Friday, May 29, 2009

Secundus Stares, The NYBG Nest, and Urban Mallard Mom

It was raining sporadically throughout the day but I went to check on the Ms to see how they were doing. Not much action and I never even saw Primus' head. Though I did see a wing flap here and a bob there. Secundus true to his vigilant nature never took his eye or eyes off me the entire time I was there.

And he used just about every possible peering position.

And he watched me drive away...

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
(Now that is a sweet faced hawk!)
Pat Gonzalez was once again at her station watching the nest of Hawkeye and Rose at the NYBG

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Keeping an eye on the eyasses.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Look at how much more room these eyasses have for running around compared to the Astoria Park nest or the Ms on County M. When they are ready though the Ms will be able to hope flap from branch to branch and then return to sleep in the nest at night.
Hawkeye and Rose's very similarly shaped nest site at Fordham not only had that roomy runway but it also had trees that were close enough for the fledglings to branch to them and or fly off and make their way back to the nest by branching to spend the night.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
And the serious hopping and flapping continues.

I was standing in the parking lot outside the phone store in Illinois when I looked down at this culvert and saw movement in the tall wetland type grass.

What is it? See the darkish spots just right of center?

Ah ha! It's a Mallard Hen and her Ducklings making their way through and urban area to where?

They are heading out at a good clip. The ducklings are keeping up quite nicely as Mom leads the way.
I do hope Urban Mallard Hen knows a way under the far side of this area that will avoid crossing the car ridden pavement.
They disappeared into the grass and I didn't see them come out the other side. So either they had reached their destination or there is some sort of large drainage pipe or other that does go under the street. Hen did look like she knew exactly where and what she was doing like any experienced urban bird should.
Speaking of which, I too seem to have a fox visiting my back yard. She looks to be young and seems to be coming by to check out the Crow's Goodie Stump.
Contributor Robin of Illinois found a fascinating article about an influx of Vultures in California--who are eating tar?,+residents+sayNeighborhood under siege by vultures, residents say Friday, May 29, 2009Residents of a Bay area community say some unwelcome neighbors have movedinto their neighborhood and are making their lives miserable.Hundreds of vultures have taken up at the Floral Lakes Mobile Home Park.Some of them hang out in backyards. Others are up on top of buildings, whereresidents say they have caused thousands of dollars in damage by picking atthe roofs.Resident James Bruce said he finds the vultures very irritating. "I despise 'em," he said. They are destroying our home. They are destroyingour automobiles."Bruce said he has had to use tar to patch his roof where vultures have eatenaway the shingles. He worries that spending thousands in repairs would be anexercise in futility because the birds flying near his home would come backfor more."For the vultures to just come back and eat it all over again, I don't thinkthe insurance company is going to think too kindly to that," Bruce said. Bruce hopes the government will step in to do something to rid his neighborhood of the vultures. So far, the city of Bartow installed some motion-activated sprinklers with the intent of chasing the birds away, but residents say the measure has not really helped.

This is completely bizarre. Is there some mineral in this particular community's tar which is deficient in the vulture diet? (Rather like the children that eat the charcoal ends off burnt matches.) Are the vultures eating something which has turned them into whack jobs? Perhaps they're all just constipated? Does this tar smell like carrion? Are they really eating tar or are they eating something else, an infestation of some kind, that is stuck in the tar? But I never heard that Vultures indulged in insects.

I wonder what gave them the idea that sprinklers would chase the vultures away? Do they think vultures don't bathe? Perhaps they were hoping for a surprise factor.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Billboard Hawks of Tulsa, the Starr Ranch Hummingbird Nest Cam, and Pigeons the Unofficial Mascot of NYC

The Tulsa Billboard Hawk Nest earlier in the season.

The Billboard Hawk nest area. 5/22/09
Georgette Melvin who had been following this nesting pair discovered that their nest had been destroyed on 5/22/09 though the area had been whole only a few days previously when she'd checked on the birds and their nest. She contacted state authorities and I suggested that she contact Federal Officers as well.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects the birds themselves as well as their nests, eggs, feathers, and young.
For a look at the federal law see Animal Legal and Historical Center
Photographs by Cheryl Cavert

10/08 Female on billboard.

2/2/09 After copulation
2/2/09 After copulation

This is also an excellent example of the difference between a male and female Red-tail's head. Particularly as they are side by side and their heads are at nearly the same angle of profile, the place were one can most often register the differences in skull and beak.
Compare the beak and head ratio. See how the female's beak seems longer in ratio to her "face" than the males. There is a sleeker look to a female's head and often the top of her head seems flatter while the male's will often appear rounder on top.

