Saturday, April 24, 2010

Red-tailed Hawk Updates-- A Hatch in Tulsa, At the Unisphere, The Divines at the Cathedral, the A's Nest Plastic, and the No Kill Zone

Photo by Cheryl Cavert-Kay on the nest with at least one eyass

Hi Donegal,
After about 3 weeks of patiently waiting and watching Kay tend to something in the nest bowl, finally today I was rewarded with a glimpse of Kay and Jay's little fluffball!
Also I've sent along a photo of Kay from last week, perched one evening at the top of their nesting tower - such a fierceness about her as she guards her home!
All my best – Cheryl

Cheryl, how wonderful! They've done it again!

Have you watched Kay feed? Early on did she only feed in one position or did she shift and feed in another? Currently your eyass or eyasses are likely up off their haunches and would move easily and you wouldn't be able to tell so easily. (Look at my recent blogs with Isolde feeding, she shifts positions as we suspect there are at least two eyasses in that nest.) I just wondered if they had an other eyass up there. I noticed that there appeared to be a lump on the right side of the nest that could just be nest but might also be a back lit eyass curled up asleep.

Photo by Cheryl Cavert-
Fierce Kay

Photo by Peter Richter-
Andromeda on the nest with Plastic

When I saw this photo on Peter Richter's blog, , I wrote and asked him if he knew if the plastic was something that Atlas or Andromeda had put there or something that had put itself there? Here is Peter's response--

I have no idea how it got up there, I guess it could have been thrown out of a car or fell off a truck on the bridge and the wind just happened to sweep it that way. I can't imagine why they would bring it up there, it doesn't seem like it would serve any purpose for the nest, and it was stuck on the left side of the nest originally. It if would have ended up in the lining of the bowl I could see how it would be possible they brought it up there, but the way it is lodged on the side makes me think wind and sloppy humans are the culprit.

When Bobby went to investigate the nest in the Woodside Projects last year he noticed some pieces of plastic covered wires in the nest. I could see the hawks bringing that into the nest as it looks like a twig, and is more flexible and easier to maneuver than a twig. But plastic sheeting would just be too weird for them to use. Atlas is an experienced nest builder and he has been doing most of the work on this nest. His young female looks like she may be ready to lay eggs very soon. I'll probably end up there this weekend to see if she is ready to go.

Regards, Peter

I couldn't imagine why they'd put the plastic up there either just wanted to confirm. Though I couldn't imagine why Charlotte and Junior put a long chunk of foam rubber??, Insulation??, Swimming noodle??, Something, on their Trump Parc nest either. Then again they seem to be our Bohemian Hawks-- nesting in a place with a fourth wall, no green space for the eyasses to fledge into, and well, how shall I say it—they do things outside the box.

Photo by Peter Richter-Cathy comes into the nest.
Check out Peter's other wonderful photos of the Unisphere nest at
(This pair was named for our wonderful rehabbers Cathy and Bobby Horvath.)

Also concerning a previous topic, long time observer of Rose and Hawkeye and now Rose and Vince, Chris Lyons of Fordham, responds to the theory of a no kill zone around Red-tail nests.

I once saw Hawkeye and Rose stand off a strange Red-Tail who had gotten within a hundred feet of their nest on Collins Hall. Neither was ON the nest, but both were right by it, making agitated sounds, and bobbing their heads aggressively. Hawkeye then flew directly at the intruder, who prudently departed the vicinity in a hurry.

So yes, it would be an overstatement to say that all aggression is completely switched off within the no-kill zone. They don't hunt within the zone, but they will defend it.

Another time, watching a Red-Tail nest in Van Cortlandt Park, where the female was incubating, I saw a squirrel climb onto the underside of the nest. The female's hackles went up as she heard the rustling sounds beneath her, and she seemed kind of freaked out, but she made no move to go after the squirrel. Hard to say what might have happened if he'd gotten into the nest itself, but he wasn't that bold.

The squirrel's behavior, in the immediate presence of a major predator, tends to suggest that he instinctively knew he was in little or no danger as long as he was in that zone--it's almost impossible for a Red-Tail to catch a squirrel on a tree anyhow, at least if it sees them coming. If he'd actually frightened her off the nest (and inexperienced breeders often will panic temporarily), he might very well have had hawk's egg for lunch.

