Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Eagle, That Leads to the Eagles Nest, and the Red-tailed Hawk Part 1

This is my last photo of the day, just as the sun was going down. And this is the Red-tailed Hawk I'd been looking for, though not his nest as yet. 

But while I was looking for him, I found an Eagle's nest.

I'd met some people on a walking trail who said they'd heard there was a Red-tailed Hawk nest toward the west and also that the Eagle's nest of last year had blown down and an Eagle pair also likely had a nest somewhere "over there".

Thankfully the railroad tracks were going in a handy me some "public access" through the countryside amidst all the privately owned land.

I'd walked along for about a half hour being screamed at by Red-winged Blackbirds, they're very tense this time of year, when I saw a large speck in the top of a tree.

 Then the large speck took to his wings toward the east...left.

A Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, going somewhere with purpose.

He then curved back in the other direction again and flew the length of a field back to his perch.

Flying past the nest.  See it near the top of the tree center?
 It's well over a mile away, so I try digiscoping.

It is too far away even for digiscoping. 

There is an Eagle's head there but its tough to see. I look around for the nearest farm house.  Perhaps they own the site and I can get permission to get closer.  Gulp.  I gather my stuff and start trekking for it. 

Raptor watching is ever so much easier in Central Park.  Though...Central Park doesn't have an Eagle's Nest.

More to Come!

Donegal Browne

Thursday, April 04, 2013

More Thoughts on Rose of Fordham, Great Horned Owls, and the Collins Hall Nest

Blog reader Linda Maslin, of Blue Bell, PA, emailed me a link, above, to a picture and article about the Red-tailed Hawk which died of secondary rat poison in Madison Square Park in mid-March of this year, asking if that hawk might indeed have been Rose.

Linda,  if the hawk in the photo is the hawk who was poisoned she is not Rose.   Rose's belly band was more like paint dripping as opposed to spots and she also was banded.  
Fordham is in the Bronx and Madison Square Park is in Manhattan so the distance is not impossible but unlikely, as in March as territorial lines are hardening up by then.

But once again thanks for sending it.
Best, D
       photo Donegal Browne-- Rose of Fordham in a happier season.
I'd also emailed Chris Lyons of Fordham, a major watcher of Rose and Vince, asking if he thought that their son, named Alpha Son, who joined Rose in Great Horned Owl baiting might also have met his end with Rose?  If  indeed, that is as suspected, she died in a battle  with the Great Horned Owl DadBoth Alpha Son and GHO Dad, are currently missing from the New York Botanical Garden.

Chris wrote-
I'm not clear about this whole Alpha Son thing, but I doubt Junior [Great Horned Owl Dad at NYBG,  DB] could take both of them out at the same time. 

 I haven't seen Vince in the last week either, but that doesn't mean anything, with breeding disrupted.  I would assume I'll see him with a new mate at some point, but normally the Fordham Hawks are well into nesting by now, so maybe it's too late for this year.  
I hope the Collins nest won't be abandoned, but that'll be up to the new missus, whenever she comes along.  Always possible, I guess, that an established pair could show up and claim the territory.   It's too good a territory to stay vacant, that's for sure--more worried about the owl mother finding a mate.   We know a lot less about how many unattached GHO's are in NYC.   

Photo Donegal Browne
The Collins Hall Red-tailed Hawk nest at Fordham University


I'm leaning more toward Alpha Son hitting the thermals for  the RTH adolescent migration.  Though as its now been proven that Red-tails do have a tendency to return to their natal territory for breeding,  we may not have seen the last of him.  I like that thought very much.

I would think that unattached GHO's in NYC would be rare.  They technically don't migrate.  Though Central Park does tend to get a GHO visitor in the winter, probably on a little winter vacation from another borough.  Or even from the NYBG.

