Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who Are the 1 Fifth Hawks and Who is Mom and Who is Dad? Plus HUGE NEWS about Rat Poison in NYC

Photo by Francois Portmann
(Note the light eyes, this bird is only 2 or 3 years old.)

From Francois Portmann--The unbanded Red-tail of the 1 Fifth pair, possibly the tiercel. (For more photos in this sequence click on Francois' link above.) This is the other hawk of the oneFifth pair, maybe the tiercel!
There is some confusion about the female, the Tompkins girl, Valkyrie was not banded and the pic you sent shows a band.

(For more photos in the sequence of this hawk having lunch click on Francois' link above.)

Photo by Zach L.

Photo by Zach L.

From new hawkwatcher Zach L. , who lives in an adjacent building and has been vigilantly watching this pair--


I did not notice that little silver band around one of the hawk's legs. That clearly looks like it has been banded right? I realized that the band helps to distinguish between the two. The hawk on the red construction bracket has a band and the one I photographed in the tree yesterday morning does not. So at least I have close up photos of each of them. I've sent along two pics with arrows showing where the band is on one and where it is missing on the other.

- Zach

Yes Zach, that bird definitely has a band. Wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath confirms. Bobby also reminded me that if he banded the bird, a right leg band would mean she was female and and a left banded leg would mean a male. Yesterday I was thinking the band was on the right leg but today I'm not sure--perhaps I should be looking into a new pair of glasses.

Photo of the non-banded member of the pair by Zach L.

Zach also sent me a great photo of the nest building with an arrow pointing to the nest but so far blogger doesn't want to post it. I'll keep trying.


By Serena Solomon

DNAinfo Reporter/Prodcuer

UPPER WEST SIDE — With spring in the air, the Parks Department is pulling back on rat baiting for the sake of nesting red-tailed hawks throughout the city.

There are more than 30 nesting pairs of hawks throughout New York City and rats are a common source of food for the top predator. However, when rodents consume the poison put out by the Parks Department they pass on toxins through the food chain harming the hawks and their young.

"Red-tail hawks are a real success in New York City. Their numbers are increasing," said Sarah Aucoin, the director of the Urban Park Rangers that is part of the Parks Department.

"We want to ensure the nest and the young are viable."

Aucoin said the big problem with baited rats is the bio accumulation, where the red-tailed hawks consumes the rodents or feeds on another animal that consumed a rat.

"A rat may have a small amount of poison, but hawks feed on lots of rats and rodents," she said. The toxins accumulate in the hawk's body killing or making them sick.

The priority of the hawks does throw a minor wrench in the works for those fighting rats in the city.

Poisonous baiting that would have happened in Union Square, Washington Square, Inwood, Riverside and Central Park have all been put on hold.

"Rather than bait, we just use rat traps," New York Parks & Recreation spokeswoman Cristina DeLuca told DNAinfo via e-mail.

"Since we are only using traps in these areas, it does affect our ability to control the rat populations."

DeLuca encouraged the public to help keep the rat population under control by keeping the city's parks clean of rubbish.

Hawks have been long been a fascination for city dwellers, with one of the New York's most famous love stories staring two red-tailed hawks — Pale Male and Lola, who made their nest on the 12th floor ledge of a Fifth Avenue apartment block.

"It is really a symbol of wildlife, of how wild the city really is," said Aucoin. She said one of the ways to pick a hawk soaring high above the city is they tend to glide and not flap, with their wings catching the rising wind currents.

"Wherever you are in New York City and if you look up you will probably see one," said Aucoin.


(As it isn't mentioned you might want to ask nicely if the program is also in play in other areas where there are hawk nests, such as the New York Botanical Garden for instance.)

P.S. From the comments section--personally I'm particularly partial to the name Archie.

Your Man in NY said...
RE: Hawk naming... for the Washington Square Park/Number One Fifth Avenue pair... Georgina for the female, Archie for the male. Of course Georgina after George Washington, and Archie after the Washington Square Arch which stands at the entrance of the park just steps away from Number One. If Georgina is not acceptable, then Eleanor (Mrs Roosevelt lived at Number One) or perhaps Ethel (Merman once entertained at the night club at Number One)

Friday, March 12, 2010 12:05:00 PM EST

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Red-tails at 1 Fifth, the Pros and Cons of Naming Hawks, and Another Precious Condor Egg

One of the pair nesting at 1 Fifth Avenue
Photograph by Zach Lemle

Note the bit of silver on or near the bird's right ankle. What is that?

Part of the wall? A band? What?


