Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Urban Red-tails Kay and Jay, Wild Turkeys, and the Ms

Easing her way back into life as usual--
April 7-Kay in a tree at Riverparks at 12:30 pm - about 1/3 mile west of the nesting tower.

A closer look at Kay in the same position.

Kay on the tower, around 5:15 pm.

Kay and Jay, sunset, keeping an eye on things.

Crop bulging, Jay keeps a particular eye on an attacking Kestrel who seems to be a serial offender.

Cheryl says, "I have seen the Kestrel zinging Jay before at sunset. Also several Tulsa Hawk forum members have captured screen shots of a kestrel on the tower.
- Cheryl

Some answers to my questions of yesterday to Rose Cuthbert, Tulsa Hawkwatcher--

There are not many pigeons in the park, but then there never are. There is, however, an abundance of mourning doves.

The Langenheim pair does has a nest nearby, about maybe a quarter of a mile at the most. Right along the creek bank in a tree. It is way way back in someone's yard so any observations must be done at a good distance. Cheryl found it. I don't have the kind of camera equipment she does, so I just normally drive by to make sure it is still up there and if there are any hawks flying around near it.

Thanks Rose. So that's the nest that was found in the back yard.

Have you ever seen one of the Tulsa RTs nab a Mourning Dove? I don't remember ever seeing it. We have a few in Manhattan but rare compared to rural areas and I've not seen the urban hawks get one. I'd think the Red-tails would have a much harder time catching Doves than they do pigeons. Mourning Doves don't circle, are harder to spy on the ground due to coloration, and are very fast up and through the air to cover.

Here In WI I've seen Doves sitting on wires not far from an RT. It could just have been a Dove who wasn't long for this world. But maybe not as these rural hawks seem to usually stick to voles, mice, and I hear rabbits though I've not seen them with one of those either.

I was told by a retired dairy farmer in the area, Ron Wade, that back when he had dairy cows and therefore lots of grain around to feed cows that a flock of pigeons lived on his farm. They would often sit up on roof of the silo to sun themselves. At which time the resident Red-tail pair, would come sweeping round the silo from the rear and pluck off a pigeon, rather like the hunting of urban RTs coming round the corner of a building and snatching a perched bird.

Therefore a some point in time at least some rural Red-tails hunted pigeons, but as there are so far fewer of them than there once was, perhaps fewer hawks know the techniques. And there are just far fewer pigeons available in the first place to hunt at the current time as many of the dairy farms are now gone.

The M formel: Same position, different day, with different light. I was there a bit after sunrise. Very blustery, temps in the 20's, and as usual no sign of the tiercel. Though no doubt he is there, as usual, enjoying his cleverness at not being seen.

I was up early this morning and was rewarded with a pair of male turkeys displaying first against each other until one, "won the field", the second retired and then showing off for the hidden females in the bushes.


All the wonderful screen captures today are courtesy of Tulsa Hawkwatcher Sally of Kentucky as are the following updates on Kay and Jay.
8:22 a.m. Kay visits the tower. Checks her nest, moves a piece of bark and a stick near the eggs, then perches on the rail.
A little hawk tai chi and a rouse of her feathers, then she settles to survey her realm, Queen of KJRH tower! Cam was zoomed on her feet in the nest but someone was watching and pulled out so we could see all of her! Yes! She looks fit and fine and is NOT calling!! Looks pretty contented, actually. 8:32 She rouses once more and flies off right. Gee it was good to see her in person!!
10:26 a.m. Jay in nest briefly, very cropped up! I think today he has swallowed the softball! He must have gone out on the camera support because he came back over to the nest, steps ever so carefully into the bowl with the eggs, talons still curled with care, and moved a few twigs.
He hovered over the eggs as if about to sit (my heart was breaking) Then ever so gently rolled the pale egg a bit, then looked up in a half-sit, seemed to think a moment, then walked over and got up on the bar.
He is now surveying his kingdom as well. Flew off 10:37.
Oh goodness that was heart-wrenching for me...if they had human feelings it just looked so touching and sad, like "Hi little egglets, I still love you, I want to care for you but something tells me its too late"...I know, I indulge in the dreaded anthropomorphic illusions, but after all isn't that partly why we love these birds? We feel we "know" them in some intimate way?


Indeed. D.B.

The Ms Still Sit While the KJRH RT Nest Season Ends

As you may have heard, Kay abandoned the Tulsa nest on the evening of April 2. Jay hung on valiantly, continuing to try to incubate the eggs, even overnight, despite being shooed away several times by Kay, but he gave up on Sunday, April 5.