The Garden's Great Horned Owl Mom and her single owlette are going to be going it alone this season I'm afraid.  I don't know that a male GHO would pitch in like T2 did last season at the Franklin Institute.  But one never knows as no one had ever seen a Red-Tailed Hawk stepfather before either. :)

Just got a pic from a blog reader of the hawk that was poisoned in Madison Square Park in mid March of this year asking if it may have been Rose.   It would have been very unlikely to have been her due to distance at this time of year but the hawk in the photo had a definite spotted belly band as opposed to Rose's more streaked model.

As to the Collins nest site, if things work like Pale Male and 927,  and  Isolde at the Cathedral,  the remaining hawk holds the territory until another mate is chosen. In fact Vince may have "disappeared" to go looking.   James O'Brien believes he saw Isolde leave and go get Storm'n Norman not long after Tristan's death.

 Of course Vince's new mate would technically have the choice of nest site being the female, but she'd have to be a bit off to choose another spot.

 In actuality Collins hall is arguably the best RTH building nest site for fledging and branching in the city.  As far as I know, in no other building nest site in NYC are the young able to move back and forth to the nest at will, and easily do true branching in the adjacent trees as they do in tree nests in non-urban territories.

I'm still holding out hope for Vince finding a mate for this season.  When Charlotte and Pale Male Jr. successfully double clutched it was even later in the year.

Please do keep me updated.  Fingers crossed!

Best, D

Happy Hawking
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Ravens In Manhattan?

Today there were these photographs of two birds published on    They appear to be Corvids but which species?  Discussion then ensued as to exactly  which species these birds are.  

Are they Crows or Ravens?

 No size comparison is possible from a photograph with nothing in it but the birds themselves.  Nor are we privy to their voices or possible ruffed feathers at the neck.

The beaks look a bit thick, but not definitive enough for me to be positive.

Supposedly Crows have fan shaped tails and Ravens have a wedge shaped tail.  Here without anything to compare the tails  of actual Crows vs Raven tails to these, it appears that the bird on the left may have a wedge shape and the bird on the right has a possible fan shape....but maybe it's a bit wedgie as it is slightly curved?

No clincher so far.  

In my opinion when in doubt about identification based on physical attributes, it is time to look into the differences in behavior.  

And it appears to me that these two birds are participating in some sort of courtship display.

The question:  What does courtship behavior consist of in Crows and what in Ravens? 

As it turns out, courtship in Crows involves the male doing a good bit of strutting. 

But Ravens do a courtship flight which includes flying with wingtips touching.


Donegal Browne

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


 Photo courtesy of   
 Pale Male patrols his territory late in the day,  Sunday.  
Chris Lyon has continued the search for Rose of Fordham to no avail though he has been in contact with some birders in the NYBG who have some possibly relevant information 

Stranger and is the birders' report--

Last week we found the GHO nest. The female is very visible. In the 3 past years Junior Owl male has mated, he ALWAYS sat outside the nest guarding and watching. I have not been able to locate him in approximately 4-5 weeks. I assumed when they nested he was with her but now that we found the nest we cannot find him. Many birders looked. No Junior male owl. How long has Rose been missing? She was the owl that "jumped" Junior that day when harassing him with her Alpha son.
Could it be Rose and Junior had it out with no winner?

I saw Vince yesterday- looking lost.

Chris Lyons response-

Possible--I haven't spotted Rose in about six weeks or so, since I saw her engaged in courtship flights over on the campus.   Even though GHO's tend to be proportionately stronger than RT's, Rose might have had enough of a size advantage to even the scales.  Maybe they engaged at twilight or dusk, where light conditions wouldn't favor either combatant.   Because he was timid during the day, she might have gotten overconfident, and come a bit too close.   Whoever won, it could easily have been a victory of the pyrrhic type.  

Maybe he'll still turn up, but it doesn't sound good--at this point, I see no hope at all of Rose showing up alive.  But where are the bodies?  Could any maintenance people have found them?   Of course, there are big raccoons in there who'd happily dispose of the spoils of war. 

