Saturday, May 03, 2014

Pale Male and Octavia's Pin Feathered Little Guy, and Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot Chews His Way Into a Drawer

Photo courtesy of
One of Pale Male and Octavia's eyasses works on a pin feather.  Actually all the new feathers eyasses go through in babyhood rather drive them mad.  If you've not done it, watch a hawkcam a night when the eyasses fledgling feathers are coming in.  They sometimes spend the whole night trying to deal with the pin feathers. 

I'd been told that hawk parents did not preen their young and I admit I've not seen them do it in the daytime, but I have seen them doing it many times at night on cams.  In some cases if an eyasses sleep becomes too disturbed by them Mom will work on particularly bothersome ones.

I thought that things might be calming down, at least Silver hadn't bombed me lately, but no, when I came in to check on him he was hanging off the cupboard door in front of his currently chosen shelf...excuse me, cavity.
Then he flipped round and I got ready to duck. 
Instead he flew over to his old stand by the clean laundry.  (I was actually able to catch up a little on  the laundry while he was sleeping last night.  Woooo Hoooo!)

Considering Silver's expression I decided not to push my luck and retreated to a safer room.
 1:41 pm  He turns his head and gives me a look.  I tense.
And though Silver keeps one eye on me he turns back enough to keep the other eye on the bird feeder.
It is a gray chilly day, but there are some signs of Spring.  The Goldfinch are sporting their Spring colors...
...and a lactating squirrel is about to leap the baffle and raid the sunflower seed feeder.  (Hey, she needs the calories.)

And as all seems well, I head back to my chores.  

I'm typing away when I realize I've been hearing a sort of wood grinding noise for awhile.  What is that?  It stops.

Click, clakity, click...geeerrrrrind

That's it!  What IS that sound?

My first choice as to where to look for mysterious sounds...the laundry room of course.  I go in.  Look around.  No parrot.  No more grinding wood either.

"Silver.   Silver?"  

Where is he?

I look behind things.  I look under things.

No parrot.  Right.  

Wonder if he is back excavating under the chest of drawers?  I'm in the process of getting down to look under it when...
Is there an eye looking at me from that drawer?  I change angles.

Not only is there an eye, I'd say there is a parrot head  and likely the rest of him.  He looks a little squashed and he didn't get in from this side.  Did he really chew his way in from underneath?  I gently pull it a touch more open.

Looks like he could use it a touch more open.  Another gentle pull.
Lookin'  kinda grumpy  there, Silver.   Actually he looks rather like the F word might be forthcoming.  Parrots are experts at picking up swear words...anything with high expletive drama will be copied.  It is in their nature.

Ah he seems to be accompanied by some wood splinters.  What a surprise.  One in his feathers...two visible in the drawer...  Will have to check that out when his hormones have settled down.  I don't think moving furniture is in the cards right now.

Still lookin' grumpy?  No perhaps stunned is a better word for that expression.  Hon'  you did do it to yourself.  Not fun squashing yourself into a full drawer from the back or the bottom?
 Sorry.  I know.  Nobody likes to be mocked at a time like this.
Do you want to go in the other room?  

He steps up so I figure that's a yes.

 Squirrel is already in residence but they often sit here companionably together. It is the best seat in the house for the southern exposure bird feeder.  Though currently Squirrel is considering leaping on Pyewacket, the (other) cat. 

 Eventually Squirrel sleeps and Silver is content enough to stay put.

Thank goodness.

And tomorrow, more hawk news plus what do female African Grey Parrots act like at this time of year!

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Friday, May 02, 2014

Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot, the Seasonally Hormonal Dive Bombing Maniac Part 3, Who Ate the Cipcakes and Chris Lyons Reports on the Fordham Hawk Corpse Mystery

April 30th, 9:09 AM  The perch stick and zip ties held on the top shelf doors  but....Quicksilver is smart, driven, and set on getting his way.  Just look at that expression!
 The top shelf doors remain unopened but Silver got up this morning, went under the blanket barricade, opened the door on the left and climbed into yet another "cavity".

And we know how he feels about cavities.  

9:11:12 AM  And he's starting to come out.  And here he comes!

 I duck.  Silver curves over me to the dryer and lands.
 9:11:26    He lands on the towels, depositing a few fluff feathers on the clean laundry.  Note his expression looks a little dazed. 

 Speaking of his expressions.
 9:11:36  He once again focuses on me. 
9:11:49  Thirteen seconds later Silver is readying for his next step.  Note the sliver of his nictitating membrane, up left.  There is nothing flying around that might get his eye to activate it.  It has been activated by his own thoughts about going into action.

Looks pretty baleful doesn't he?
9:12:14 In the meantime...