Let us hope that someone is prosecuted for the destruction of the Billboard Hawk's nest so that others will think twice before destroying another nest...and conceivably their young at this point in the season.
From Sally of Kentucky--
My current affliction is with the Starr Ranch Hummingbird nest.
Mom seems to come feed the chicks...
...every 15-20 minutes or so.
Amazing to watch and due to fledge this weekend or so.

Hello pigeon friends and advocates,

According to an article in yesterday's New York Post
(, pigeons have been dubbed New York's unofficial mascot. You may want to post something in the Comments section of the New York Post and thank Julia Szabo for writing this interesting and fascinating pigeon article. The Wild Bird Fund is mentioned as well.

Birds in Paradise: Pigeons Share Similar Mating Process to Humans

New York PostMay 24, 2009

Love them or hate them, rock doves are surely New York's unofficial feathered mascot.

To honor them on National Pigeon Day (June 13), the New York Bird Club and United Poultry Concerns will host an event from noon to 4 p.m. at Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, featuring an appearance by singer-songwriter Nellie McKay, among other attractions.

But since sex sells, the sponsors might want to add a discussion on pigeon porn to the program. I, for one, wouldn't have to attend a demo -- the airshaft adjacent to my apartment is a veritable lovers' lane for pigeons.Their cooing is more than just ordinary urban background noise: It's proof that pigeons have more in common with us humans than we might think, especially in the mating department.

Rita McMahon, who rescues birds in distress and runs the Wild Bird Fund, concurs. But while human females won't marry a guy after just one pass or memorable meal -- especially if he throws up on the date -- female pigeons will. After initial coos, the male regurgitates his meal into the female's beak during a ritual called "billing."

As is often the case with humans, a female pigeon's sex drive is higher than a male's. "Some of the ladies are very horny, and will begin the mating process again immediately after sex,"

McMahon says. But perhaps they're just worried the male might leave them. Because while most pigeons are renowned for their monogamy, there are exceptions. "Males will divorce a female if she's infertile," McMahon allows.

Before, I viewed the feathered occupants of that dark, gloomy airshaft as live entertainment for my cats. Now I realize that what I have is an enlightening window into the stimulating sex lives of pigeons. If only I could get past the fact that they relentlessly use my air conditioner as a litter box.

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pale Male Grandstands, Astoria Park Nest Update, and the Young Ms Hang Out

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
These four photos were taken last week during my most recent trip to Central Park. I was standing by the Conservatory water trying out my new tripod and zoom lens. I had it fixed on Pale Male and Lola's nest on Fifth Avenue. I noticed Pale Male moving around, so I set my camera to use its 10 frames per second feature, pressed the button to focus and held it, waiting. Then New York City's most famous hawk jumped off the building and flew towards my camera for a few seconds. I got ten clear shots. Not bad for a point-and-shoot!

Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez


I cropped one of your photos to see if Pale Male was doing a little grand standing for your camera and checking you out. Sure enough, that's what he was doing. He's looking straight at you-- and into your lens.

Pale Male isn't the worlds most famous Red-tailed Hawk for nothing.

He truly does have an eye for camera equipment and photographers, and as you are new, I suspect he had to get a good look at you. Why he does it or what he is thinking when he does do it, I'd very much like to know.

He is a very charismatic fellow, full of ease and chutzpah. And why not? He is the Monarch of Central Park.

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Photograph by Pat Gonzalez


5/18/09, Athena and the three eyasses at the bridge nest off Astoria Park the day Francois Portmann and I went out to take a look.

This is the "parent look" that made me think there was a third eyass and if you look carefully you can see number three on the right side of the nest. She's still too young here to remain upright like her siblings so appears as kind of a white eyass puddle with a head.

Here's a report from Astoria Hawkwatcher Robert--

Jules and I have been stopping by regularly to check on the nest and one morning met a neighbor, John, who has also been watching.

(Remember Astoria resident and hawkwatcher John from the comments section? After seeing the photographs of the nest, he said he'd be able to track it down. I told him he should look for Jules and they found each other!)

The babies are well fed and are gaining size rapidly. They are taking turns stretching their wings on the nest but are now big enough that this morning for the first time we could see clearly that there are three of them. Even when they are sleeping we can make out their heads and bodies with 8x magnification from the spot on the pedestrian bridge that looks into the nest (about 100 yards away).