I also once saw a Southern Flying Squirrel glide right past a Great Horned Owl at dusk--very near the owl's nest. Raptors are impressive, but you really have to give it up for rodents sometimes. ;)


I thought I'd put up some of the updates without most of the Cathedral update as the photos from my latest visit to the Cathedral to watch the Divines, Isolde, Norman, and the invisible eyasses, is labeled CONFUSED and I was completely. It is taking me awhile to sort things out so in the meantime I know that Rob Schmunk who was also there got a dynamite shot of Isolde and Norman switching so you can check that out at-- ,
while I try and figure out what I've got.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Thursday with Isolde and the Invisible Eyasses

5:56 Isolde feeds.



Looks for Norman?









Isolde with pigeon carcass. She then takes out the garbage and I wouldn't wonder that she also needed to defecate.


7:13 Isolde returns and immediately checks the eyasses. Note the position of her eyes and compare with all the feeding positions in the post. She would not have had time to hunt and eat during her break.







7:36 Isolde disappears into the nest. My last battery runs out of juice. I stay until 8pm but Norman never appears.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Isolde, Andromeda, Mr. B. Cardinal, and Mama's Eyasses

What does Isolde think about while sitting on the nest for weeks at a time? She isn't telling but now that she is higher in the nest brooding young instead of incubating eggs, she can at least watch the world around her from a slightly better vantage point.

One imperative I think would be to keep some visual track of Norman when possible. Then of course there is the care of the eyasses but there are still long stretches at this point in their development when they are deeply asleep and warming is all they need.

What it appeared that she was looking at at this particular moment was a young squirrel making his way across the parking lot. Prime prey in the exact position for easy capture but she not only will not leave because of the kids but some also believe that there is a no kill zone around all Red-tail Hawk nests. And I must admit I have seen pigeons and other usual prey very near Red-tail nests both here and in rural areas, seemingly oblivious to the hawk, and left completely unmolested by both members of the pair.

The thought is that there is an evolutionary advantage to this. If the nest is in an innate no kill, i.e. non-aggression area in and around the natal area, a hawk's usual lightning supposedly automatic responses would be mitigated and they wouldn't accidentally kill an eyass by mistake in a reflexive unguarded moment.

I've always wondered about that though an instance the other day with Quicksilver the African Grey gave me pause. Silver is eleven, old enough now to become hormonal in the Spring and not altogether in control of himself at those times.

The other day, I'd been gone quite some time doing grocery shopping. Silver isn't left to his own devices on an open play area when no one is home as there are cats in the house and who knows what he might get into that wouldn't be healthy, either to himself or to the object, while unmonitored. Therefore when he's told that I have to go to the store he happily goes into his sleeping cage for a nap while repeating "Gotta go to the store". When I returned, as is usual, by the time I'd put the packages down Silver was letting me know he'd like out by beeping. I went in greeted him, put my hand into the cage to have him step up and he hacked at me with his beak. I withdrew my hand with speed, retreat being the better part of valor in those moments, at which time he attacked the side of his food bowl with a vengeance for a few seconds. He then stopped dead, stood for a beat stock still and then said in his best slightly high pitched truly penitent voice, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." While looking up at me as if he was completely astounded by what he had just done.

He was penitent and stepped onto my hand with impeccable manners.

Perhaps a no kill zone does need to be a part of a hawk's innate make up. Though I have noticed that when a tiercel visits the nest while the formel is there that his manners are impeccable and there is the slightest subservient posture when he brings food. Food being a possible trigger, I suspect, for a leap with talons at the ready.

And come to think of it, the lack of response cannot be iron clad no matter what because there are times when a nest must be defended and therefore when needed the aggression response must be there.

Has anyone seen a kill take place in the immediate area of a nest during breeding season?

Photo by Peter Richter of

The Triborough Bridge Nest with Atlas' new mate Andromeda on board along with a rather large tattered plastic something. I've asked Peter for clarification but I rather got the impression that the ubiquitous plastic may have attached itself without the help of the hawks. I'd certainly prefer it took its leave sooner rather than later.

According to Peter, Andromeda hasn't laid any eggs yet, not for want of copulation you understand, and there is certainly still time for another clutch.

Another shot of Belligerent Cardinal--same spot, same attitude.

