Saturday, February 06, 2010

Red-tailed Hawk Update: Kay and Jay of Tulsa, Plus Owls

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert

An update from Tulsa hawkwatcher and photographer Cheryl Cavert--

A few times I have noticed Red-tailed Hawks because of their antics in the treetops as they retrieve a prime stick for their nest - almost as eye-catching as their mating!

Wednesday when I was watching Kay and Jay work on their alternative nesting site in Tulsa, Kay went to retrieve a prime piece of pecan for their nest a block away.

Amazing test of strength, agility, flexibility, balance - gymnastics in the treetops! I have a couple of pecan trees in my yard - it is not easy tearing off a live branch/stick with just my bare hands!

So does she remove it from the tree with her beak or her talons?

Good question Cheryl. I've watched Pale Male remove twigs from trees and I think of it as clipping with his beak, but there may also be some leverage of his weight on the branch that may be contributing to the eventual dismemberment that I haven't caught onto in his case. I've seen the Riverside Park female bounce on a branch and attempt to get it to crack, then take another perch and finish the job with her beak.

Red-tailed Hawks are notorious individualists so let's check out step by step what Kay does in this case.

I just scrolled down to see what Kay ended up with. Go to the fourth photo down and see what the twig looks like that Kay retrieved.

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert
Do you see the section that Kay eventually takes? It is connected just left of her beak and has a sort of right angled double twigged end. Kay is standing on the larger stem her eventual piece is connected to, near the major branch of that section of the tree. I was wondering if she was using her weight at all to help snap the twig but it doesn't look like it in this case as her piece isn't being stood upon.

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert
I can't tell for sure but now it looks like Kay is holding onto the major stem to get another clipping angle on the selected twig.

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert
Now she has it but must disentangle it and herself from the other twigs.

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Remember John Blakeman's email about the satisfying of the strong urge to build a nest at this stage of the hormonal cascade of the season? Kay looks very focused and perhaps even a little driven if I may anthropomorphize just a touch.

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert
Kay arrives and now there is the placing of the twig. Red-tails can be quite particular about placement. They may immediately stick it somewhere and then head off for the next one. Or they may try it in one place, look, pull it out, try it in another, and maybe even another until satisfied.

One one occasion I watched Pale Male attempt to fit a twig innumerable places on the nest and pulled it out every time and tried again. He then stood with it in his beak, surveyed the nest, he does a lot of surveying the nest, then finally just dropped it helter skelter and flew off.

Did he suddenly have something more important to do? Was he frustrated with the whole thing? Did he just loose interest? Or was something else going on altogether? Only he knows.

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
And here comes Jay with a twig of his own. I noted at the Cathedral Nest behind St. Andrew's elbow that in its own way the nest was woven. There were sticks such as the one Jay is carrying stuck in perpendicularly while the material with more "catch" to them were often wedged in on their sides.

In Pale Male and Lola's nest it didn't seem to be so obvious, perhaps because that nest is anchored to the pigeon spikes which take the place of of some of the anchoring uprights. But don't take this too exclusively because there are both kinds of material going every which way.

Photograph by Cheryl Cavert
And then Kay arrives with what I would call a twig with more "catch" to it. It goes every which way so has more chance to catch and become entangled with the other twigs, keeping them together. While the wedged uprights help keep the mass in place.

Here is Cheryl's report of the day--

On Wednesday (2/3/10) I had the chance to watch Kay and Jay work on their alternative nesting site. They made quite a few runs for sticks as well as circle over me, checking me out. A few of the business people in the area also came over and were asking questions about the hawks! Thanks for all the information I was able to pass along - so much of it comes from what I have learned from your blog!

You're welcome Cheryl. Do you realize that you and the other Tulsa hawkwatchers are passing it forward? Every time some one stops and asks a question, you share your passion, your enthusiasm, your wonder, your love and your knowledge possibly creating yet another person who suddenly has had their eyes opened in a new way to the wonder of it all.

The urban hawks literally change people's lives.

And as I pass on my passion and knowledge and love for these birds to your and the other readers, so did the people who shared their history with them to me.