The photos were all taken between 9 and 11am this morning. (10/11) One of them buzzed the terrace a few times, I tried my best to get a picture but it was moving too fast.I can't tell which is which, I'm trying to distinguish by the markings but I'm having a hard time.

They were both very active this morning. As for one being from Tompkins, I did watch one of them fly directly down 8th street in the direction of Tompkins yesterday...and they do disappear for periods of it's very possible.

If we get a good photograph of the female, Francois Portmann, who photographed Valkyrie many times in Tomkins Square Park may be able to give us a yea or nay on that ID.

Photograph by Zach Lemle

Tips on telling a pair apart. In this case as both birds are big it's hard to use that but if you see them siting together the larger of the two will be the formel (female) and the smaller (the tiercel) Atlas and Athena are both big but Athena is banded so that helps a good deal in IDing them.

Also look at their belly bands, the streaks, dots, or splashes on their middles. These do shift with wind and movement but what pair was I looking at earlier....on yes, Vince and Rose, I think Vince's belly band is much more dotty then Rose's streakiness. Vince also has light eyes as he is younger and as he is very young a brown-tail.

Valkyrie, I believe still has some gold in her eyes as opposed to the dark brown of a three or four year old Red-tail. The hawk in your photos seemed to have dark eyes but it was a rather overcast day so hard to totally tell.

Also look at their tarsi, their ankles. A female with have thicker ankles. But all these things are relative. You'll be able to get a better handle when they get into the mom and dad activities. Mom will do most of the sitting. while Dad will only sit to give Mom a break. Mom will develop a brood patch of bare skin on her breast to better warm the eggs. The bare brood patch is often visible when the wind blows.

With some hawks the color of their heads tends to go down their necks and “puddle” on the left and right top of their breast, often called a mantle. One of the pair may have more mantle than the other giving you another clue to identity.

Basically Zach, it’s about practice and paying attention to specific details over time to be able to absolutely tell two hawks apart. Be aware light can make the feathers and color appear quite different plus then they’ll go and molt on you and the subtleties will change a little and you’ll have to learn those too.

Photograph by Zack Lemle
I've never heard the Washington Square hawk called anything but that.

He may have a name but I’ve never heard it either.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to naming the hawks. Hawkwatchers who are against naming the hawks often think it is less scientific to name them plus it depersonalizes them, putting more distance between humans and other animals.

I am of the school who thinks that the hawks should absolutely be named.

1. Beyond that it is a New York City tradition to name Red-tails, when it comes to the less or more scientific question in the area of naming, I figure it worked out well for Jane Goodall and Dr. Irene Pepperberg, both imminent scientists, I see absolutely no reason not to name them Plus I find it far more respectful. Besides as we are observing so few birds it seems silly to give them numbers which is the actual old school scientific method of identification.. We aren’t talking thousands of hawks, or even hundreds, it’s often little more than a dozen so. there is no real need for any other method.

2.. A named animal is much easier for your regular folks passing by to relate to, watch, learn to love, and then care enough to protect. them.

3. Saying the male Washington Square Park Red-tailed Hawk is just too long to be practical. when for instance the hawk could be called just plain George for George Washington the namesake of the park or by some specific coloration like Pale Male is, or for personality like Stormin' Norman..

4. What if the current male Washington Square Park Red-tailed Hawk died and a new male appeared? With that technique the second one would have the same generic moniker as the first and it would be confusing as well as LONG. :-)

Pinnacle National Park

From our man, W.A. Walters, with his eye on the New York Times gleaning for news--
Condor Lays Egg in National Park
Published: March 9, 2010

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Biologists at Pinnacles National Monument in central California are celebrating the first condor egg laid by a mating pair inside the park boundaries in more than a century.

The egg is the latest encouraging development in the slow recovery of the endangered birds in the regions they historically inhabited. The effort has been hampered by hunters and lead poisoning of the birds.

A female released in the park in 2004 and a male released the same year 30 miles west at Big Sur had been observed engaged in courtship behavior earlier this year, Carl Brenner, a park spokesman, said….


Donegal Browne

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Red-tail Updates: Isolde, Norman, Rose, Vince, 1 Fifth Nest, Hooded Mergansers, Wood Duck, Coots, Red-wings

Photograph courtesy of Rob Schmunk at

An update on Isolde and Norman at the Cathedral Nest from Rob Schmunk, for more than below click on Rob's link above--

All seemed quiet at the red-tail nest at the Cathedral of St. John
about a half hour before sunset today, but 15 minutes later
it got weird.