...the audience has arrived-
                    Squirrel the Cat and Tig the Basenji
Not to disappoint them but that nictitating eyelid has told me it is time for me to leave the laundry room.

9:32:05  I am in the second parlor right outside the laundry room unpacking more of the interminable boxes from the move when I hear a tremendous skittering rustle.  Rather like some one doing something strange and active with a plastic bag.

9:32:31 Definitely strange and active.  It appears Silver has lost his purchase on the plastic bag that holds among other things,  the extra vacuum accessories and is scuffling and flapping madly trying to stay inside the cavity.

9:32:32  Silver has managed to hook his feet on the edge of the bottom shelf and his beak behind the lip of the top edge.  But what now?

9:32:34  His hold lasts two seconds but he can't hold the position nor pull himself inside so he falls out.  But he has his wings curved in to catch the air and keep him from plummeting to the floor and makes it to  the dryer.

Okay this is when I do something completely oblivious and dumb.  Actually this part isn't dumb,  I take a few steps across the room and check on Silver.  He's fine. but on my little walk I notice that something  has fallen from the shelf into the sink.  This is when I do the really dumb thing.  I lean into the sink, pick up the product and kind of give it a little toss into the bottom shelf.  Just as I started to give it a little flip... I knew the action was very very bad but it was too late and I knew I had done an exquisitely dumb thing I was going to be very sorry for, as I could hear Silver's wings go into action behind me.  

WHAM!  I have parrot toe nails digging into the top of my scalp.  OWWWW!

 9:33:27 I whip the camera up turned back towards Silver and shoot.  I look at it quickly parrot still on my head.  Not a good photo. Actually it is very good documentation as the important part isn't fuzzy.. See the tension in Silver's foot grasping my hair and scalp. It's quite clear. But I don't see that in the heat of the moment and I have a bright idea. Yes! There is a mirror on the opposite wall.  I could take the picture in the mirror.  

Yes, dear readers, I'm  about to do the really dumb second thing.

I turn the camera away from us and toward the mirror.  Drat!  I can't get the shot with the camera to my eye and can't see the live action with it at the proper height.  I'll wing it.
 9:34:19   GOOD GRIEF!!!!  The flash went off.  Pull it down change settings.  Irate parrot still on my head.  

Can you believe this?  What was I thinking????
9:34:26  Almost!  But Silver is fuzzy.  Another try.

9:34:52  Super.  Too far over.  But lovely shot of where Silver clipped the loose wallpaper off with his beak.  I decide to just shoot some rapid fire without looking at them and hope something works when I bring them up later.

 9:35:00  Keep in mind that Silver has probably had nearly as many photos taken of him than Pale Male so the camera ordinarily doesn't bother him.  And this shot of him would have been fine but I don't know that because  I wasn't looking at the individual shots.
Please note that Quicksilver has cocked his head for a better view of my thumb holding the camera.  He is considering launching himself at my thumb.  I do not know this until he has launched himself at my thumb,  clamped onto it, and is biting it with increasing excruciating pressure as his beak breaks the skin and keeps on going.

Reflexes come into play.   My right hand whips down with the parrot hanging on it and he is inadvertently flung and flies into the kitty litter box below.  He lands, kitty litter rockets everywhere. Somehow, the camera ends up sitting safely on the washer, and Silver jumps up on the side of the kitty litter box ready for more action.
 9:35:42  Silver is giving me the eye and leaning forward to possibly take to his wings.  I leap for the exit to examine my bleeding thumb.  
9:36:09  On the other side of the curtain, the previous audience waits next to the boxes I was unpacking to see who will be vanquished from the laundry room.  Thanks guys.

I peek in to check on Silver.   He's having some more of his breakfast. All is right with the world.   Beating up humans is hungry work. 
9:42:44  I wash my thumb in the kitchen and come back.  Silver appears to have been investigating the box of miscellaneous parrot stuff and a rusty dust pan.

Then I make the mistake of taking another picture of the "cavity". 

9:43 Silver wastes no time in flying to the top of the washer and measuring the distance to the top of my head.

Notice the laundry is really building up.  

Would you do laundry in here? 

I exit. 
10:33:07  I return and Silver is sitting on the damp throw rugs on the sink beneath his newest "cavity".

I head for the bathroom.  Did  I mention that the other bathroom is being worked on?  So the little bathroom off the laundry room is the only one available.  Excellent timing. 

When  I come out, I glance up at the cavity.  

This is a mistake.  Silver sees me look.

He starts... 


 ...for me!
 3:28 PM When I come in, Silver is relaxed, standing on one foot and looking reasonably sane.

Still vigilant though.

May 1st. Silver didn't even go into the laundry room today except to take a bath in the cat's water bowl.  He hung out in other parts of the house for the most part, didn't fly at my head,  and didn't look for cavities as far as  I could tell anyway.  