We're putting together a summary of events, with our observations, so we can get Blakeman's best guess about why the nest failed and maybe some understanding of some of the behavior we witnessed.

In the past few days, Kay and Jay have been spotted and photographed in the area.

Today, Kay and Jay made separate appearances in the nest, seemingly to survey the situation. Both looked healthy and well fed, much to our gratification. I managed to get one of Kay's visits today on video, which I'll put up shortly. When I do, I'll send you the link.

In the forum, we discussed what, if anything to do about the eggs. So I wrote to Blakeman for his opinion. Attached, below the pictures, I've forwarded our correspondence.

It was tough to give up on the eggs––harder for us, I believe than for Kay and Jay––but we're thrilled to see them continuing to thrive and still claiming the KJRH territory as theirs. It helps us to look forward to next year.

P.S.: Here are the most recent photos of them, courtesy of Cheryl in Tulsa. Sally got some great screen shots of both of them on the platform today as well. I imagine she'll send those to you.
(Unfortunately, for whatever reason the photos Bob sent and Cheryl took refuse to show themselves at the moment. They wish to remain blank boxes with a red x in the corner. I'll try again to get them to expose themselves after Blogger has a change for a little rest.

Yes, Bob, I think you are absolutely right. Since watching my first failed nest, Pale Male and Lola's, the first season after the nest was destroyed by the Coop Board at 927 Fifth Avenue and the carriage installed, I've watched the birds gradually leave the nest and slide back into their non-breeding behaviors without looking particularly upset.

When a hawk looses his or her bonded mate, the remaining bird absolutely does look extremely upset. Therefore it isn't as if they are incapable of feelings or we are unable to read them, Red-tails seem to accept nest failures as more a natural part of life without the feeling of despair that Hawk Watchers often feel.

The males attempting to tend nest without the female do look quite concerned at times about, I assume, where their mate may have gotten to and also understandingly confused but not despairing.

I see no reason, barring loosing one of the pair, for Kay and Jay not to return next season firm in their bond to nest on the KJRH TV tower once again. Ready for the 2010 chapter of their story to unfold before our eyes.

Typically the County M formel stares at me from the nest while she and her mate wait for me to go away so they can continue their usual business. While at the KJRH nest, Kay and Jay have begun their retreat back into the behavior usually not begun for some months yet.

In the meantime Bob McCargar of the Tulsa Hawk Nest Forum has first an update and next questions for our resident Hawk expert, John Blakeman of Ohio--


Here's my latest question: Is there any argument to be made for removing the now-abandoned Tulsa eggs from the nest? Kay last sat on them on April 2,at about 5:25 PM. Jay continued to incubate them, although Kay would come into the nest from time to time to send him away.

After Jay left, Kay would hang around for a few minutes but would then leave without sitting on the eggs. Jay stayed on the eggs as much as possible, leaving to get something to eat, presumably, and spent two of the next three nights on the eggs.

Finally, he left the eggs at 7:28 AM on Sunday the 5th.At this point, I can think of two possible reasons to remove the eggs.

First, to attempt to determine at what point the fetal development stopped. Was it the day they were exposed to the cold for 4-5 hours, or was it later?

The second reason would be to optimize the chances for another clutch, whether this season or next. We might be able to get the station's cooperation in removing the eggs, but we don't know if it's worth the effort, for any reason.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


Bob, good thoughts regarding egg removal, but here are my perspectives on the matter.

Yes, if the eggs were removed an egg expert could dissect them and come up with a probable date of death. But this presents four problems. First, you've got to get the eggs out of the nest. That means you've got to find somebody to climb up there and do the job. That, alone, may not be easy.

Secondly, anyone climbing up there will have to abide by all Oklahoma and OSHA work rules. Climbing up a tower like that, even if it has internal steps or ladders, will entail some detailed adherence to strict tower safety rules. Because of those, the tower owner may just nix the entire operation, understandably.

Thirdly, one can't extract hawk eggs from nests just because it's a good idea or good understandings might derive from the action. There will have to be state and federal permits to allow this, and it wouldn't surprise me to find those to be denied, given the common status of the red-tail, on the presumption that nothing useful could be learned from the eggs' extraction and dissection.

Fourth is the problem of finding someone with sufficient experience in egg dissection. Surely there are some professors at any of the Oklahoma universities who could do this. But if they would wish to do the dissections would need to be first affirmed.