When I started, I knew what a Red-tailed Hawk looked like and that was about it. Marie Winn,, author of Red-tails in Love and Central Park After Dark (Correction- It's Central Park In the Dark, sorry Marie!), one of the original watchers of Pale Male, and therefore an original expert of the urban hawk has answered hundreds no probably thousands of my questions. She spent untold hours walking with me through Central park looking for Pale Male's roosts or following Screech Owls after fly-out, telling me so many many things and allowing me to discover things with her. We laughed and laughed at the sheer joy of it all. And beyond that she taught me we could be brave if we wanted to be.

Here we were two tiny women, neither of us much over five feet, then add my daughter Samantha at times under five feet, waltzing through the Ravine in uptown Manhattan in the pitch dark (fearless but not careless) having adventures.

Somehow our passion for the birds made us feel in a way a little bit invincible and we were, we were never bothered even once. Perhaps we were thought of as madwomen I don't know but whatever it was it worked.

One of the best if not the best compliment I ever had was when Marie wrote, she felt of all the birdwatchers I was most like her.

There were other Regulars as well who shared their accumulated knowledge, Ben Cacace, with his little notebook showed me the trees one night that Pale Male had roosted in when he first came to town among much else. James Lewis with his meticulous chart of Pale Male and his mates. A history gleaned from his own notes and those of other Regulars. And the wonderful Stella a lover of everything and a feeder of them too. The other women who shared their knowledge of owls, and let me tag along on their nightly jaunts following them. And every birdwatcher who met me on a path in Central Park and passed on their discoveries. "Did you know that the Red Screech is trilling in the Ramble?" And when I didn't know where to find her, they turned around and took me there.

And the remarkable John Blakeman, who had another completely different set of knowledge when it came to Red-tailed Hawks. He was in on the original breeding trials and has lived with Red-tails most of his adult life. No question in an email ever went unanswered, in fact sometimes the answer or as he'd say his best guess came the same evening.

The wonderful rehabbers Bobby and Cathy Horvath who have taught me so much and allowed me to touch and release some of their charges. Adam Welz who's questions during the making of his documentary made me think of why? The actress and hawkwatcher Eleanor Tauber who watched, and wrote, and photographed, and took joy in the hawks to the end. Francois Portmann with his camera and his smile, Robert and James, and...

Okay, it's 3:30 in the morning I could go on naming people until tomorrow morning at 3:30am, you know who you are and what you have done...

There are literally hundreds of people, including every contributor to the blog, and every reader, who I have to thank for my knowledge, and I thank them every time I share what I've learned and pass it forward, as you and others are doing now.

And of course there are all the remarkable, maddening, exquisite, singular Red-tails who have allowed me to share a little of their lives, who taught me so much and brought so much joy, and despair, though that part wasn't their fault, it was just the way of things: Pale Male, Lola, Charlotte, Pale Male Jr., Isolde, dear Tristan (Pale Male III), Stormin' Norman, beautiful Hawkeye, Rose, Mama, Papa, Atlas, Athena, Mr. M, Mrs. M, Intrepid, Builder, Steam, Mrs. Steam and every Red-tail perched in a tree hunting along a roadside or mantling a kill while being surrounded by a foraging party of crows has brought me knowledge and joy and at times saved my life as my wonder and passion for them was the only thing that made life bearable.

As so to all of you, Robin, Jackie, Karen, Pat, Cheryl, Sally, Anthony, Nara, Aiesha, Robert, Peter and--see I'm doing it again! To all of you, keep doing what you're doing and pass it forward...

But wait we've one more thing from Cheryl before the end of tonight's adventure---

Photo by Cheryl Cavert

Hi Donegal,
I love going out everyday possible and finding something to photograph - preferably wildlife in the urban setting of Tulsa. Besides our stars Kay and Jay, I have encountered numerous other redtail pairs as well as other types of hawks, fox, woodchuck, green heron, blue heron, and bald eagles. I have recorded the sounds of juvenile hawks in the afternoon and a fox calling out at midnight. I have heard owls in my neighborhood late at night - but how does one find an owl in the middle of the night to photograph?