(Note the top eyass may just have the tip of her tongue hanging out. If so it isn't just young mammals who do it then but young birds as well. Though one would think that a beak might pinch a bit if she had a startling dream. Yes, according to REM measurements, birds absolutely do dream. D.B.)


I have attached some more images of Mama and her nestlings taken on 4/13 and 4/16 as of the 16th the nestlings are about 7-8 days of age. It is fairly clear at this time the order of the hatches. In the close up image of the three nestlings from our left to our right is the third, second and first to hatch. The first to hatch is the strongest, most active in the nest and can keep its head up at all times. The second is getting fairly strong and can keep its head up most of the time. The third to hatch still has some noticeable spotty bare skin and can hardly keep its head up. I have added many more images on my website from this years nest in the Nest Photos 2010 Gallery link and I have also added some new programs available under the Lectures & Field Photography Workshops category links.

All the best,

As it is a great time to be out birding, I thought it might also be a good time to look over the American Birder's Association Code of Birding Ethics.

Everyone who enjoys birds and birding must always respect wildlife, its environment, and the rights of others. In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their environment comes first.

Code of Birding Ethics
1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

1(a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.

1(b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming.

Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;

Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover.

Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.

1(c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners.
The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.

1(d) Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.

2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.

2(a) Do not enter private property without the owner's explicit permission.

2(b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.

2(c) Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.

3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.

3(a) Keep dispensers, water, and food clean, and free of decay or disease. It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.

3(b) Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.

3(c) If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by artificial hazards.

4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.
Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in Items #1 and #2, has responsibilities as a Group Member.

4(a) Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.

4(b) If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

Group Leader Responsibilities [amateur and professional trips and tours].

4(c) Be an exemplary ethical role model for the group. Teach through word and example.
4(d) Keep groups to a size that limits impact on the environment, and does not interfere with others using the same area.
4(e) Ensure everyone in the group knows of and practices this code.

4(f) Learn and inform the group of any special circumstances applicable to the areas being visited (e.g. no tape recorders allowed).

4(g) Acknowledge that professional tour companies bear a special responsibility to place the welfare of birds and the benefits of public knowledge ahead of the company's commercial interests. Ideally, leaders should keep track of tour sightings, document unusual occurrences, and submit records to appropriate organizations.
Please Follow this Code and Distribute and Teach it to Others
The American Birding Association's Code of Birding Ethics may be freely reproduced for distribution/dissemination. Please acknowledge the role of ABA in developing and promoting this code with a link to the ABA website using the url Thank you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Are There Three Eyasses at The Cathedral? Fordham is Active! The HawkCam is Back in Business!

I'd checked all the possible angles of the nest and couldn't seem to see a thing when it came to actually seeing Isolde. So I stood there waiting for something to happen.

Wait one second, from the ground it looked as if there might be a tail tip up there or was it...?

Yes, it is Isolde peering through the twigs. I decided to go further up the street which is further up an incline in hopes of seeing her actual head.

At first nothing and then there she was peering at me from the west side.

Then she watched me watch her head for awhile. Perhaps as it was me, Rob, and Winkie, all longtime watchers of this nest she didn't have a total need to completely hunker down out of sight. We'd pretty much decided that as sunset wasn't all that far off that perhaps that was it for the evening.

Then Isolde decided to stand up.

And it looked like she was watching her eyasses.

She'd stare at one spot.

And then stare at another.

And then stare north, looking for Norman perhaps? Or maybe hoping to be seen by Norman so he'd know that she and the family were up and about.

More staring.

Isolde is a very pretty Red-tail.

Back to eyass watching.

Then scoping north. According to Winkie, Norman hangs out up near 120th St. and the reason he isn't around the Cathedral is because he has increased he and Isolde's territory by a good number of blocks. I had noticed that there didn't seem to be the problems with Crows, and Kestrels, and Peregrines that seemed a several times weekly combat problem in some years past.
Well I'd been missing having a tiercel who stayed close and helped with the kids like Tristan did , but different birds have different styles and Stormin' Norman seems to be strong in the land acquisition and protection end of the game so I can't complain.

If you look closely at the spots that Isolde is looking at she does seem to be looking into the bowl at something in more than two spots and I know that eyasses this young aren't up off their haunches yet and toddling about. Of course she could be thinking a twig needs some work in a certain spot as well. One never knows.

Isolde once again looks north, where Norman purportedly tends to be doing sentry duty. And if she can see him, he can see her.

