Saturday, March 29, 2014

PALE MALE. What's In a Name? Names Nurture Biophilia. And Biophilia Saves the Earth

 Photo courtesy of
Beautiful sweet faced Pale Male 

He was hatched in 1990.

And as a Brown-tail in 1991 he took a young mate, there was an attempted nest built on a baseball back stop which didn't hold eggs....they fell out, according to his chronicler the wonderful writer and naturalist Marie Winn, who also gave him his name.  The pair also attempted to nest in a tree where they were mobbed by Crows and both injured... 

Thus begins the saga of one of the first Red-tailed Hawks to give up nesting "in the wild"  and raise a family on a building. 

Yes, nests on buildings are somewhat similar to the nests of  Red-tailed Hawks who nest on cliffs due to the dearth of trees out West....  that I give you... but cliffs don't have people peeking out windows at you.  

 For whatever reason, Pale Male, is remarkably amiable to the presence of people within certain bounds.  And so it began.  And as it did, worldwide love and affection for him grew too. 

It may not have happened if "that hawk" that nested on 927 Fifth Avenue hadn't had a name.

I know, just what is this naming hawks mania I have? 

If you will forgive me a digression, back in the day, when I was training in biology,  I was terrific at it but... I had the bad habit of showing my enthusiasm for birds, or animals or fungi  or plants or insects or you name just about any live thing,  loosing control, laughing out of sheer discovery and possibly saying..."Wow!  Amazing!  and even, "Aww, they're soooo cute!"

I vividly remember on one of these occasions Dr. Gross, in his white lab coat and I in mine, turning to me at my microscope and saying quietly, "Yes they are cute but you can't say it."

"I can't say it?"


"Why not?"  

"Because scientists don't."

I lost all my air, I shrunk.  I mustn't show joy in the biological.

I loved live things all of them and secretly loved the behavior of individuals even more. Though I knew the anatomy of many creatures, what really fascinated me was their behavior.  What are they doing and WHY?  I liked the whole creature and I liked them alive.  I was a behaviorist but didn't know it yet.
And so began the scientist mask, the submersion of why many have a love of  biology in the first place.  

 What  I had been doing was expressing biophilia,  it strictly wasn't allowed back then. 

And still isn't by some aging often male scientists.  

Or in birding circles by others who trained in something else altogether but have turned bird watcher and desperately want to be thought of  as "scientific". 

I trained in science, I've worked on research studies, and my opinion is that all resident urban hawks should be named. 


The biggest reason to give resident urban hawks names is to nurture biophilia in people, particularly children, who have never or rarely had a chance to intimately know by watching and love an individual of a wild species.  

 Biophilia literally means love of  life.  As in love of living things or systems such as Pale Male not whoopee I'm glad to be alive today.  Though that certainly can enter into it at times and often does when watching him.

The word was coined by Eric Fromm, mid 20th century, for what he believed was a psychological  bent in humans toward living systems, i.e. other life besides one's own.

Then along came E. O. Wilson who grew up in the forests and fields of Arkansas, and at 14 knew enough about ants to categorically discover and recognize that the fire ant had invaded the United States.  

Nobody else had noticed yet.  

It was Edward O. Wilson who popularized the biophilia hypothesis, in his book Biophilia (1984), which suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems.

Therefore extrapolate that further and to love/bond with Pale Male and to help others do so as well,  is to help save the Earth in it's infinite variety of creatures.

And Marie Winn giving Pale Male a name and she and all the other original Regulars standing by the Model Boat Pond with instruments of magnification, showing all comers the nest on 927 was a Biophilia Cadre on the hoof.  To say nothing of Marie, writing Red-tails in Love, which spread love for Pale Male all over the world.

Why Pale Male?  Of course he was one of the first urban hawks and he did have a talented connected group of New Yorkers watching him who were not shy about sharing him. They didn't secretly watch him for months and then let others know he existed only after they'd taken a million pictures. 

Not a chance.  They shared their discovery and their biophilia for him.

And lets face it, lest we forget Pale Male, isn't just any Red-tailed Hawk.  He is personable. He is recognizable because of his paleness.  He is human habituated.  He KNOWS people and lets them know it. 

He is WAY cool.