Lastly, there is no biological imperative to remove the eggs. At this late date it's almost impossible for the pair to re-clutch, to lay another set, especially given the apparently reduced food situation this year. Red-tails very seldom lay a new set of eggs under any circumstances. And this situation is not at all favorable.

So, if the eggs are allowed to remain dead in the nest, will this have any untoward outcomes for breeding next season? None whatsoever. This happens all the time, with, say, about one fourth of red--tail nests having unhatched eggs each year. The birds are programmed to return to the nest site next year and almost surely they will do so. The dead eggs will eventually rot and disappear.

Consequently, I think it best to simply write off this year's breeding at the nest and hope for better things next season. This failure is not so infrequent, even with old, experienced red-tail pairs. It's part of the nature of the species.

--John Blakeman

Remember the Ms switch yesterday, when the formel hugged the ground until she got to the back treeline? Then she flew the treeline, much lower than usual and I thought I'd not caught her at it. But looking once again at the landscape shots, I finally found her flying just below the tree boughs. See her?

Once again the Barn Swallows at Thresherman's Park have refurbished their wattle nest and are incubating. Some of the feathers you see sticking out to the right, are just that, disconnected feathers for nest lining. I believe a few others are actually still connected to a parent.

Last season Rose Cuthbert reported on the Red-tails in Langenhiem Park in Tulsa and when the call went out for Tulsa prey reports she answered-

Hi Donna,

Robin asked me to mail you with any info I have on the availability of prey for the Langenhiem pair of Red Tails.

In the park itself I have seen plenty of rabbits, lots of young rabbits and some squirrels. The whole side of the park has been recreated by some work the city did on the creek that runs down one side and lot of new landscaping has been down through about half the park. I do not know how this may or may not have affected any mice or voles.

I have seen two prey grabs out of the creek area of what I think were rats, but cannot see that well at that distance and wouldn’t bet on it. What I can be sure of is that something was grabbed up and flown off with. Hope this helps.

Hi Rose,
Sounds like there could be a prey depth deep enough to feed young hawks. There certainly seems to have been something strange going on with the pigeons around the KJRH nest.

Any pigeons in this park?

Comparable to the past?

Do you know where the nest is this season? Same or different location from last season?

I realize I’m bombarding you with questions to which you may not have not answer. That’s fine, I'm just endlessly curious about how it all works in urban Tulsa.

Sometimes when there is a disturbance of the earth with construction it disrupts the rodents and there are more exposed beasties to hunt. It sounds like the birds have been availing themselves of the bounty.

Thanks again. Do please send in any observations you might run across this season.



Photograph by Dave Treybig as is the note below--

Aware of your interest in birds and birding, I thought you might be interested in viewing the attached photo.

Outside my office window, I have a few flat stones that serve as a makeshift bird feeder. The top rock is there to keep the northwest wind from blowing the birdseed onto the front porch.

Just as I was about the take a photo of the dove at the feeder, a titmouse accustomed to feeding there came flying in (from the top right side of the photo), thus attempting a blind landing at the feeder. Imagine the titmouse's level of surprise when it landed on the dove's back.

I was surprised when the dove tolerated the titmouse standing, uninvited, on its back. The titmouse stood there for three or four seconds, assessing its unexpected, awkward situation, as the dove continued unconcernedly to eat the birdseed.

I quickly took this photo.

The titmouse then flew away to a nearby feeder, the dove continued eating the birdseed, seemingly oblivious or uncaring about the titmouse on its back.

Endlessly entertaining, these birds.

David (& Margot) Treybig
Hardy, VA

Endlessly entertaining? Indeed birds are! As is your perfectly timed photograph. The Mourning Dove truly does seem utterly unconcerned about her passenger. Though Titmouse looks a touch surprised by the footing. Thank you David for sharing the moment.

And from our Blackwater Eagle Reporter Robin of Illinois--
Blackwater Nest Update 04/07/09: Photographer Bob Quinn
has posted new photos showing our local eagles and ospreys.