After watching a couple of hawks flutter about the finials and
crenellations in the nest area for a couple minutes, I was very
startled when they were joined by a third. Then all three were
in the air and disappeared over the hospital to the north. A
couple minutes later they were back, circling over lower
Morningside Drive and Park. It was apparent from the relative
sizes that that there were two males and one female up there.
One male (Norman) was chasing the other, while the female
(Isolde) circled nearby as backup.

After several set-tos, the interloper took off to the north.
Subsequent review of (poor) photography revealed that
the interloper was also an adult.


And more from Winkie, intrepid Cathedral hawkwatcher--

Hi Donna,

I did hear from Robert just a few minutes ago. Chalk the difficult viewing up to the angle of Morningside Drive and the way the buildings face. Norman headed over the top of St. Luke's before he lost sight of him. I guess from wherever Robert was positioned we missed each other and he missed seeing Isolde fly into the nest. Later while keeping vigil at the nest, i did encounter another hawk lover. A Spanish man who now lives on Manhattan Ave and 102nd St. He asked if we were sisters. I guess he was referring to you. He was using wonderful hand gestures to show small "girl", long hair, maybe red, big camera, very friendly. He is an endearing little man who has a deep love for the red tails and watches them from his window. i should have gotten his name.

Sorry, that I can't keep you informed for the rest of the week. I wish I had the answer to whether Isolde is sitting on the nest this early. And I'm afraid that I'll be tied up for several weeks. My step daughter is coming the end of next week. Too much entertainment has been planned for much hawk watching. Then we all are off to Florida for the Easter Holiday. Maybe someone else has some extra time. If she is really sitting, Lincoln will be coming regularly. He usually frequents our cathedral in the early am.

I'll send what I can, Donna. Many regards, wink
From James O'Brien in response to Rob Schmunk's report. James managed some photos of the new 1 Fifth nest--
Cool story, I wonder if it was the male from CCNY? Also, I was able to photograph the new nest overlooking washington square park today!



Rose and Vince watcher Pat Gonzalez with grand updates--


Attached are photos I shot yesterday (Tuesday, March 9th) of Rose and Vince at the NY Botanical Garden. Incredibly, they were just two trees away from where I saw them last Friday. First I saw Rose alone. This was at 2:24 PM. I had just exited the native forest. To give you all a better visual (especially for all of you NYBG employees and members who have come up to me these last three weeks) as this path is not on the garden map, when you exit, to you left is the rear employee gate of the rock garden.

Rose was all alone, but soon began calling for her beau. In less than one minute, Vince shows up. What an attentive mate he is! In the first two photos, he is the one on the left with the light eyes. Rose has beautiful dark brown eyes. Rose also has a metal band around her right leg. I cropped the third photo so you all could see it.

I want to thank both of them for allowing me to take 152 photos in the 45 minutes I was there. During that time, they mated three times. Here's some video of the two of them on the branch.

I apologize for the so-so quality of the photos. I did my best to clean these pics up. The blazing sun was to my right and cast lots of shadows.


Enjoy the slide-show starring Rose and her new mate Vince (the handsome devil with the light eyes)


".....we would have been happy with that. But when we exited the forest through the new path and walked down the hill, a large raptor literally fell out of the sky and touched down. It was trying to nail a nearby squirrel that suddenly disappeared for some strange reason. : )

The hawk began jumping around and I went into full photo-mode. I took a few shots were I stood and began to walk really slow towards my new pal. He soon jumped on to a nearby branch. Incredibly, he allowed me to get right under him
I'm snapping away when my battery indicator light starts to flash. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I just kept on going, expecting the bird to leave any second. Minutes passed, I'm still snapping the hawk is still sitting. So I decided to take a chance. I removed the dying battery, replacing it with a fresh one. In doing so, I dropped the dead battery. It fell with a large clacking sound. The hawk kept his ground. I kept on. Incredibly, the hawk allowed me to then reach inside my bag for my telephoto lens. I attached it and kept firing away.

A loud group of joggers ran by, then a woman yapping on her cellphone, but still this bird wouldn't budge. this time I was wondering why JS didn't come down the hill. He soon whispered "Pat, there's ANOTHER hawk." I tip-toed back and he pointed to this magnificent raptor. I was so focused on the first one, I didn't notice when the second one came down. And like her mate, she let me slowly get closer for these.

20-plus minutes, I had taken 125 photos. Upon looking at them on my computer, I saw that in one, the second one had dark eyes, the sign of a mature red-tail as well as a metal band on her right leg. It was Rose! That meant that the other one, who initiated the squirrel hunt was her new mate."