Then suddenly Isolde decides to keep a low profile again.

Time to go to sleep? We'd looked at the time and sunset was only a few minutes away. Well, guess that, is likely it. Drat, I wanted to see a switch, when...

...there was a swirl of feathered bodies up there. A SWITCH so fast it was virtually unseeable. I did see Isolde with limp prey in her beak swinging round and then there she was placing the prey and Norman was GONE.

She works on the likely rat for a few moments.

She leans down into the bowl with a crooked tail for balance.

Then she leans down even further. She feeds.

Surveys the area.

Looks into the bowl.

Switches to the other rim and feeds there for awhile.

More looking.

And a slightly different position for awhile and then she disappears into the nest.
This is how the world actually looked by the time she disappeared. I'd had the exposure assist jacked up for some time already for the nest photos. Since I've been back I have seen no pigeons in the immediate vicinity of the nest, though I'm sure there must be some in the larger area but perhaps wily or not particularly handy so maybe this season rats may the mainstay of this nest. We'll see.

I got back to work a bit over a week ago (for those who hadn't heard, I suffered a fractured ankle on 12/31/09), and didn't have much time to check the nest until this week. Yesterday and today, I saw an adult Red-Tail on the Collins Hall nest. It was a male yesterday--presumably Vince, whose acquaintance I've had no chance to make--it clearly wasn't Rose. He looked quite a bit like Hawkeye, I thought from the brief glimpse I got when he flew off.

Today, I watched the nest for about half an hour, while I ate my lunch. It wasn't possible to tell there was a bird there, from my vantage point on the ground, until he or she got up and seemed to turn the eggs.

As I've noted in past years regarding this nest, there's no reason to question whether the eggs are going to hatch before late April/early May. The Fordham hawks don't follow the same exact schedule as all other NYC Red-tails. The first year Hawkeye and Rose nested at Fordham (at a different location on campus), I didn't see young until May 9th--and I was able to view that nest at nearly eye level. Since I was away from Fordham during the first few months of breeding activity this year, I can't say if incubation started at the usual time, but I'd tend to assume it did, since Rose would be the one setting the schedule, and she's nothing if not reliable.

Speculations about Vince's virility are premature, to say the very least, and will be for at least a few more weeks. There are long periods of inactivity on the nest, where the incubating adult is simply invisible from the ground, and young hawks are very hard to see until they're strong enough to move around.

There are very few people observing this nest, for very limited periods of time, and quite a lot is missed as a result. I just looked at a report I made about the Collins Hall nest back in 2006, where I made pretty much identical observations as I did today--on April 22nd--and of course there were young that year, as there have been every single year Rose has laid eggs--in four different nests over six consecutive breeding seasons--I doubt any other nesting female in the area has a more spotless record in this regard. Her new mate is unproven as a breeder, and it was a very hard winter. But the nest platform on Collins is substantially unchanged from three previous successful seasons. Everything up to this point seems to be proceeding as it has in the past.

All we can say for sure is that there are eggs, the adults are tending to them, and they probably haven't hatched yet. The rest remains to be seen.

Chris Lyons
I have wonderful news to report. I've been fortunate to have successfully collaborated and implemented the relocation of the Queens, N.Y. Hawkcam (webcam) live video to observe the active 2010 Red-tailed Hawk nest of Mama and Papa. They have three eyasses in the nest that are now about ten days of age. Please watch as Mama and Papa raise their family for the next six plus weeks until the eyasses fledge their nest. The Hawkcam will be active 24 hours a day and can also be viewed after dark. We have a finite amount of concurrent connections to the Hawkcam, so please be patient if at first you don't connect due to a high volume of viewers. There is a session timer on the Hawkcam so everyone can have a fair chance of viewing the nest. If your session times out a browser refresh will start another video connection. You can view the Hawkcam live video at just click on the Hawkcam link. Please also take a few minutes to check out our New Offerings for 2010.

Please spread the word regarding the Hawkcam and our New Offerings for 2010 to other like-minded friends, family and colleagues. In 2007, the Hawkcam funded by NYC Audubon made its debut allowing us to observe Mama and Papa raise their two eyasses for eight weeks. We can once again enjoy this experience this season.

All the best, Jeff
Nature Watcher Jim Blank reports that he observed one of the Ms perched in the top of last years nest tree.
Donegal Browne