Live nest cams from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Flicker, Carolina Wren, Barn Owl, and EasternBluebird

Donegal Browne

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Never Underestimate a Red-tail and More On the Tulsa Red-tailed Hawks

The Ms are a piece of work.
Here is, I think Mom, watching me from the nest.
This went on for some time without a glimmer of any action at all.
I began changing my position on the ground . When I changed she shifted nearly at the same time. Rather like some kind of heat seeking apparatus.
I began to think that I'd come at some kind of long afternoon lull. Everyone has eaten. Mom would be bird napping if I weren't there. Nothing but the whirr of cars zooming back and forth behind me. Besides it was damp, very windy, and the chill was creeping into my bones. I pick up the equipment, pack it away, get into the car, start it, and Whoosh! A hawk comes out of the nest and instead of doing a high flight away, or a treetop scoot, she dives down and stays a few feet from the ground across the field. Prey? No, she never goes to ground but rather heads for the back treeline. She then follows the tree line, but under the branches so her flight height is just where the trunks of the trees split. Never have I seen this exact pattern. The bird is obscured by the nest tree.
Then instead of heading away from me, she seems to be flying back to the tree nest, higher now--perhaps mid point of the nest tree height, perhaps 30 yards to the side of it. I can' t get my camera to focus on her, I try again, put the camera to my eye and---where did she go? I see a glimpse of wings coming in at a totally different angle of approach than before I put my eye to the camera. What is going on? Well, possibly one of those fancy right angle or complete reverse on a dime moves that Red-tails are capable of.

The hawk has to be about half way up the tree! Where is she?

I didn't find the hawk until I uploaded the photos and zoomed in. Look very carefully at the photograph. Start at the nest. See the upright branch that holds it? Follow it down to where it splits. Right branch holds the nest, left branch goes left and splits again. Follow the branch that goes up to the point where it intersects a split branch coming from below. See the red brown wing out spread and the taloned foot reaching for a perch behind the obscuring overlapping branches?

They are tricksy these Red-tails.

I'm clicking away at the whole tree as at that point as I don't know where the bird went. But wait, there is a hawk standing on the rim of the nest looking into the bowl.
I wasn't sure at that point if that was the bird who'd come in from the left or a different bird.
Now I think that the bird from the left, that had perched below the nest, did a short flight to the nest while I wasn't looking.

A little bigger version.
And then the hawk gets in and snuggles down into the nest. Head still up though to keep an eye on evil me.

Upon examination of all the photos, many more than I posted, I believe this bird is the tiercel. His head does not have the variegation of color on the tips of the head feathers that the formel has.
Clever hawks. The female went out of the nest near the ground flew to the tree line, keeping low until she was obscured by the nest tree. The male flying higher came OUT from behind the nest tree flying higher, he has to make the obscuring branches midway up at least if not to the nest itself. He did a straight shot towards me than a right turn into the tree. He had no way without circling to make the altitude necessary to get up to nest height so he improvised it with long broken flight to a hidden perch and then up to the nest.
Of course by this time, I've been watching him, thinking he is the formel who had been on the nest and is coming back, and therefore am completely clueless as to where she got off to, while I was watching him.
It was extremely well done. Duped again. Isn't it fun? We think we're so smart...NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A RED-TAIL!
That phrase, so often repeated at The Bench, in Central Park, which for many years has been the hub of Urban Hawkwatching in New York City, is a staple. I used it again writing of Kay and Jay a few days ago. Ohio hawk expert, John Blakeman picked up on it and here are his thoughts--

Well, I'm going to expropriate that wonderful phrase, and attempt (attempt) to attribute it always to the wonderful people at The Bench in Central Park. The phrase says it all about the magnificent species. Please give them my regards for this so-perfect phrase.

Even I, a self-proclaimed red-tail expert, find myself too often short-changing or underestimating the powers of this raptor. I, too, must continue to Never Underestimate a Red-tail!

Makes my day.

--John Blakeman

Rhode Island's Karen Anne Kolling has come up with what I think is a terrific idea, to further investigate the Tulsa situation--
Am I correct in remembering that there are other hawk nests in Tulsa? (Was that the area the nice maps were posted from maybe last year?) How are those birds doing? That would say something about whether the prey problem is very local, I would think.
Tulsa Sally’s Nest Update for Saturday
Poor Jay is back on the eggs this morning. Poor thing. We will keep watching. Reports from the ground say that they were seen in a tree, doesn't sound like territorial dispute. Could something have happened to through Kay's hormones out of whack? Could she have realized the prey base is too low for her to raise chicks? The questions continue and we are still watching.
Yes, poor Jay. He doesn't understand. He did his best and for some reason Kay isn't acting the way she has in the past with eggs and she has left them uncovered. He takes over, though he too is possibly a bit hungry, and Kay doesn't return for hours if at all.
As to Kay's hormones, I couldn't find anything specific about a birdie form of post egg laying depression comparable to the mammal form found in humans on occasion after a birth, or any research in this area but that doesn't mean that no chance of of an unusual hormonal swing couldn't exist. But I still think that the major cause of Kay calling incessantly to Jay, and then chasing him off the nest (in my opinion to get him to go further away to hunt) was extreme hunger. Kay would likely not have left the nest unless she was near starving.
From Tulsa Hawkwatcher Bob McCargar--
Here's a follow-up, Donna-
I thought you'd enjoy this because I've never seen a better example of a full crop. Even I can tell on this screen shot that Kay has eaten well in her nine hours away from the nest:
Kay looks like she spent the entire 9 hours eating and making up for lost time. There have to be at least a couple of medium sized prey items in there, perhaps pigeons or squirrels? Or maybe Kay flew far and got herself a big bunny. That bulge is up there with the largest distended crops that I've seen proportionally other than gorging juveniles.

