observer that Kay was on bar above nest cam, calling out "Hollering her head off" He flew off to a tree to the west, started "hollering," and took off. Lots of squirrels and pigeons around.11:02 AM Brief visit by unidentified hawk, evidently Jay dropping off a stick. temp 42 degrees11:09 AM Eggs still untended11:20 AM Jay back, starts to settle on eggs but Kay shoos him off.11:22 AM Kay walks over to eggs, looks at them, but flies off.11:26 AM Eggs still untended11:36 AM Jay in again. He sits on the eggs. Eggs had been untended for 1:5011:40 AM Jay leaves nest.11:41 AM Kay back, stands over nest, calls out, preens11:46 AM Kay stands at far edge of platform, calling and preening11:47 AM Kay still off eggs, standing and calling11:51 AM Kay moves to camera support bar11:56 AM Eggs still untended11:58 AM Kay calling, standing in front of camera12:16 PM Kay continues to stand under camera, looks like she is shivering12:35 PM Kay still under camera12:37 PM Kay still standing under camera01:18 PM Kay disappears off camera01:50 PM Jay back, sits on the eggs02:00 PM Jay on eggs02:14 PM Jay still on nest, quiet02:21 PM Jay still on eggs02:22 PM Jay up, moves eggs, sits back down02:27 PM Jay still on nest03:00 PM Jay up, rolls eggs03:02 PM Jay sits back down03:12 PM Kay back, full crop. Jay gets up, moves off eggs, and leaves. Kay looks like she's going to sit on eggs, but just looks at them and moves to far edge of platform.03:17 PM Jay back with shredded bark, exits right.03:21 PM Kay standing on far edge of platform, then moves to eggs, picks up bark, tries to place it in nest, but wind blows it away03:24 PM Kay still standing, moves toward eggs, then turns away.03:25 PM Kay moves back and forth around the platform, looks at eggs occasionally03:40 PM Kay has been looking around and calling out, standing in front of the camera. Full crop noted03:55 PM Jay flies in, settles in nest04:14 PM Jay stands, moves eggs, sits back down
04:21 PM Jay still on eggs
04:45 PM Jay still on eggs
04:54 PM Jay readjusts his position over eggs
05:22 PM Jay still on nest
05:28 PM Jay still on eggs
05:37 PM Jay still on eggs
05:46 PM Jay still on eggs
05:50 PM Kay back, Jay leaves. She tidies up sticks and bark, then sits on eggs.
06:05 PM Kay on eggs06:12 PM Kay gets up, picks up bark, but loses it in wind

06:14 PM Kay back on nest06:34 PM Kay still on eggs06:48 PM Kay still on eggs
07:10 PM Kay looking around, calling out0

7:14 PM Kay looks to right, calls out0
7:30 PM Kay up, stretches, hops over to rail in front of cam0
7:34 PM Kay preens
07:35 PM Kay back on nest, then gets up, rolls eggs and sits back down

07:55 PM Kay sitting low in the nest
08:00 PM Kay back up, looks around, back to the camera, fussing with unknown object, sits back down0
8:05 PM Kay tucks herself in for the night.




None of this sounds good. Something's wrong. Red-tails commonly leave the eggs untended for as long as 20 minutes. But 4 hours is way out of line. They almost surely died at those temperatures.

Again, something is not right. The sitting female should not be crying, especially with a full crop.

Frankly, I have no good explanation for any of this, except to say that red-tail behavior often takes unexpected turns, sometimes for no apparent reasons.

Is there a new, competing nest within a mile, diverting the attention of the resident pair from incubation to territory defense? The crying of the sitting female may indicate that. And there may not be a nearby nest, just a new bird repeatedly flying into the old, occupied territory. keeping the pair from full, normal attention of the eggs and incubation.

Let's see what happens. Wish I had an answer.

Not good.

John Blakeman

Keep watching, that is what we do with Pale Male and Lola's nest even after numerous years of failure, because you just never know what might happen. And if the nest does fail in Tulsa, there are things to be learned from that as well. Your observations no matter the outcome will inform your understanding of hawk behavior for the future.

Yes it can be sad, but quite possibly more for us than for the parents. These things happen to animals in the wild and the hawks will stick to the nest often far longer than it would have taken for the eggs to hatch, but then, in my experience, they will gradually reverse the actions they took taking to the nest, often with copulation and courtship before drifting into an easy season without the exhausting responsibilities of parenthood.