A couple of weeks ago on a foggy weekday morning, a wonderful friend and neighbor called me on her way to work at 7:15 am - telling me there was a big bird in the road, come quick and bring my camera. She called back a few minutes later to tell me what tree it had flown into as she needed to go on. I quickly located the tree and found an owl perched on a limb over my car. I slowly eased out of the car and backed up a few feet to take a couple of photos - and have room to duck in case! It eventually flew off into some pine trees. Another KJRH hawkwatcher, Sally, identified it as a Northern Barred Owl, also known as a hoot owl.
Aren't friends wonderful?!!!!
All my best, Cheryl

I don't know what you folks think, but I'm betting that Cheryl didn't have friends calling her at 7:15 in the morning so she could grab her camera and make a mad rush out the door to get a look at an owl. An owl which her friend might well not have noticed if Cheryl hadn't suddenly started noticing such things with such depth after a certain pair of stalwart Red-tailed Hawks showed up in Tulsa to build a nest on a TV tower...

And yes, Cheryl, friends are wonderful, even the ones you've never laid eyes on.

Donegal Browne

Friday, February 05, 2010

Part One--Doorstep Dove Plus Rabbit, Crow, and Cat Tracks

When you can vividly see the toenail marks on a rabbit's track it looks rather weird. Little front feet in the back and big back feet in the front. If you didn't see them you might well think that bunny was going the other way. Nope bunny is hopping and the nature of bunny hopping, big feet for distance and little feet for balance and direction they end up looking like this.

The tracks on the top don't have quit the classic exclamation point look but rather a slightly different configuration, but still bunny tracks none the less.

I was in the kitchen, looked out, and saw Doorstep Dove, the yard's resident Mourning Dove matriarch, doing something I'd not seen her do before. She was settled down into the snow with a twig over her head. If you'll remember over the last several winters, Doorstep, Friend, and often their extended family would sit on the rim of the heated bird bath often seemingly watching the sunset until the sun went down and then each took to their wings to settle into their roost. They were lovely and I looked forward to seeing them there at the end of the day.
But this winter, they've not done it. In fact beyond their feeding at first light close to the house, I only see, and that very rarely, Doorstep foraging during the day, and none doing their dusk vigil. At first I thought that perhaps Doorstep's family had been decimated but no, I finally spied them feeding together at dawn. And Doorstep is a die hard lover of the warmth of sunset but not even she appeared until the day of this photograph.
All I can figure is that when the power company insisted on removing the trees under the power lines in the rear of the yard that somehow, the yard wasn't nearly as desirable a place to be at any time of the day. Perhaps because there is farther to fly to cover in the event of a predator attack? I don't know but I do miss them. So I was glad to see Doorstep today thought the snow can't have been nearly as toasty as her birdbath perch.
While I was thinking about all this, when suddenly her head went up, her neck lengthened and she looked to the north, then zoomed off with a Mourning Dove's characteristic whistling flight.

Ah, it was a cat. To add insult to injury, he had the temerity to drink out of Doorstep's previous evening perch. And not a cat that I'd seen in the daytime around the neighborhood either. A stray? Could he be coming some distance toward evening to get a warm drink as opposed to getting water by eating snow? Or is he lurking during the day, a culprit contributing to my lack of daytime birds?
I went back to looking at tracks next time I was out. Center see the two nearly continuous lines. Those belong to a crow walking through the snow. Their feet aren't very thick and they don't raise them very high so that's how the track looks.

So I'm looking at where the crow tracks are going and--who's tracks are those crossing and merging with the crows?

Left, we have a crow walking and then taking off. At least I think that's a take off as opposed to a landing. But who's snowed in tracks are on the right?

A closer look and yes, see the toe dents, definitely a take off.