The previous one was the day Norman showed up with a crop like that having left Isolde on the nest for many hours without bringing her food. Needless to say Isolde was not amused and made him sit on the nest for quite some time even after she had hunted, eaten, and preened. But she kept a close eye on him from across the street to make sure he stayed put, just in case.

And also from Bob--
In case there is a problem with the photo, here's the Flickr link:

Also, you may have seen this already, but here's a remarkable photo essay of a juvenile hawk in San Francisco:

Along the top of the frame, it's divided into chapters that you can click on. Just amazing photos. I've looked at it over and over.
Thanks Sally for the photo that includes the visible grating that would be similar to that under the nest. I was just trying to get a general idea about how it compares to fire escape nests and how much air might be coming up from around, or even under Kay, if any.

It has always been interesting to me how hungry the sitting moms are when they don't seem to be expending as much energy as they might during non-incubating months of year through activity. Though the brood patch would allow a certain amount of heat, which they would have to maintain--ordinarily insulated by feathers-- to "escape" to keep the eggs warm. Thereby perhaps making the females need more calories just to keep their body temp at the proper level. Particularly in Kay's case as she sat through days and days of inclement weather including being turned into a snow drift. Of course the formels have just created eggs which would drain their physical resources as well.
And so it goes. We observe, we discuss, we hold our breath hoping for the best, we research, and discuss and watch some more. All the while learning, increasing our depth of feeling and empathy for these tremendous members of another nation.
Donegal Browne

Meet the Ms! & A Discussion:What Went Wrong in Tulsa?

I'd begun to wonder if I'd ever see the day when they'd perch for even a moment in my line of sight.

Due to having five or six errands which sent me back and forth past the Ms nest, and shooting at least a hundred photographs of eyes peeking through twigs or tail feather tips just in today's batch of photos, I happened along as an adult stood on the edge of the nest looking into the bowl. I slammed on the brakes, pulled over, and as the bird knew she had been seen entire, a number of distraction flights followed with (gasp) a number of photo opportunities of entire birds...even perched on the nest tree.

Look at the photograph above. Which bird do you think is larger and therefore the female? Keep in mind the top bird may be slightly further back than the bottom one.

I thought perhaps the bottom bird was larger but wasn't completely sure, than I realized that I might well be seeing the feathers blow across a brood patch on the lower bird. What do you think?

I think, they are going to be hard to tell apart, at least at first, if not for some time, when they aren't together for comparison.

Much more on the Ms coming soon. But now we are all trying to figure out what went wrong in Tulsa.


Hi, Donna-

Well, the hawk drama continues, now with parallel threads: the fate of the eggs and Jay and Kay's behavior. As I write this, at 12:58 Tulsa time, Jay has been on the nest for more than 5 hours. So of course, we all have our theories. Here are couple of recent posts:

