Saturday, January 01, 2011

Willow Street Red-tailed Hawk, Banding Birds, Polar Bears Take on Spy Cams, Pale Male's Mate Lola, Plus the Franklin Red-tails are Back!

Photo by Mitch Nusbaum

In from Mitch Nusbaum, The Willow Street Villa Percher.
I must admit this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk is certainly giving Mitch and his new camera "the look".

Next, What's Your Opinion About Banding Wild Birds?

There has been a conversation going on amongst some of the NYC Hawkwatchers about the pros and cons of the banding of healthy Red-tailed Hawks as is sometimes done when it comes to young birds on or off the nest or even adult birds who can be caught for a few moments when they fly into a net or grasp a foot trap set by banders.

In the case of the foot trap it isn't like those nasty metal things with teeth. The hawks are lured down by a non-native bird in a box, often a pigeon or starling, (which they can see but, don't worry, they can't actually get to. It just wouldn't be fair, now would it?) and then the hawk's feet are caught in netting that is on the box, they're banded, and then released.

I think the conversation started because of the Old Gal, and the information that was garnered about her due to the fact that she had been banded before she was a year old. If she hadn't been banded, we'd never have known how old she was and how well she'd done over all these many years.

Wildlife Rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath band all the birds that come under their care before they are released and no bird has ever been harmed in the process. They are very caring and experienced.

You ask, what about others?

Banders do have to be licensed by the government or work under the banding license of a Master Bander who oversees their work. They also must be licensed to possess/collect as they do hold a bird for a few minutes who is healthy and not in the throes of being rescued due to illness, injury, or dangerous circumstances.

A momentary time out here. Let me reiterate, as sometimes there is confusion, any citizen may lay hands on a bird who is injured, ill, or in jeopardy in order to help it.

A bird in jeopardy is removed from the danger, say like a fledgling in the middle of the street, and released in a safe spot.

As for the other two categories, injured or ill, the bird must be taken to a licensed wildlife rehabber or a vet for care.

Okay, back to the main event. This matter of banding--

What is your opinion about healthy hawks being banded with those little metal ankle bracelets with the numbers?

Hit the Contact Me button on the right column of the page to send me an email with your opinion.

Next up from Robin of Illinois
, a wonderful video about what Polar Bears do when they spy a Polar Bear Spy Cam---

And from Hawkwatcher Jackie Dover of Oklahoma with news on the Red-tailed Hawk pair who nest right outside a window of the The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA-

Hi, Donegal--

Della Micah reports that renovations are underway--

Happy New Year!

Jackie Dover, in Oklahoma

Thanks for the news everyone!


As of January 2, 2011, Pale Male's mate Lola has still not been sighted in Central Park. Hawkwatcher Emma Cale reports that Pale Male appears to be watching for Lola's return.

Pale Male and Lola are often seen sky dancing by mid-January. Observations of the first copulation of the year range from the last week of January through the first week of February.

Donegal Browne

Friday, December 31, 2010


Now Carol for all intents and purposes has her back turned toward me but I can still see the gleam of her left eye. Which means she can still see me. It's a little thing but awfully important to a bird to have wonderful peripheral vision.

Look at Carol on the right. Crows tend to have expressions of clever intelligence but Carol's look, I assume due to her fluffed feathers in this photograph, looks quite sweet.

Look at male House Sparrow's extremely sharp little toenails. If he were hawk sized we'd be tempted to call them talons.

In winter, the House Sparrows not infrequently seat themselves in a female section and a male section.

I particularly like this little thing. Look carefully at Junco's mouth. I thought at first that the little point midway between the two sections of his beak was the point on a seed but after scrutinizing it, that's the tip of Junco's little pink tongue.

House Finches always look sleep deprived. See the bags under this guy's eyes? I suspect that the "bags" are more apparent because they've few feathers around their eyes in the bag area.

And here's a little opening in the fence row. Where does it go? Why is it there? If one pays attention there are a million possible adventures waiting to happen.

Donegal Browne

P.S. Lola has yet to be sighted again.

P.P.S. My daughter Sam just called, yes, at 3:30 in the morning and told me I had to see the Transformer Owl on YouTube. Well folks, I think you have to see it too. And no it isn't a little thing, well the owl isn't huge, but the transformation is! Go for it. Here's the link-- (You may have to copy and paste. Lately the links just don't turn into links on the blog for some reason.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

John Blakeman--Where is Pale Male's mate Lola? Plus Where the 27 year 9 month old, Old Gal Banded Was Banded, Press Release from the Raptor Trust

Photo by Donna Browne
Lola stands on the nest earlier this year.

W H E R E I S L O L A ?

I have received a number of emails from readers who asked how concerned they should be about Lola as Lincoln Karim of has noted several times of late on his blog that he hasn't seen Lola.

December 18th was the last likely sighting, with Lola atop her favorite winter perch, the grate of a chimney on the Oreo Building. As it is now December 30th, this has begun to worry some readers.