And the others? No claw marks connected to toe prints. Somebody has retractable claws and raccoons don't. A cat, and a cat that could be our friend Birdbath Kitty.
If you look back up at the previous photograph in which the crow prints merge into the other prints, we now know those to be of a cat, look where they lead, under the Spruce tree. Quite a nice lair to leap out at prey. Pyewackit used to use it. I checked the shed next door where Pyewackit used the old ground hog hole for sleeping. No hole in the snow. But even when Pyewackit was at her hunting best, I still tended to have a yard full of birds.
But then again, the flock of thirty or so Juncos that have come for four years to winter here are down to a handful. The rest just never appeared at the appointed time.
The whole thing is a mystery that bears watching.
Donegal Browne

Thursday, February 04, 2010

NYBG Catch, and Part Two of Door Step Dove Plus Rabbit, Crow, and CatTracks

The next day when I looked out to check for Crows, I didn't find any but I did find Birdbath Kitty helping himself to the goodies on the stump, snow covered or not. Hope he likes stale corn flakes.

From the photographing Pat Gonzalez of the New York Botanical Gardens.

Here are more photos from my latest adventure at the NY Botanical Garden.

One of the best spots for observing water fowl seems to be the section of the Bronx River just off the Snuff Mill Road Overpass right up to the tunnel going to the Bronx Zoo. The extra-friendly male wood duck was there again and he was nice enough to let me take another close-up photo. I LOVE his colors!

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
As friendly as the duck was, the hooded mergansers were a different story. If I even breathed too heavy, they swim away, so I hid from their sight, walking directly behind a tree on the river bank. Then I got my camera ready, leaned out, and quickly snapped this photo. Right now, this is the closest shot I've ever taken of these birds.

Later, I found my pal again. The male great-horned owl. Look at those talons.

Pat Gonzalez

Male Wood Duck at the NYBG by Pat Gonzalez

And here is Pat's previous shot of the male Wood Duck which I hadn't managed to convince Blogger to put up until today.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Big news from Pat Gonzalez of the New York Botanical Garden--

A most amazing thing happened earlier today at the NY Botanical Garden. Both of my camera batteries were dead. I had packed all my gear into my shoulder bag and was heading on out to catch the bus home. At 3:35 PM, I had just turned the foot path along the Library building just under Rose and Hawkeye's old nest from last year, when this large red-tail landed on top of the building. I quickly yanked out my camera and shoved one of the drained batteries in it, hit the on button....then prayed. The screen came on and I began to shoot ignoring the flashing battery light. I'm firing away, when another large red-tail zoomed by, landing on a nearby tree. He stayed there for a minute or so, then took off, landing on the nest. The other red-tail on the roof then landed on top. After about 3 minutes, both took off behind the building.

I've attached three photos. I apologize for the bad image quality as it was overcast all day and I had to lighten up these pictures. They've also been cropped. Notice what appears to be a band on the right leg of the hawk on the roof? Also, notice the tail feathers of the hawk inside the nest?

Is it safe to assume that the one on top with the band is Rose and the one in the next is a new mate? You all know a lot more about this than I do. I want to get excited, but want to wait buying cigars for now. : )

Any help on this is appreciated. Thanks.

Pat Gonzalez

(Well I'd be nailing down the perfect cigar store, but you don't get to buy any until those little white heads start popping into sight. :-))


I just got this from Richard Fleischer regarding my last email to you about the two hawks. I'm standing by with cigars just in case.



Thanks for the photos. In my opinion it looks like Rose. Were the two Hawks working on the NYBG nest? Last week or so I saw two Hawks rebuilding the Fordham nest. One of those Hawks looked like Rose. So we will have to see what develops. I am going to the NYBG tomorrow to see if I can see the Owls so I will keep my eye out for Hawk activity as well.


Good Luck tomorrow Rich, I can't wait to see what the new guy looks like. Will he be the compact swift model like Pale Male and Junior or the huskier type like Hawkeye and Atlas. Just think maybe Rose has a "type"!


Thanks so much for hanging in there, getting the photos, and sharing them.

Rich knows Rose better than I do but I think that looks like her as well, She always makes me think of a pure archetype of a female Red-tailed Hawk.. Add the band, and her location and it's as near a sure thing as we can get without reading her band.

I've scrutinized that tail peeking over the edge of the nest but it's tough looking at the bottom of the feathers. Could you tell if Rose's Beau is a mature bird with the totally dark eyes? Just wondering if Rose has picked an experienced bird, who may have bred before and might well know what he's doing when it comes to his responsibilities. Or if she might have to do a little training as Isolde has had to do with Norman to get things running smoothly.