And if the eggs have failed to hatch, and the parents seem to have regained their senses, you could always try removing the non-viable eggs, and hoping for a second clutch if it's thought there is time for the eyasses to learn their trade before the realities of feeding themselves in winter comes to the fore.

Though as this problem, if it is a problem, looks to have been parentally induced, some real thought might be given before trying for a second clutch as the same behaviors might occur again.

D. B.


(You can see some of the beak scratches in question in this photograph. In the photo Karen was referring to, I don't have permission to use it, there was also something sticking up from the beak.)

Karen Anne Kolling of Rhode Island had a question about the Riverside Mom’s beak for John Blakeman--

John,Do you think there is more damage to the Riverside Mom's beak, or did I just not notice this before. I only remember her left side being damaged, and I thought that had healed, although it wasn't fully grown out yet. Maybe I just didn't see this side before.


That's not a fracture. It's a piece of food, probably a feather of a pigeon, or a slight scratch. Beaks don't, can't, fracture in that direction.

The beak is growing back nicely.

--John Blakeman

There were many more offerings in the past few days from blog contributors but as Blogger isn't being particularly cooperative I'll try to get them posted coming up soon.
Donegal Browne

Monday, March 30, 2009


The County M formel of N1, near Milton, Wisconsin, peers between the twigs of the nest, seemingly none the worse for wear after sitting through the night in an open nest in the midst of a high wind blizzard of sleet, hail, and snow. Well, except that her coif looks a touch more fluffy headed than usual. A common symptom of Red-tailed Hawks who have had a wet head earlier in the day.

Tulsa Hawkwatcher Bob McCargar sent Red-tail expert John Blakeman a video for some clarification...


Last night, we saw some behavior from Kay that we hadn't seen before.
(Video here: Wet Kay makes strange head movements (edited)).
Since none of us in the Tulsa forum had seen it last year or this, I wrote for opinions about it and got this response from our friend, Mr. Blakeman:

"In falconry, the action is called "putting it over." When a hawk does this, with the particular bobbing of the head, she's rearranging new food in her crop, putatively putting some of it down into the stomach for digestion.

The modern understanding of putting it over is that the bird is merely re-arranging the contents of the crop, packing everything in, not pushing any of it into the stomach. The food is more slowly and incrementally let down into the stomach in later minutes or hours. But ancient falconers didn't know much about avian digestion. The phrase has been with falconry since Elizabethan times.

Clearly, the bird in the video had just eaten and she was settling her self in after a nice meal. Putting it over is pleasurable and natural, but it happens at length like this only when the meal is of some size. Were it a single vole, just about one bob of the head puts it over. For a pigeon, big rat, or other crop-filling meal, a somewhat lengthy head dance is used to get things packed in just right. "
John Blakeman

In other news, Tulsa's in the grip of a nasty snow storm today. Here's Kay, modeling the latest in winter headwear for the well dressed raptor:

Kay with a snow cap
Bob McCargar

Finally! I now know what Quicksilver my African Grey Congo is doing when he does those quick weird little jerks of the head with a slight neck bend. He too has a crop and he's putting it over!

I added the unsightly links, just in case, as sometimes happens, Blogger eats the more sophisticated ones in transfer.

Donegal Browne


From Robin of Illinois--
There is heavy sleet and ice and rain hitting Tulsa, now, and snow on its way, bringing blizzard conditions. Kay is hunkered down as low as she can get on the nest bowl, and it is staying dry (we see it when she gets up to turn the eggs). Someone asked if she has down underneath her external feathers to keep her warm. She really is terribly soaking wet to external appearances. The worst of the storm (the snow) is yet to come.

Hawks do have a layer of fluffy under feathers, though hawk feathers don't have the waterproof qualities of ducks for instance. Red-tails do attempt to shelter during wet weather or sit on a heat producing perch of some kind such as a chimney or lamp post during snow. They do have special large blood vessels that come from the heat rich core of their bodies to their feet to keep them from freezing. Unfortunately formels in open nests don't have the option of finding a less wet place to sit out storms and do become soaked. Though a well fed formel will regularly sit the nest through all kinds of inclement weather, usually without harm to herself. Though we should keep in mind that some nests do fail, and according to the Red-tail literature, there are two main causes of egg failure: lengthy cold drenching rain and birds who must leave their nest unattended repeatedly and/or for long duration in order to feed themselves.