Long time reader and urban hawk follower Mai wrote--


Recently, Lincoln has mentioned on his website that he hasn't seen Lola in a while -- do you think this should be cause for concern? They do seem to have always been seen together most of the time in the past.

Thanks for any thoughts you may have about this,


Ohio Prairie and Red-tailed Hawk Man, John Blakeman weighs in with his opinion--

I, too, have been watching Lola's absence, and yes, I have a measure of concern.

There are only two possibilities. The more favorable one would be that the bird decided to head South for the winter, as many Red-tails do.

The other is that she's dead, from poison in food, or some injury.

The greater probability is the latter. The bird spent the last two or three winters in Central Park, and did well. She's experienced and has no hunger motivations to leave for warmer climes for the winter. But it's still not impossible. She might have lofted high up on a warm thermal (but there haven't been any of these since November) and loosely joined some other Red-tails migrating down from Quebec, upstate New York, or New England. There's a small chance that she's somewhere in the South, asking the question, "Didn't I come down here for some moderate winter weather? Last time I'm doing this, as this is as cold and snowy as NYC." If she's in the South, she picked a bad year to fly there.

But if she did, she'll be seen in February or March, or even in late January.

But I think the far greater possibility is that she's somehow met her demise; again, either by poisoning from a tainted rat, or some wing injury after bouncing off a wire. Red-tails occasionally electrocute themselves by touching opposite wings against hot electrical wires when landing or taking off from utility poles.

If such is the case, if Lola is no more, a new formel (female) will show up when the days start to discernibly lengthen, even as early as mid-January. There is a giant population of "floaters," young, un-mated adults eager to step into an established territory such as Pale Male's.

The resulting pair-bonding, between Pale Male and new mate, can happen in hours, if not just in a day or two. With that, a new mate might appear in January, and except for a different feather pattern, could appear to be Lola once again.


John A. Blakeman

Everybody keep your fingers crossed and hope that Lola has just decided to hang out in the Hallet Sanctuary where no one is likely to have seen her.

Next up, I contacted the Raptor Trust in regards to a question from readers as to where the Old Gal had been banded geographically. Dr. Soucy had mentioned many birds were banded at his banding station on the Kittatinny Ridge during an interview but it wasn't crystal clear as to whether the Old Gal was one of them. I asked. Yes, she was.

And where and what is the Kittatinny Ridge?

According to the National Raptor Migration Corridor Project--"

"The Kittatinny Ridge and Raptor Corridor in northern New Jersey is a major, inland, autumn raptor (and other bird) migration flight-line and corridor within the Appalachian raptor migration flyway..."

Also see below the Press Release from The Raptor Trust concerning the Old Gal. And in case you were wondering, according to the release, she is not receiving visitors.


A wild red-tailed hawk with a remarkable story is currently being treated at The Raptor Trust, an avian rehabilitation center in Millington, NJ. The hawk was recovered on a New York highway in November wearing a numbered aluminum band on its leg. The band reveals that, at 27 years and 9 months of age, the birdis the oldest living wild red-tailed hawk ever recorded in North America.

Recovered on a highway near Monroe, NY, the hawk was first taken to New York rehabilitator Suzie Gilbert in November. The red tail, most likely a female given her large size, was weak and starving, and apparently had been trying to make a meal on road kill. Gilbert stabilized and fed the banded hawk—and began the process of tracking her remarkable history—and then transferred the bird to The Raptor Trust for additional care.

What Gilbert discovered about the bird’s history made it especially fitting that the hawk would be transferred to The Raptor Trust. The band it wears was first issued almost 30 years ago to Raptor Trust founder and master bird bander Len Soucy. In the early 1980’s, Soucy helped to establish a hawk banding station along the Kittatinny Ridge to contribute to research on migratory raptors. According to bird banding records, the red-tailed hawk was banded in October of 1983 by Dick Carroll, an apprentice bander working under Soucy’s federal license. At the time, her brown striped tail feathers would have marked her as an immature “passage bird” making her first fall migration at 6 or 7 months of age.Coincidentally, 1983 is also the year that Soucy and his wife Diane founded The Raptor Trust as a nonprofit rehabilitation center for injured& orphaned wild birds.

At The Raptor Trust, the red tail has been successfully treated for a respiratory infection and a minor wing fracture, and is now recuperating in an outdoor aviary.As with all birds being rehabilitated at The Raptor Trust, the red tail is not accessible to the public. Visitors to the Trust are, however, welcomed to view the nearly 50 non-releasable resident hawks and owls for which the center provides a permanent home. Located at 1390 White Bridge Road in Millington, NJ, The Raptor Trust is open 365 days a year to welcome visitors and to receive injured and orphaned wild birds for care.

Staff at The Raptor Trust will continue to care for the venerable red tail through the winter, and pending her full recovery, they hope to release their remarkable patient this coming spring.

Donegal Browne