Beautiful young Vince the Brown-tail, who appears to be quite pale.

Rose strips bark to place in the bowl of the nest.

How does Crow take the whole English muffin without it possibly falling to bits on the flight away. You tear it in half at the weak spot.

A pick up.

Then you pick up both pieces firmly in your beak.

And fly away...

I went for a drive into the country looking for the M Hawks. This is the closest I got. They are being extremely wary.

The Red-winged Blackbirds are back in force, singing from every possible vantage point.

A mixed flock of black birds of various descriptions gather in an old oak

There's a dairy farm with spilled grain and the birds help themselves.

I get to the Rock River and for a moment the sun comes out.

A flock of geese fly in with vocalizing to all the others who have already arrived.

An American Coot flushes from the rocks and paddles with speed in the opposite direction.

A Wood Duck flees. I'd no idea that their toenails are almost squirrel like in order to negotiate trees.

The Hooded Mergansers parade by, with the female bringing up the rear.

There's Wood Duck again.

There go the Mergansers again.

I'm not sure what the coots are doing but they make the strangest quirky head bobs.

A Merganser does what Mergansers do.

The Gathering to dry their feet and take some earth time out of the water.
As you can see a coot seems only duck like in the water when swimming. Their foot structure is different as are their almost chicken like bills.
Donegal Browne

Red-tail Update: Morningside Hawks, Isolde and Norman, Fordham/NYBG's Rose and Vince, and the Disappeared Ms on County M

Rose and Vince hanging at the NYBG, footage from Pat Gonzalez--

I shot this footage earlier today around 3:30 at the same spot I had my last encounter with them. They were perched only two trees away!

First I saw Rose. Examination of the photos confirm the band on her foot. Then she called out to him. I suspected he was nearby and scanned the area with my binoculars. Nothing until she sang out, and less than a minute later, he shows up. What a dedicated mate he is. : )


From the intrepid Winkie, watcher of Isolde and Norman, the Morningside Park Hawks or as we used to call them--The Divines, for their use of the nest on the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Hi Donna,

After running at top speed, I barely had any light left when I got to the cathedral. Robert was there. He was able to capture Isolde on the left side of the nest. Robert posted the photo on his site: This shot was about 10 minutes before I arrived. As far as we know, she did not exit the nest last night. But we might not have seen her in the low light. My vision is quite good in poor light, so I really think she stayed. Unless she left prior to my arrival and Robert missed her.

As twilight came on he headed to the the cathedral close to see if he could find Norman. Norman has flown that way about 10 minutes before I got there. He must have not found Norman, as there was no mention of him on the posting.

I can run there again tonight. But my hawk watching time is much better in the morning. That is why I was bemoaning the loss of light. Only Monday and Tuesday can I come straight home. The rest of the week I can't get there before dark. And if there is any hawk in the nest, one sure can't see it in the deep shadows when I could get there.

Let's all hope that this is a sign that she has chosen her old nest. It is really one of the best locations in her territory. And probably less developed than Harlem to the east. Add to the hopes that she build the nest real high so we can see something!

regards, winkie

Alright Winkie! Thanks so much for the update. It sounds to me that St. Andrew is the spot and Isolde may have started sitting. Unfortunately she likes to be hidden and that bowl seems to stay where it is and the sides higher every time they use that spot. But at least it's a spot we can gather and watch in. Keep it up girl, we all can't wait to hear what happens next!

The Ms nest as of 2010-03-09, Changes??? Not so one could notice and I've not seen either of them for days either. The Rock River Eagles Jane and Rock weren't in their usual spot at sunset either. I must find someone with a boat so I can find their nest.

A pair of Mallards exit the Rock River. Female in front, male bringing up the rear.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Red-tail Updates:Nest for Washinton Sq. Park RTs, Lola Sits, Cathedral Nest, Triborough Nest

Photo by Zach L.
Hello Donna,

I believe you commented on my blog "Old-NYC" sometime ago on a picture I posted of a Red Tailed sitting atop Judson Memorial Church off of Washington Sq Park. Anyway, I periodically see one or two large Red Tails flying around the park (I've seen them for about 2 years now) and just today I spotted one with two sticks in it's beak landing atop 1 Fifth. It appears they are in the process of building a nest at the very tip top of the building, just below the brick spire on the top. I've seen them perched on 1 Fifth many times but I've never noticed a nest.

- Zach

Thanks Zach for the exciting news! We've been wondering when the Washington's Square Park hawk might find a mate and nest. It looks like you've zeroed in on the spot. Keep your eyes peeled and keep sending in your updates. We'll all be waiting.