Were they actually bringing twigs or arranging the existing ones? Rose looks like she is definitely keeping an eye on the proceedings.

So at both of Rose and Hawkeye's old peaked nest sites, there has been activity. Thank you for that update, Rich. I'm dying to know what the rest of New Guy looks like and which site they will ultimately choose!

Things are certainly hopping when it comes to hawks the last few days.


Donegal Browne

Fascinating.--better for now anyway...

I was locked out of my Yahoo box. They were obviously having a glitch. Then I realized that the second secret question they asked me wasn't the question I had chosen, so when I was able to attempt another sign in, they still rejeted my password but when, I gave them the answer to the question I'd chosen instead of the one they were asking me and it WORkED! Well at least so far.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Screen Bombing Red-tailed Hawk

I received this comment connected to a post in which a Red-tail had flown through the screen of a porch. Mrs. Taub, the commentor. has had it happen TWICE and would like some information and advice--

For the second time in several months, a huge redtailed hawk flew THROUGH our screen onto the back porch, tearing a huge gash and wrecking several other screens trying to fly out again. He was clearly trapped inside, flying into the screens again and again to try to escape, making talon and beak holes in all the screens, (not to mention defecating all over the place.)

Apparently, being far-sighted, they see the sky and woods right through the porch, yet cannot see that there is screening in between. They are magnificent beasts, and we always enjoy seeing them "making lazy circles in the sky", washing their prey in the birdbath, or just staring and rotating their beautiful heads from a perch on a high dead branch. Sometimes, in the summer, the hawk comes and sits his huge body in the birdbath to cool off!

We have two acres of privacy and thickets, and we revel in the wildlife, including a fox, but this was a bit too close! My brave husband, Ernest Taub, went out of the kitchen door, opened the door to the porch, propped it with a rock, and then went around to the other side and made a racket to try to scare the hawk out.

Eventually after about ten minutes, and hundreds of dollars of damage later, (during which I took these photos through the window) the hawk found the open door and escaped into the woods.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 8:07:00 AM EST

Ms. Taub, As you see we've heard of several instances of hawks blundering through screened in porches, usually tempted by something, not seeing the screen as they see the trees and sky on the other side or missing their mark, overshooting and ending up inside. But you have a repeater offender who seems to be repeatedly tempted to fly through and neither of you needs that.

This needs some investigation as you don't want her wrecking the place and as she's stressed out trying to get out she may injure herself.

Lets try to get to the bottom of this and work for a happier outcome for everyone. Unfortunately your photographs did not come through.

Please send them again to this email address,

By the way is this a mature hawk with the rufous tail or is this an immature with a brown tail? The young are much more likely to make this kind of blunder though adults have done it too.

What part of the country do you live in?

I take it that you don't have say a tasty looking parrot sunning on the porch or a chubby Guinea pig out taking the air. :-) RTH's regularly crash through branches of trees in Central Park to capture pigeons.

Another possibility is that you have a squirrel who is using your screen as part of his escape technique. Squirrel may hang from the screen, wait for your bird to dive for it and at the last moment jump off causing Mrs. Redtail to bomb through the screen while Squirrel giggles all the way home.

We've had several scenarios but yours may be altogether different. So send off those photographs. I can't wait, plus any any other information you may have whether it seems irrelevant or not.

I just thought of another possibility, do you happen to have a mirror in your screened area or glass that may be reflecting the birds image back on herself. Hawks, particularly as breeding season is coming on, don't want other birds in their territory, so Mrs. Red-tail may be "seeing" another female and screen or no screen that girl has GOT to go.
As I say there may be many other possibilities so I'll also send your note off to some other hawk experts to take a gander too.

Your hawk washes prey in the bath? Fascinating. What is the main prey she hunts?
I love the fact she uses your bird bath, I wish one would come and plop into mine.

Do send us the photos and keep in touch!

Donegal Browne

Blakeman has Another Tip and Gonzalez Discovers Mayhem

Let's have another look at Francois Portmann's comparison shot. John Blakeman has a wonderful tip we didn't hve previously about seperating the Coops from the Sharpies. I like this one alot~


Here's another difference between Cooper's hawks and sharp-shinned hawks, evident in your photos.