After reviewing the posts, the screen shots, and the video, I'm now prepared to analyze the day's events. This is my official "Never let lack of knowledge stand in the way of indulging in useless (but diverting) speculation" hypothesis about what we've witnessed. I think they've both been finding only small prey, insufficient to feed our ravenous mama hawk's appetite. Many times when she's returned to nest, she's chirped at Jay about something. My interpretation is that she's giving him marching orders to rustle up some more grub, pronto!This afternoon, I think she saw a meal flying by and took off after it, simply because she was so hungry. She didn't sit there with her head following something circling around her. She focused mostly on one spot, got up quickly, and left instantly, leaving the eggs untended. She may not have scored. Jay, not realizing she was off the nest, didn't get back until he had some food, which he then deposited on the right side of the nest, off camera. When Kay came back, I couldn't tell whether she'd eaten or not, but she jumped on the prey immediately. Jay then took off.Kay appeared to manipulate the prey in her talons for a few moments, and then took off. She was definitely shifting around, fussing with something, and in the video it was clear that she had a dark object the same color as the prey that Jay had brought in. Then she left and returned returned 25 minutes later, which would be a reasonable time to pluck and consume a bird, I think.So at the root of all this, I think, is difficulty in procuring adequate prey, either in size or numbers. They may be out there, but they may be more elusive this year than last. I think Kay's meals haven't been filling, which is why she continues to call out so frequently, even after she returns from what we presume is a meal break. I believe she's urging Jay on, to put it charitably.

Maybe someone who knows something about pigeons might know the answer to this, but do they go off to nest somewhere? Since last weekend, I have noticed a definite major decline in the pigeon population in the area of the nest. I am only seeing maybe 5 pigeons in the immediate vicinity and I am used to seeing 20-30. Russell seems to think they do not eat that many pigeons - but my experience in the field with them is observing them eating a diet heavy on the feathered side. What type of meals have all of you seen, either last year while nesting or feeding Thunder and Spirit, and the few glimpses on the hawkcam this season?Whenever I am in the area of the nest I look for Kay or Jay - but I am not having any luck locating either of them away from the nest. I did see Kay today around noon(I assume from the wonderful record of observations of exits and entrances at the nest) flying around near 41st and Riverside but quickly lost sight of her.I have also seen what looks like a couple of the juvenile bald eagles circling around the river, between 31st and 36th, a couple of times recently. I think it was last Friday I saw Jay circling around 36th and Peoria and then he went higher and further to the west and I could see a couple of other large dark shapes join him. But at that distance its hard to really tell if they were really that close and they all went so high and far off to the west - I could not locate them when I drove over to that area. The other instance was yesterday evening and the eagles appeared to be hunting over the river.

Catgirl, thanks for that interesting report. That would certainly be consistent with my hypothesis, and it might not be just pigeons that are in short supply. For what it's worth, John Blakeman says pigeons make up a substantial part of an urban hawk's diet because there are so many of them that there are bound to be plenty in the city that are less adept at escaping the hawks. Rock doves (actually pigeons in a rural setting) are apparently much harder to capture because they've learned about predation by hawks, whereas their city kin, who have only encountered hawks relatively recently, are naive or unskilled at dodging raptors.

8:11 a.m. Jay still on eggs. Good morning folks! I turned on to see eggs alone in the nest, then Jay came in so I relaxed and caught up! Observer, Weeyin, I see you are the early ones again today! Bob, thanks for the commentary and excellent videos, as usual! Your hypothesis seems plausible to me, although they could also be being distracted by intruders which would disrupt their routine and perhaps tire Jay out from chasing them off. I think the prey he brought was perhaps a starling, it seemed to be blackish with those iridescent feathers and no tail. I saw birdy legs when Jay first landed on the bar with with it. Poor Jay did what he always does when Kay returned--he left, not know she would leave with the prey I guess, and obviously she didn't know the prey was there at first! I just hope the same incident doesn't occur today with falling temperatures.
As a point of reference, at the rehab where I volunteer we feed our rehabbing red tails about 100-150 grams per day, depending on the bird's size and needs, and our resident education RT's maintain weight on about 100 grams per day. 125 grams is about 1/2 of a medium-sized rat that you might see at a pet store minus the entrails, 1/2 - 1 quail depending on size (the quail we use are about the size of a pigeon or slightly smaller, I think), or 3-4 mice, and the mice we use are about the same size as the wild mice I have caught in my garage! I have no idea what the food requirements are of a wild red tail, but they are certainly higher than that of a captive bird which does not have to expend energy to survive and hunt.Also, when Jay rolled the eggs a little while ago around 8:00 I think, I got to get a good look at that process. He rolled the first one into the second one so they both turned nearly all the way over (I watched the spots on the first egg move) and though they appeared to roll right back where they came from, when the first egg stopped it was definitely in a much different position than it had been before, according to the position of its spots.8:17 Jays rolls eggs and resettles facing 12:30. 8:32 Jay still on the eggs. Hope Kay comes back having eaten well!EDIT: For those of you who are totally freaked out about the food, we have freezers full of frozen rats, mice and quail that we defrost and cut into portions-I don't kill live animals to chop up for them! AHH!!!