This nest seems to have a possible double whammy coming up, as the winter storm is brewing and Kay may well be hungry.
UPDATES: Sally of Kentucky a member of Tulsa Team Forum, who observe and note the activities of Kay and Jay, has been sending updates all day. Many thanks to her. Unfortunately I was in the field so I wasn't able to post them as they came in. My apologies.

Things certainly could be better in Tulsa---

I will try to summarize the sad and confusing events of today from the posts in the forum. This is all following Kay weathering a horrific-looking snowstorm overnight in the nest without food or a break all day yesterday.

Kay was particularly restless this morning, standing up a few times and calling before settling back on the nest each time.

At 9:44 am she flew off the nest. Temperature was 36 degrees, light wind, eggs lying in the sun.

9:59 (25 minutes eggs were unattended) Kay came back but did not sit on the eggs. She stood and called, perched on the side of the nest and on the supports around the platform.

10:10 Jay arrived, Kay yelled at him and he left. By then the sun was off the eggs and still no one had sat on them. Kay stayed on the platform and hopped up to the bracket near the camera, we think around 10:45.

Catgirl drove to the area just before 11:00 to find Kay on the tower screaming Jay flew off. She found him in a tree screaming. returning past the nest she saw Kay still on the tower screaming. She saw lots of pigeons and squirrels around.

11:02 Jay came to the nest with a stick looked at the eggs and flew off again. 11:20 Jay came back and went to sit on the eggs. He had just settled when Kay arrived and apparently drove him off but does not sit, just stands and watches him leave.

11:22 Kay flies off. 11:36 Jay arrives again and settles on the eggs. He was on the eggs only a few minutes then flew off again.

11:41 Kay returns to platform, stands on the bar and the platform looks at but ignores the nest, calling, preens a bit.

11:50 she flew over to the eggs and hovered above them but did not sit down then walked over to the camera support and stood beneath the camera mostly out of view.

12:00 she is still under the camera calling, and appears to be shivering.

12:16pm she is seen preening all over, shaking her head over and over. (She looked bedraggled and matted early this morning) 12:37 still perched under camera, still appears to be shivering.

As of now at 1:33 pm, Tulsa time the eggs we are sure have been lost, if not during the cold wet snowstorm overnight, surely this morning. Tulsa Team Forum is very sad indeed. Kay was covered in snow at some points, and she shook off the snow a few times to settle back quickly on the eggs each time during the day/evening. Perhaps she knew somehow that she had been unable to keep them warm enough overnight?


1:45pm Jay is back on the eggs, Kay nowhere to be seen. The gentleman from Sutton Research Center is saying that the eggs could still be viable even if they were unattended ( 4 hours and 15 minutes) We will see. Jay hasn't given up. I'll report later. He's still on the eggs at 2:26 but has not rolled them that anyone has noted.


Will the drama never cease? Jay came to sit on the eggs, finally, around 1:45 after Kay had left.

She re-appeared at 3:12 pm very fully cropped up like I don't recall having seen her full before, but she still would not sit on the eggs. Jay left and returned with some bark for the nest and left again, and then stayed away until Kay flew off the platform at 3:55, when Jay came back to sit again.

Jay then sat on the eggs until Kay returned at 5:50 and began to sit on the eggs. Kay has gotten up and left the nest to stand on the platform this evening, but went back to sitting on the eggs after a few minutes each time. Things certainly aren't "normal" but at least she is back and appears tucked in now for the night 8:30 pm.

4+ hours of uncovered eggs, plus 40 or so more unattended minutes in the afternoon there any hope? Guess we will watch what unfolds.


One cannot help but think that there may be something wrong with Jay's cognitive function, as he continues to misread the repeated cues that Kay is hungry and he needs to bring food to her. He appears to know that trips to the nest bringing something are in order as he continues to bring nesting materials up to Kay. She had shown her displeasure to him for these offerings instead of prey, and has called long and repeatedly for food while sitting the nest. A formel usually will not leave the nest without the male taking her place unless there is an emergency such as defense of the nest or health affecting hunger.

Question for those watching the Tulsa Nest--In the beginning of incubation what was the interaction or lack thereof that meant Jay did not switch with Kay for nest duty? Did he try? Did she refuse to give up the nest? If Kay left did Jay not appear and egg sit? What went on?

Donegal Browne