The tail feathers of Cooper's hawks, when at rest and viewed from the front, are at different lengths. All the tail feathers of sharpies are the same length, with none a bit shorter as seen with Cooper's.

If you can see the tail from the front when the birds are perched (which is usually only for a moment or two, as these accipiters are frenetic and seldom sit for long anywhere), look to see if any tail feathers are shorter than any others. If any are, it's a Cooper's. If they are all the same length, with tips in a terminal line, it's a sharpie.

That's a pretty sharp way to tell, when you get the front view.

--John Blakeman

See it? Gosh darn if if those Coop tail feathers aren't of different lengths!

Pat Gonzalez discovered this video of birds wrecking a National Geographic campsite. They are really rather good at it.

Donegal Browne

Sunday, January 31, 2010

How to Tell the Difference between a Cooper's Hawk and a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Big News on the Fire Escape, Phoenix, and the CCNY and Tulsa Hawks

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Here are some recent photographs from hawkwatcher and photographer Cheryl Cavert of Kay and Jay Red-tailed Hawk going about their business.

Photo by Cheryl Cavert

Photo by Cheryl Cavert

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Sitting in a typical bonded configuration, they wouldn't want anyone sneaking up on them from either direction, the Tulsa KJRH TV Red-tails. I'm thinking that is Kay with her back turned and Jay, with the very pale brow facing us.

Photo by Cheryl Cavert
Jay on the left and Kay on the right.

Photo by James O'Brien,

The City College of New York Male
A correction of his former information from James O'Brien on a previous post of the day, Flash! 2, next post down--

This is not Norman....
(Do check out James' photos on flickr.)
The two hawks I had above the Dwyer today and on Shepard's Hall are a mated pair, but are not Norman and Isolde. Why do I think this? Both these hawks are molting in what looks to be their 8th primary. The hawks on the Great Hill the other day were not molting at all...that pair, and the one on top of Douglass Houses on Amsterdam Ave are N and I. Will they reclaim the Cathedral or what seemed to be their site from last year, the Douglass Houses?

Photograph by Francois Portmann
A grand comparison photo from Francois concerning how to tell a Sharpie and a Coop apart, he says--

Here are 2 pics (Not to scale!!) of a Cooper’s Hawk left and a Sharp-shinned Hawk on the right, both immature birds.
In addition to the square tail, the sharpie shows blurrier streaks than the Coop.

Okay let's recap--
1. A Sharpie has a blunt edged tail and a Cooper's has a rounded tail. How do I remember that? Well, back in the day a man who made barrels was called a cooper. Barrels are curved and so is the tail of a Cooper's Hawk.

2. Francois observes that an immature Sharpie has more "blurred" belly streaks than those on a Cooper's.

3. John Blakeman always says that a Sharpie looks like it has no neck. And in these photos you can see what he means.

4. There is a size difference between the two, but unless you see them together, and as they over lap, this one is tough to be definitive about unless you see one at either end of the size continuum. A Sharpie comes in the 10 to 14 inch size. And a Coop is 14 to 20 inches.

Now if we could just tell who was a female and who was a male in immature Accipiters...

I received an email from reader Mai Stewart, asking after Phoenix, the hawk injured while roosting when a plane crashed nearby, and in particular wondering about what would be the state of her feathers and how long it would take for her to recover, if she did. I sent it off to premier wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath and here is his response--

Hi Donna,

Wow, its a miracle the bird survived and still being in critical condition has a long ,long road to recovery. Stabilizing it with meds ,fluids ,and easily digestible nutrition is what's recommended for now.
Who knows if there is internal damage as well if the bird breathed much smoke or high heated air while escaping the immediate fire area? If it survives the next molt starting late spring, early summer may be delayed due to its debilitated condition and I would bet it will need another years molt as well since there may be severe follicle damage .

The first molt won't necessarily replace a whole body full of feathers . Its possible that the feathers may never grow in properly either.
The eye lids are another issue. Its too early to tell if there is vision damage or if the eye lids , nictitating membranes , or tear ducts have been permanently damaged.