Their feathers are beginning to come in and show brown.They were left alone for the longest time we've seen yet and as we bicycled around the park and neighborhood we spotted both Atlas and Athena flying in the area and hunting hard for them - they are looking a little thinner than their brood but healthy.

We are still concerned about how fledging will go but things are going really well for now.



As we talked about in an earlier blog, this is a very tough spot to fledge from. Traffic, pavement below the nest, nothing to branch on as the pipes are too fat for them to grip, so they will very likely go early and be groundings who can't gain elevation for some time after coming off the nest.

Longtime Blog contributor Robin of Illinois sent in this article about Milton's local "Bird Lady", Dianne Moller. Dianne is a Wisconsin licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator and does wonderful work in many different areas, including education and advocacy.
"Dianne Moller, who runs the Hoo's Woods rehabilitation center in Milton,Wis., has received red-tailed hawks and great horned owls found at the landfill in nearby Janesville with singed feathers and feet and blistered eyes. It takes nearly a year to rehabilitate these birds because they have to molt, grow new feathers and then rebuild their strength in a flight cage before release, she said.When Moller brought a scorched hawk to landfill manager John Whitcomb last fall, he had an engineer come up with a way to weld a crown of steel spikes on the rim of the methane flare pipe to discourage hawks from perching. The landfill also installed a utility pole taller than the burner in hopes that raptors would perch there instead." "At their spring conference in Albany, the New York State Association for Solid Waste Management and the Federation of New York Solid Waste Associations passed resolutions to join Audubon's Save the Raptors campaign."

Primus does a little preening then stares down at her sibling.
Then she gives me a brazen stare.
And on the left tip top of the tree perches a Kingbird. Now Kingbirds are famous for their harassment of hawks and crows but at the moment this bird is scoping the area as if the hawks didn't even exist. And for all practical purposes the hawks don't at this moment and though he is perched near a hawk's nest and one might suspect he'd be in danger of becoming dinner, that will not happen. He is absolutely safe as far as we can tell.
Because we think there is a No Kill Zone around a Red-tailed Hawk's nest. We've seen it over and over, birds within a certain perimeter of a nest are not hunted. Exactly how big this perimeter is, depends on a hawk criteria which I haven't figured out, though the Kingbird is certainly within it.
I visualize the No KIll Zone as a bubble with the nest at it's center. At the Trump Parc nest of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte, there was a second or third floor railing on an apartment building below, by dozens of stories and slightly east of the nest. Pigeons constantly congregated on the railing without fear or harassment. At first we joked the railing and it's occupants were "The Pantry", and the hawks were saving them for a day with slim pickings, but it never happened.
It isn't totally clear but we think that the ground level below the nest isn't included in the bubble or at least most of it isn't. It is possible a small spot, that which would be the contact point of the "bubble" with the Earth would be no kill. Of course we don't have enough nests in the sample to prove the point, so far it is a hypothosis that so far as I know hasn't been categorically proved. We'd need a larger sample to make sure.
The conjecture as to why a No Kill area might be evolutionarily beneficial is that that way the parent's "wiring" precludes them from suddenly seeing a quick move by an eyass and their instinct causes them to pounce as if they were hunting, without thought, and accidentally do in their offspring.
The slitty eyed devil eyass expression.

Secundus rises up and looks pretty feisty himself.

Primus has a sudden urge to preen.

Still preening but getting sleepy.

Donegal Browne

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Questions/Some Answers

Are there possibly the tops of three eyass heads in this photo?

In yesterday's post while Primus and Secundus were getting ready for bed, on the far side of the tree sat one of the parents. As to whether this is Mom or Dad? I'm thinking Mom from behavior and chutzpah but I'm not positive as she isn't really glaring at me like she usually does.

This is Primus. Look at that ankle. Looks a tad chunky to me. Primus could be a female.

Primus has begun doing a hop and a flap now and again. Notice how the back of her legs below the knee are unfeathered. The thought it that young birds get their most important feathers first. Usually these are the feathers which are most needed for warmth. As a young bird is often still down on haunches, the bottom back of the leg is usually folded in and therefore doesn't need the feathers for warmth that could be better used on other more exposed spots of the body.

Many more photos of the Young Ms to come! Plus the No-Kill Zone around Red-tailed Hawk nests.
Donegal Browne