Plus we now know of course, as the research has been done, that most humans  have an affinity for the young of our species but also an affinity for the young of other mammals.  It is thought to have to do with large eyes, small features in proportion to head size and some say roundish heads as well.

As far as I know that research was only done on mammals but I think it crosses over to birds as well.

This is young Athena from Pepperberg's lab.  She also gives me that "Awww" feeling.  I don't know if that is because I'm into African Greys in the first place or because she in particular does it as she is only six months old.

 Photo courtesy of
Now look at Pale Male, rounded head, big eyes, small features (beak).

There is savvy in those eyes but there is still a definite "Awww" factor.  And with his personality who could resist?  Only those so self absorbed they don't "see".

And we help people "see" if we give an animal a personal name.

Simple as that.

Name the hawks.  Save the Earth.

Happy Hawking! 

P.S. For those who asked what the new nest site at  Fordham looked like in 2013....
 Go to Rich Fleisher's Flickr hawk photos at the following link-

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pale Male... Biophilia and How They Can Save the World?

Sorry folks, I have been working on the Pale Male/Biophilia post for two days now and it isn't done yet.  

Stay tuned! I promise it will be up some time today.

In the meantime, how about a Crow enjoying a beef bone in the snow?
Photo by Donegal Browne

Monday, March 24, 2014

FLASH!!!! In from Jackie of Tulsa by way of Franklin Hawks Facebook!!! Has T3 Arrived? NOW WITH AN ADDENDUM
Photos by Dinko Metic
He has a brown tail, light eyes, can fly like a demon, and is showing off for Franklin Mom.  Pale Male also was a Brown-tail his first breeding season, though as his mate was also barely more than a youngster herself, there were quite a few wrinkles to be ironed out.  In this case, Franklin Mom already knows her stuff.

New Guy left, Franklin Mom right,

In From Jackie of Tulsa: 

 Facebook text/photos by Dinko Mitic .  
"He flies high and does all kinds of dives. I've seen him more active than Mom and T2 ever. They seem to be more efficient or know where they are going, this one seems to be showing off." 
 "He's young. He's fast. He flies circles around Mom. He's already at home in her territory. Could he be T3?"
I saw him flying around the Barnes, Free Library, the FI. Then Mom emerged from somewhere around Rodin and he went after her. They flew in close circles, I heard them both screech (over the Greek parade on the Parkway!). Then they flew together towards the football field on 24th and Parkway." 

He could be T3!  He is definitely showing off his stuff for Mom and Mom has not thrown him out of the territory.  A Brown-tail with an experienced mate, as Mom is, can be a dynamite Dad if his hunting skills match his flying skills...and he takes his cues from Mom about nest breaks and food provisioning for her on the nest now and for the eyasses later.

Young Storm'n Norman, also an exuberant flyer,  who became Isolde's last minute mate at the St. John's nest at the Cathedral in NYC after the loss of Tristan, was dynamite at protecting the territory and his flight skills were grand even if  he was a touch lacking at first when it came to hunting for Isolde and calming down long enough to actually sit on the eggs so Isolde could take breaks.

But he showed up willing at the last minute, with breeding season pressing hard, just as the New Guy has in this case, and though Isolde had to glare sometimes and clean up his manners, they were successful their first season together!  And as Storm'n Norman was young and always looking for a fight he expanded  the borders of their territory and reduced the appearance of  unwelcome visitors near the nest. 

NEW ADDENDUM Answers to Sally of Kentucky's relevant questions concerning the replacement of T2 at the Franklin Nest.

Was on the Franklin FB page and everyone is wondering if Mom will stay in her territory. A few think she has to leave to find a new mate.  I think a new male may come in.  Can you recall  what time of the season Rose lost her mate and Isolde lost Norman?  And is Norman still around or are we on another male? Something tells me we are...It is so hard to follow. Just curious what you remember

Absolutely Mom will stay in her territory!  Isolde did and so did Rose.  There are always floaters in the market looking for just this sort of occasion to be Johnny on the Spot when an opening appears.