This poor bird has a lot going on with it right now. I wish them good luck. Challenging cases like this seem to bring out the best in rehabbers and maybe other sources nearby could lend their support as well if available, including an eye specialist .

Redtails are extremely hardy birds and have the ability to overcome many obstacles other more sensitive species cannot while under rehab.

Bobby, thank you so much for sharing your expertise, particularly about Phoenix's future when it comes to feathers. We're very lucky to have you!

Photo courtesy of

An Update from Ken Zommer of Chicago, who originally sent the news about Phoenix--

There is a video of the WTTW (PBS) Chicago Tonight story on the burned hawk as well as pictures at:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Rising from the Ashes
In the midst of Saturday night's Sugar Grove plane crash that regretfully claimed the lives of two Florida men, stood the remnants of a large hawk. Phoenix, as she is now known, is believed to be a female Red-tailed Hawk that miraculously survived the fireball which engulfed her while she was sleeping in a tree near the crash site.

Burned beyond positive species identification, Phoenix was recovered by Kane County Animal Control and was promptly transferred to Flint Creek Wildlife for emergency care. Since that time four nights ago, she has been receiving around-the-clock care for her injuries.

She has demonstrated an inspiring spirit and resilience. Although her recovery time will be long, Phoenix stands a good chance of making a full recovery and being released back to the wild to soar once again.

Please keep her in your thoughts and visit our website at if you are able to contribute to help offset the costs of her care.

Our sincerest appreciation to Kane County Animal Control and the sheriff's deputy who first spotted Phoenix standing in the snow near the plane wreckage.


Don't miss the first posts of today, next two posts down, with very interesting news about Isolde and Norman and the CCNY Red-tails.



From Uptown Birdwatcher James O'Brien,
I also had them on CCNY nest today (pix to follow) (Correction from James in main blog of today ). They are trying out nesting spots...stay tuned for their pic, but we must be vigilant as we missed it last year.


PS I also had the peregrines mating on top of Riverside Church today. Earliest ever mating I've witnessed...usually its the 2nd week of Feb.

Fascinating James, The escape as well as The Community College of NY site. Has anyone seen them around the Cathedral nest site. As for the Peregrines, two weeks early? How long do they tend to copulate before they lay or can you tell? D.B.
Also from James O'Brien

Just re-read your email (From Nara-see post below) and had some thoughts about your fire escape as roosting/nest spot. I mentioned they go there when its windy not but not necessarily when its cold. When the wind is out of the NW, that's when the hawks gravitate towards Morningside Ave. as the buildings create a natural wind break. They can also use this airflow to dynamically soar out over their turf. This is what I saw them doing today, at just about noon.



From Nara, who's fire escape has been an intermittent roost for Isolde over the past few weeks, with mate Norman somewhere in attendance on the same building--

Last night they didn't come back (so much for my theory about the cold). But as I was standing in the window talking on the phone five minutes ago (2:10 pm), I spotted one RTH in a tree right across from us. That one took off south and then I noticed another one (could have been the same one that I'd lost sight of) on a tree north of the original one. And that one suddenly swooped towards me, landing right in front of the window with A STICK!!! S/he plopped down from the railing onto the floor of the escape with a clunk.

I think s/he is there now--but I can't see as s/he is bit over from the window and I obviously don't want to open it to look...

OK, I'm going back to lurk in the living room.

Your escape is in the running. They're twigging! It might only be the give-Isolde-a-choice nest but then again as we've no idea where they might have nested last season, if they did at all, we do know they did not use their previous site behind St. Andrew's arm at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Therefore the situation my be in flux enough for your escape to be the primary nest. I've been wondering if the new building south of the Cathedral nest might have aced some important point in their mysterious personal set of nest positioning criteria which has made that nest site less attractive in some way.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Also don't totally discount cold as a factor in Isolde spending the night on the escape. The answer may be a combination of wind direction and temperature. I'm beginning to believe that rarely do hawks change their behavior in response to one factor alone. It seems to be that often several factors are in play before a tipping point is reached.

Donegal Browne