Taking a quick look at posts and looking at time - was just by the nesting area. At 11:49 I could see a hawk circling off to the south of the nest. I relocated to that area but could not find any sign of any hawk. I guess Kay is enjoying her day out - cold front just came through, not sure if there
will be any rain but temp is dropping, some good gusty winds. Did not see a single pigeon in the immediate area today. Edit addition: but I always see squirrels and the smaller birds at the neighborhood smorgasbord. Just fewer and fewer pigeons over the last few days. I hope to have a chance to go look again later today.

To be continued...

And from John Blakeman--


I couldn't find anything here I would disagree with. All pretty astute observations and comments.

The pigeon factor may be big. No pigeon should ever be caught by a red-tail. The hawks are too slow, and the pigeons too fast. Now New York pigeons are a thing apart, as it New York City itself (and wonderfully, of course). There, the pigeons are often on the ground eating tossed grain, where they can be plucked off by a strafing red-tail zipping unseen around a building or bush.

I'm betting that was happening also in Tulsa last season. But all of the dumb, unobservant (read that as usually young, inexperienced) pigeons got taken. The older, observant adults decided to vacate the area this season, accounting for the reduced numbers of seen pigeons in the area.

And red-tails like squirrel flesh, but in rural and wild areas these tree rodents are very, very hard to capture. The wild squirrels have been selected for avoidance of hawk predation. Dumb city squirrels haven't been, and they can be easily taken, especially when the squirrels are on the ground and can't zip around behind a branch when a hawk approaches at speed.

But they, too, will learn the ways of predating hawks and will become much harder for them to capture. That's exactly why the preferred prey of red-tails across the continent is are voles or other small, mouse-like rodents who have no way of escaping capture. Those may be harder to find at the Tulsa nest site.

In summary, the prey animals at the Tulsa site are surely a lot more wary and discerning. The dumb pigeons and squirrels have all been reduced to hawk flesh. The survivors have their honed wits about them, making life a bit more difficult for the resident hawks. Life is not so easy anymore, it seems. The easy pickings are gone. Next year, there may be only one or two eggs in the nest, a common response to the reduced availability to prey.