Strangely Silver decided to sit in the kitchen window on the curtain rod and look out at the south side of the yard.  Not a normal perch at all unless I'm in the kitchen.  When I went to leave the kitchen I took him into the living room with me.  He immediately flew back to the kitchen and his previous perch.  OK.  And stayed there for what seemed like ages.

I cooked dinner.  We ate it. And by then he'd decided he wanted to watch TV in the other room.  Fine.

I went into the kitchen to clean up.


Okay, who took the foil off the cupcakes?

  More than that, who ate the frosting off the top of those  cupcakes?  I'm suspicious that the counter walking Squirrel may be the culprit.

I look more carefully.  No.  Someone flipped the cupcakes over so they could eat the bottom, the cake part, without having to deal with the frosting.

Looks like parrot work to me.

Where's the  foil?
Bingo!  Look at the top left corner.  That hole is from a parrot beak.  Yes indeedie!  Very stealthy removed too.  He didn't just chew through it.  He's getting sneakier.

And just what might tomorrow bring?

From Chris Lyons watcher of Vince and Blanche of Fordham and beyond..
I just heard from a co-worker that a Red-tailed Hawk was killed by a Metro-North train, over by the Fordham station.  He saw the body.  He did not remember if it had a red tail.   But I've seen no juvenile birds in that general area for some time now.

I did see the two adults, on top of a nearby building, several weeks back--there was calling and copulation going on.  My concern at the time was that a nest had appeared on the same building they nested on last year--the other side of that building, in an identical iron structure meant to hold a window box.   That is not a safe place for a nest, because of the proximity of Webster Avenue and the Metro-North tracks.

But I was puzzled to note for the past several weeks that there seemed to be no activity around the nest--the nest on Collins Hall that was used for many years is clearly inactive.   I haven't been seeing any hawks on or near the campus since I saw the pair involved in courtship.  My co-worker says he saw the dead hawk about two weeks ago.  I have seen a lone adult Red-tail some blocks west of Webster Ave. since then.  
So nothing's confirmed absolutely, but it sure seems like something's gone awry.   Whether the surviving member of the pair will find a new mate and try to nest again is impossible to say right now.   It may be that the territorial boundaries are shifting for reasons I can only guess at.   They may not be Fordham Hawks anymore.   Perhaps an entirely new pair will nest on the campus or in the Botanical Garden.  Or maybe I will see a bird in that nest on Webster soon.  But so far, it's looking pretty dead there. 
I'll try to get more information, and will certainly keep all of you in the loop--I hope you will also report your observations to me (Pat, you don't need to be reminded to do this, obviously--I always enjoy your reports and videos).

Seems like the Fordham Red-tails are having a real run of bad luck--first Hawkeye was poisoned, then Rose disappeared (I still think she and the vanished male of the Great Horned Owl pair killed each other), and now either Vince or the new female has met with an accident.   Breeding season is a dangerous time for adult Red-tails--distracted by hormones, exhausted by rearing young, and with their territorial instincts ramped up to the extreme, they can make fatal errors in judgement in an urban environment that is extremely unforgiving of mistakes (not that a fully natural habitat would be any less so). 
Hope other urban nesting pairs are having an easier time of it. 


Update--well, I still don't know the identity of the hawk that was killed, but I can report with full confidence that the Webster Ave. nest is active.  Saw an adult--the female, I'm pretty sure--perched up there, and looking down into the nest.   Also mantling to protect the inhabitants of the nest from the strong early afternoon sunlight.   There are hatched young in there. 
So two possibilities--
1)Vince was killed, and Blanche (my name for the female that replaced Rose as Vince's mate last year after she disappeared) immediately employed the notoriously effective Red-tail Social Media to advertise for a replacement, who presented himself with alacrity.  Whether she had laid eggs at this point, and who the father might be--?????   But I'm guessing that even if it was too late for him to be the genetic father, the prospect of inheriting a territory and a mate would be more than enough to entice an unattached male into raising some other male's chicks.   If Blanche had died, of course, the new female would have needed to gestate eggs, and she might have wanted to build a nest somewhere else, and the scheduling would have been more difficult. 
2)Vince is still alive, and some stranger was killed by the Metro North train--one scenario that comes to mind was that an unattached bird got too close to the nest, and was chased by one or both reigning adults, and in his or her panic to escape, got clobbered by the train. 
Anyway.  The Fordham territory's streak remains unbroken--and I am so ambivalent about that.   Because the nest isn't actually on the campus, or in the Botanical Garden, and it's just not safe.  God damn it, Blanche.  You really want to spend the rest of your life cycle depending on the kindness of strangers? 
Keep your fingers crossed folks!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot and the Laundry Room Cupboard Battle, Part 2, the Washington Heights Red-tails and a Trio of Water Loving Species

As those of you, who visited the blog yesterday will remember ,  Quicksilver being a mature African Grey male, is drenched in hormones and he is bound and determined to guard a "cavity",- in this case, a shelf in the laundry room. (If you haven't seen yesterday's blog, scroll down and read the first part then come back up for this one.