I do remember details regarding Isolde's remating with Storm'n Norman.  It was getting very near to breeding season when Tristan disappeared but Isolde kept searching and searching for him, protecting the territory from falcons the whole time, then searching some more.  It was only a day or two before copulation ordinarily was to begin when Isolde appeared with Norman.  I was up at the Cathedral looking for her , when though she still wore the horribly stressed expression she had worn since  Tristan disappeared, Isolde and Norman flew in and began to copulate on an air conditioner right above my head.  The reproductive imperative is very strong and I cannot imagine that Franklin Mom won't have a mate when she is ready to produce eggs this year.  And now that the New Guy has appeared and Mom is tolerating him in the territory, I'm thinking bonding may well have begun for this season for Mom.

No Norman is no longer around and Isolde has a new mate.  Norman disappeared during Hurricane Sandy and a dead Red-tail was found by workers in the area.

I've often thought that as Norman was always one to put up a fight against adversity, laying low wasn't in his repertoire,  that he didn't take proper shelter during Sandy, but rather, as always, was standing guard and went down fighting.

(Previous post of the day follows.) 

Pale Male and Octavia, Dr. Pepperberg, Griffin, and Athena Plus Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot Takes a Bath, and a New Red-tailed Hawk in the Neighborhood

Photo courtesy of
Octavia flies in from the left, North, and Pale Male takes off center like a bullet and then heads uptown, North.  Hawkwatchers surmise that there was some business that Pale Male felt he needed to attend to up there...such as a possible intruder.

Not all "intruders" mean to intrude.  Sometimes they just wander into the territory and can be easily made to feel they should retire to other regions when Pale Male comes their way.

 (left to right) Griffin, Athena, Dr. Irene Pepperberg

A double heads-up concerning an article about Harvard's Parrot Lab from Robin of Illinois, and Samantha of Brandeis--
(Video of Griffin and Athena the African Grey Parrots with Dr. Pepperberg besides.)

 Six month old Athena

Note that Athena's eyes are darker than Griffin's.

African Grey Parrot "babies" have dark eyes which gradually lighten over their first year or so.

I do wonder why he always has this internally absorbed...somewhat psycho expression when he bathes?

And he plunges back in.

What has he done with his head?

Silver bathing is extreme frenetic movement...

Juxtaposed with stillness and an internalized expression.

A leap back in with flapping....more frenetic movement.


A leap out!

And he's done!  He hops off and it is time for  the hair dryer.
He never talks during a bath.  Are the tactile sensations just  much too self absorbing?

I was driving along when I looked over and realized that a tree in this grove next to a house had a bright spot that just didn't seem to belong there.  
Sure enough there was a Red-tailed Hawk pretending to be part of the trunk of a tree.  She evidentally was quite intent on whatever she was watching as she didn't seem to notice that the car had stopped.  (No I didn't turn off the engine, just in case.)
 After a few moments she did deign to give me a look.
But then she turned her head and though still likely keeping me in view,  looked off into the distance.  She made my day for not immediately fleeing when she knew I knew she was there.  I'm going to be keeping a look out for her, she's my kind of hawk.

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Sunday, March 23, 2014

T2 the Valiant Tiercel Who Flew In To Help Raise Franklin Mom's Eyasses Mid-Season When Her Mate Died Two Seasons Ago Has Now Passed Himself

T2 Photo courtesy of Dinko Mitic  


We heard the saddest news today. Earlier this week, Amtrak workers in the train yards near 30th Street station found a dead hawk on the tracks. Because T2 has not been seen since last Sunday, it seems highly likely that this hawk was T2. 

It is easy to imagine that he was on a fast hunting run, eyes totally focused on his prey, flying low over the tracks just as a train was coming. This is how Dad was hit by a truck two years ago on the 30th Street off-ramp.

T2  shall be sorely missed.

Parasitism of Crow Nests by Cuckoos Can Be Helpful for Crow Families???

I've always found the parasitism of nests pretty depressing actually but.... 
Robin of Illinois sent in a fascinating factoid from The Times of London, in which scientists, after a 16 year study, found that Crow families whose nests are parasitized by Cuckoos have a better chance of survival.

 Seems rather counter intuitive doesn't it?

  But as it turns out Cuckoo chicks let off a nasty rotten meat smell when threatened which may keep the nest safe from marauders such as cats.

Who knew?