--John Blakeman
From me--D.B.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology not only has many experts on native birds, they also have an expert on pigeons. The Lab also runs Pigeon Watch, a program in which urbanites, often young people, take field notes on their local pigeon flocks. When I was running the Hell's Kitchen Bird Park, we too participated in the program, and we found in New York City, and I understand in other urban areas as well, pigeon flocks are rather firmly ensconced in an about two block area.
If there are areas to nest, the most important factor in keeping a stable flock size, and a steady food supply, even when there are resident hawks
the pigeons will stay within the boundaries of their "home" area.
I have seen numerous examples in which nearly every single day, when the pigeons flock together waiting for someone who feeds them, or for a carriage horse to spill his oats, or the pigeons have found some sort of windfall, that the resident hawk glides in and grabs one of the their number. Day, after day, after day.
Yes, the more experienced pigeons are looking out for the hawks, but the hawks are also expanding their bag of hunting techniques. The hawks get better at hunting the pigeons, and the pigeons get better at watching out for the hawks.
Pigeons also breed year round though more slowly in cold weather. In New York City the slow months are November, December, January, and February in the less desirable nest sites. I have seen successful nests in all those months in better more protected sites on buildings. Particularly when there is a regular food source.
There is usually a new crop of young pigeons by mid to late March. I would have expected nearly the same schedule in Tulsa. Has something disrupted the usual pigeon breeding schedule?
According to an earlier report from Catgirl, the bird feeders in the area are still going strong so that isn't the problem in the sudden dearth of pigeons.
What about nesting areas?
Has there been any major demolition of older decorative buildings, buildings with terraces, or a building netted over, in the area? In other words, was a major nesting area destroyed?
Has there been an influx of Starlings? They steal pigeon nesting areas and are far harder for hawks to catch. Beyond being lower calorie and audibly crunchier if they are caught.
By the way, there has been some major bad weather lately. Actually bad weather can sometimes be a windfall for hawks. Many fledgling pigeons can be blown into buildings or otherwise injured making them extremely easy to pick off. They are the proverbial "sitting ducks" for hawks.
Also hawks are not above eating recently dead prey which they did not make "recently dead". Some Red-tails will raid pigeon nests of chicks.
But we haven't seen any pigeons being brought to the nest. Jay couldn't find or catch pigeons, which he was perfectly capable of doing last season, yet this season he was reduced to bringing nesting materials to a ravenous and extremely unhappy Kay.
Now to Kay, and her 45 minute to 4 hour breaks and soccer ball crop. That crop was not filled with rodents. That crop was likely full of pigeon.
I asked the Tulsa Hawkwatchers about whether Jay was bringing food? And if he was, what it was? They kindly filled me in, and there was a startling lack of observations of his bringing food at all regularly and when it did come it seemed minuscule. And she was crying all the time with a mostly flat crop.
Kay started taking somewhat longer breaks, and would come back with a slightly rounded crop and still cry. I know this is anthropomorphic but Kay was "beside herself" about something. And she was hungry a lot of the time. I could tell from watching Bob McCargar's videos.
Was her woe, the lack of prey in the immediate area? Did she know what that might eventually mean? Was she trying to tell Jay, that he would have to give up guarding the territory so closely and go farther afield for food? At times she actually looked like she was attempting to chase him away, ie. go further, find prey.
Finally ravenous, being bigger, just having laid eggs, and needing calories to keep herself warm in inclement weather, (She sat in an open platform, in high wind, being covered with snow, while sitting the eggs. It appears that she had to go far afield herself to find enough food to keep from starving. Hence the longer breaks to possibly find pigeons , and returning with a gorged crop.
That is my hypothesis anyway at the moment. Subject to change when new information arrives.
And a last note, as there has been what seems to be a sudden severe drop in the pigeon population according to the watchers, and if there have been no big disruptions in the pigeon food supply or nesting areas, might I suggest the two biggest reasons for sudden drops in pigeon populations in NYC as a possibility?
The two causes of sudden catastrophic pigeon population collapse in NYC are from poison and from netting/trapping. It might behoove those on the ground in Tulsa to try and find out if either of those two things have been going on in the neighborhood.
Usually though, with poisoning, there will be pigeons lying around dead which can and likely would poison a very hungy hawk who couldn't afford to be choosy as she had eggs to sit and couldn't be gone from the nest long.
Is it possible that someone is netting or trapping pigeons in that area?With netting and trapping, large numbers of birds just flat disappear in the blink of an eye.
How is netting done? Someone arrives with a panel truck or pick up with a cap, they lay a large net on the sidewalk or in an open area at a time not many people might be around and then dump rice or bird seed on the net area. The pigeons arrive to feed, more pigeons arrive, and then the net is pulled. The net and the pigeons are bundled up into the truck. The pigeons are then sold to restaurants for squab on the menu or to hunting clubs where the pigeons are released from a cage and shot for "pigeon shoots".
A doorman in NYC on the street the Bird Park was on, had been feeding a small flock of a few dozen pigeons, for years. He arrived for work one day and they had disappeared. His friend from the garage across the street rushed over and told him the flock had been netted off the sidewalk at six that morning. The doorman was heart broken. It is one thing for a hawk to do what hawks do, but quite another for humans to take the entire flock and destroy the "ecosystem". Doormen, parking lot attendents, any one who does some of their work on the street, are very good sources of information about what happens in a neighborhood.
It looks like without the pigeons, the hawks can't make a go of the TV tower nest. Whatever is causing the population drop might be something that needs investigating, just in case it is manmade.
If Kay and Jay are to return for further nesting under the eye of the KJRH Hawk Cam, they need something to eat besides the few small rodents that are out in the daylight.
Oh yes, an addendum about trapping--it sometimes takes place on the roofs of buildings making the traps somewhat hard to find in most areas. But the Tulsa watchers are lucky, as the TV tower is taller than the surrounding buildings, I's think that an inspection could be made of the rooftops to check for box traps, sticky tape, and all the other gross things people do to decimate pigeons, right from the nest area, particularly with the added plus of a TV camera.
Sometimes trapping is done for no other reason than someone just doesn't like pigeons.
And of course there might be some other cause all together for the shortage of prey that hasn't been thought of yet. The reason for the scientific method, indeed! A hypothesis is put together, a kind of best guess, it is then tested to see if it is the causative factor. No? New hypothesis, and test that one.
I heard a scientist on the radio say something I liked very much the other day, FUNDAMENTAL SCIENCE IS DRIVEN BY CURIOUSITY.
And just think, that really is why all of us are here, isn't it. Burning curiosity, the need to watch what happens, the need to figure out why what happened just did happen....and on and on. The world is never boring for the curious, there is always more...
Donegal Browne