 Chris forwarded the above.  And below find his note to me
Figured you'd want to hear about this.  Of course, it's still purely speculative, but that would be some coincidence.  
Red-tails and Great Horned's love the same types of habitat, and most of the time, they live in relative peace, because they work different shifts.  In Van Cortlandt Park, I have seen RT's confront GHO's in the daytime, and it's always a stand-off--the owls just hold their ground, and the hawks know better than to get too close--I have also found the body of a large immature RT near an active GHO nest, and that was no coincidence.   But immature hawks are less prudent than adults, and Rose was an exceptionally well-seasoned adult, so what could have happened here? 
Rose was in her prime, healthy, and fully in control of her territory--while a battle with a rival female of her own species is possible, I think she was too well-entrenched not to come out victorious in a conflict of that kind.  She seems to have been exceptionally aggressive towards Great Horned Owls, and got away with it for years--perhaps the willingness of the NYBG owls to put up with her harassment made her over-confident--and with a nesting mate to defend,  Junior would be less likely to tolerate her incursions.  Even a relatively small and meek Great Horned Owl is a Great Horned Owl--the most ferocious raptor in North America, able to kill animals many times its size.   It would really say something for how formidable Rose was if she managed to make a draw of it.  But without any physical evidence, we may never know.  

And my response to Chris...

 Thank you Chris.  Oh dear.  It's possible it is a coincidence I suppose, but it is very suspicious. Particularly as both were birds in residence for some years who have disappeared in a relatively similar time frame.  That doesn't make it fact by any stretch of the imagination but this scenario though sad is far better than if Rose had been poisoned.   Better to go out fighting in a blaze of glory, if one is a hawk, I would  think.  Particularly as it appears she had a definite issue with the Great Horned Owls.

 How is Great Horned Mom going to be able to incubate and feed her owlettes or even keep the eggs warm as she'll have to hunt if she is widowed.  Unless of course,  Mr GHO has found a very hidden spot to watch over things.

Poor Vince.  He's not yet given up and started to court a new female.  Which cements the fact that he doesn't know what happened to Rose either. He wouldn't though if she was off in GHO territory and he was guarding their territory closely as males are prone to do at this time of year.

If Vince takes a new mate, I'm assuming he will this season though a little late as there are always available mates in the floater population, and if Rose did meet her demise doing in the male GHO, she'll have given the gift of some GHO safety to Vince's offspring.

 I doubt very much that Rose's death was due to a female RTH.  Vince would have helped in the battle.  And having seen many an incursion into PM's, Tristan's and Norman's territories,  one RTH is no match for an experienced pair.  Besides in that case, Vince would know what happened to Rose and not be looking for her.
You are so right.  We may very well never know what happened to Rose with finality but at this point I fear too, that we must  bid her farewell.  She has left us her biological legacy of  many well raised human habituated young hawks to return to their natal areas when mature and continue to raise their families in our urban landscapes.

Rest in peace beautiful fierce courageous Rose.  We shall miss you.

 Rosie returns from a break on Monday and gives the window a stare as Bobby slowly leaves the three eggs.  

At dusk Bobby returned with a rat for Rosie.  She got off the bowl and left again leaving the rat behind.  

And Red-tail expert John Blakeman answers some questions in an article in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer-

All appears to be going well at the Franklin Institute nest of Mom and T2 also.  They also now have three eggs.

The number of eggs in a season ordinarily depends on the prey depth and the hawks ability to avail themselves of that prey.   The deeper the prey depth, and the better the hunter,  the higher the number of eggs.   

Within reason of course.  They aren't ducks.

Al Olsen reports that the Fifth Avenue nest is progressing nicely.

Isolde as is usual this time of year, is keeping close in the nest behind St. Andrew's elbow at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
CPW Hawk
Photo courtesy of Rob Schmunk,

Rob Schmunk has some lovely photos and updates on the new nest of the Red-tailed Pair at Central Park West and 92nd Street.  Take a look.

Donegal Browne