Photo by Zach Lemle
Hello Donna,

I sent the email about the two hawks that are building a nest on 1 Fifth Ave next to Washington Square Park...I managed to get some photos today so I thought I'd send a couple to you...

- Zach

Photo by Zach Lemle

And another beautiful shot from Zach from the roof. We can't wait to see and hear more Zach so keep you eyes peeled and keep us updated.

And from Central Park Hawkwatcher Ed Tindale--

I'd thought that Lola wasn't leaving the nest for the last couple of days but only stayed until dusk. Today I stayed watching the Fifth Avenue nest of Pale Male and Lola until it was dark and I believe I can confirm that Lola never left the nest and is now sitting.

Great news, thanks for you vigilance Ed!

And from Morningside resident Lara Larson, big news about Isolde and Norman--

I was excited last week when I was walking my dog, Tag, and thought I saw one of the St. Andrew's nest hawks fly into the nest at the Cathedral bringing a stick. I decided to stand and watch for them on Tuesday and sure enough the hawks are working on the nest. I saw a hawk bring three sticks and put them in the nest. I d0n't know which hawk. I can't tell them apart yet.


Super news Lara, keep watching and let us know how it's going. If you happen to have a camera try for a few photos too! They don't have to be perfect as they are for documentation so don't worry about that aspect.

And Isolde roosts once again on the fire escape, an update from Nara-

Hi Donna,
Our friend is back tonight after a long hiatus (she last roosted with us during that first snowstorm several weeks ago, on a Wednesday).
So what does this mean? Do they roost for the night in other locations even once they've started their nest? Or does her presence mean they haven't yet started their nest? Just curious...


Hi Nara,

Great to hear from you.

Isolde and Norman are likely working on their nest but once there are eggs Isolde will be on the nest for the night for months to come. First incubating the eggs and then brooding the eyasses. She usually won't roost elsewhere until all the young ones have fledged. Then she and Norman will roost in spots where they can keep an eye on their youngsters.

And from Jules Corkery, chief watcher of the Triborough Bridge hawks--

Hi All!
Atlas and Athena seem to have chosen a nest site for 2010. The site
is very close to the 2007 nest which is on the south side of the
bridge behind the tennis courts. It's about 20 feet over and slightly
higher than the old nest. It's underneath the roadway and is on a set
of 3 black pipes (there are large road signs on that section of the
bridge so these pipes might be for electricity to those signs? just a
theory). Atlas and Athena attempted to build their last year and then
moved to the north side of the bridge. The sticks they had laid there
last year are still there so they're building. Robert saw Athena
jumping up and down on it today


And a tidbit from Jeff Kollbrunner, chief watcher of Mama and Papa in Queens. Mama and Papa are notorious for switching nests sites from year to year. It appears tht they have given up tree nesting for the moment and have moved back to working on a building nest for this season.

And lest we get too Red-tailed Hawk glutted, (Is that even possible?), from NYBG contributor Pat Gonzalez--


Here's some amazing footage of Great-horned owls.


Donegal Browne

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Looking for the Ms, Albionistic Crows, and the little Brown Dove.

I went out looking for the Red-tails of County M today and didn't see so much as a feather. Though I did see the pair who's territory includes Thresherman's park, flying through the sky in tandem. Which let me know that at least that pair had as yet not taken to a nest.

Speaking of nests, the Ms nest of last season seems pretty much the same as it did the last time I looked and definitely doesn't look occupied at the moment.

As I was checking on the M Red-tails, suddenly a flock or it seemed more like a swarm of Crows with a few other species mixed in were busily working the bare wet areas eating worms with abandon. One of the feasts of having a thaw and they were ready for it. Of course when I stopped the car, even with the motor running, radio blasting, they still took off like a shot.

Look carefully the bird on the far left has an albinistic tail and the largest bird on the right has white patches on both winds.
Then they were hot winging it across the far field.

A whole stream of them passing over the far field...
And likely making it to the bare patches just over the rise where no human eyes would be staring at them.
The sun was shining and male Cardinal was singing his little brains out.
This little dove reminds me of Doorstep but she doesn't bob her head back when I bob mine and she seems a touch slimmer and browner than Doorstep but she has some of the same habits. She appears about a half hour before the rest of the flock, finds herself a comfy spot, and suns if there is any. Otherwise she just sits and often looks through the patio door at me.

The rest of the flock appears when it is almost too dark to see them. The group is up to nine now. But why is the little doves behavior so different from her counterparts?
Donegal Browne