You will also remember I ended up nailing a blanket across the entrance to the laundry room, while holding an umbrella over my head to avoid parrot dive bombs.   The laundry room  doesn't have a door hence the blanket so Silver couldn't go back in, inhabit a shelf "cavity", and do fly outs at my head some more..

Well, Silver got up this morning, looked at the blanket over the door and decided revenge would be sweet.  So periodically he landed on my desk, my nightstand, where ever and attempted to chew paper, books, pens, bobby pins...anything he could get his beak on out of sheer pique. 

I covered the desk and it's contents with a sheet.

I also covered the keyboard of the computer with a towel.  He once popped every single letter, number, whatever, off the keyboard.  Sure they'd pop easily back on.  But who knew exactly where each one went.  I had to have a friend take a picture of her keyboard and give it to me so reconstruction could occur. 

Silver says, "Want carrot".  I get him a carrot and put the carrot and the parrot on his play area by the window so he can watch the outside birds at the feeder while he eats.

He appears unimpressed but decides to eat the carrot anyway.

Suddenly about an hour later I look at Silver's play parrot.

The bottom of the blanket over the door is in a different position.  The little bugger has gone under.

I go to the laundry room and there he is sitting as above, with one foot on a box of Arm and Hammer and the other on a can of Resolve carpet cleaner in a bottom shelf, looking baleful.  

He does not fly at my head.

Fine.  I leave him there.

  I go back into the laundry room to check on him.
11:25:42 AM  Well, my my, he's gotten the cupboard door open, he's hanging by his feet...and staring at me.
 11:25:48 AM  Silver puts his head down, and appears to be attempting to slide his feet toward the unattached corner of the cupboard door.  He loves the top shelf of the top cupboard best.
11:25:58 AM  He looks at me again.  I guess he doesn't want me to see his technique.  Fine.  I head for the living room.

11:44:45  AM   I return.  Silver is hanging from his beak feet scrabbling for purchase.

Is he stuck?  Did he go up the side of the door but now that he's no longer in reach of the side while his beak is on the top of  the he having a problem?  His expression is either very intent or...
11:45:03 AM   I come round the door for a different angle.  His feet continue to grope for purchase.  Is his beak stuck?  Maybe.  I better get him down.  I get the perch stick and put it under his feet.  They grip.  He turns around and flies at my head.

Stuck or not he didn't appreciate the help.  He is on the dryer now, feathers on end, glaring at me, crouched for another pounce.

I leave the laundry room.

2:13:07 PM  I return to the laundry room.  Silver is still, or back on the dryer, one foot up, dozing.

I say, UP.  He steps up onto my hand nicely.  I take him to his cage for a nap.

And while he is napping I decide I have to do something so he doesn't get stuck on the cupboard door again.

While Silver is sleeping I take the perch stick, actually a length of PVC pipe, and zip tie it to the handles of  the cupboards.

OK, I know it isn't foolproof.  Conceivably he can even stand on the pipe and clip the zip ties off with his beak. Zip Zap. Though he couldn't stand there and clip the second one...likely anyway.  It would take awhile...

With a parrot there isn't much that is parrot proof.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.

In the meantime,
Red-Tailed Hawk (7956)
Photo courtesy of

Rob Schmunk, of Morningside Hawks took a trip over to see the Washington Heights Red-tails and yes, there has been a hatch.  For more click on the link under his photo above.

But while I was looking at the photos I noticed that Dad has a very long cowl.  The length of it over the front of the shoulders of this hawk is somewhat rare.

                      Photo courtesy of
See how the color of Dad's head continues down past his shoulders?  The only hawk in Manhattan that I know of with this characteristic is Isolde, one of the Morningside Park hawks at the Cathedral Nest of St. John the Divine.  And the Mom of the Washington Heights nest appears from the photos to have the physicality of Pale Male's line.

All conjecture of course but we do know now that Red-tailed  Hawks do tend to come back and nest in or near their original natal territory. 

 And Last But Not Least...Wisconsin Waterfowl...taken near dusk.
And I will be the first to admit my waterfowl identification skills are rusty...Blue Winged Teal...

  And the mystery birds of the day, two little shore birds...
This one?
And this one?  

Both taken near the end of the day on the Mill Race of the Sugar River, Brodhead, WI

Anyone want to take a crack at them?

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne