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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Does Big Mama & Split-tail have a nanny?

White crocus

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This morning I observed some very curious behavior between Big Mama, Split-tail and (presumably) one of last year’s offspring.

There has been one juvenile Red-tailed Hawk still present around Prospect Park. Based on observations from previous year’s I had assumed that the adults would eventually force it to establish its own territory by chasing it away from the park. For some reason, however, they are not acting aggressively towards this young bird. This morning, while walking through the woods on Sullivan Hill, I spotted it perched a short distance from the Payne Hill nest. Big Mama left her nest briefly and perch close to the other bird. She didn’t chase it but just watched from an adjacent tree. I was surprised when the young bird broke off a twig and held it in his mouth. Was he planning on adding it to the nest? He looked as if he was unsure what to do next then dropped the twig and flew off towards the Long Meadow. Big Mama returned to the nest.

Later on in the morning I spotted all three hawks soaring over Payne Hill. In past years I’ve seen Big Mama leave her nest for short periods so I wasn’t concerned that there was a problem with the eggs. What was unusual was that the two adults didn’t seem to have any issue with the juvenile hawk hunting with them. The three Red-tailed Hawks made slow, tight circles above the Long Meadow, Payne Hill and the woods adjacent to the Picnic House. Occasionally Split-tail (who has regained his signature notched tail) would drop his feet while in a holding pattern above his mate. All three seemed to be calling back and forth to each other but there was never any aggressive behavior towards the young hawk. I stood in the middle of the field watching them for about twenty minutes. At one point they young hawk broke off from the adults and plummeted into the woods. I guess he missed his target because he quickly returned to circling with the two adults.

I looked on the Internet for information about cooperative breeding in Red-tailed Hawks. Apparently, there are instances of a trio of Red-tailed Hawks raising a family. I can’t say for sure yet if this is the case for our hawks but I’ll keep you posted.

Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

If that was exciting enough, I heard, then saw my first Pine Warbler of the season. With strong winds blowing through the park Shane and I found the warbler feeding on the ground at the edge of the footpath on the Peninsula. Later in the morning we heard another one trilling from atop a Sycamore tree at the Music Grove. Wading birds also seem to be starting their migration through the area with a single Great Egret, four Black-crowned Night-Herons and four Great Blue Herons tallied this morning. There appear to be more Eastern Phoebe present since my walk around Prospect Park on Sunday.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Also of possible interest is our very vocal Red-shouldered Hawk. I guess he likes the park as he’s been present for nearly one month. He must be accustomed to people as he ignored us even when approached closely on the Peninsula “Thumb”.

Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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Prospect Park, 3/29/2005
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron (4.)
Great Egret (1, Prospect Lake.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (4, Duck Island & Three Sisters.)
Wood Duck (2, flying over Lullwater.)
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck (18.)
Bufflehead (1 male on pools, 1 female on lake.)
Hooded Merganser (1, near skating rink.)
Ruddy Duck (~50.)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Perched on Peninsula "Thumb", calling.)
Red-tailed Hawk (4 adults, 1 juvenile.)
American Kestrel (Perched near rink.)
American Coot (Several still on lake.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Belted Kingfisher (Lullwater.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (~20, various locations.)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Pine Warbler (2. 1 feeding on ground on Peninsula. 1 singing at Music Grove.)
Fox Sparrow (4 or 5 singing.)
White-throated Sparrow (Fairly common.)
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch (Lullwater.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow (3.), Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow (Abundant.), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow


Central Park Hawkwatcher said...

Any more news on the juvenile? Pale Male and Lola also had what we presume at The Hawkbench was one of their offspring, appearing in their territory well into nest building. And speaking of nests, what's the word with Big Mama and Split Tail?

Rob J. said...

Unfortunately, it appears that Big Mama and Split-tail have abandoned their nest on Payne Hill. Occasionally I'll see a juvenile male hanging around with Big Mama but I'm unclear about their relationship. I've resigned myself to exploring other flora and fauna this season and hope that they return next year.

Central Park Hawkwatcher said...

It has been a tough year for Red-tail nests without a doubt. We have one pair of younger hawks still sitting tight on their nest but we're unclear as to the contents.

You mention Big Mama and the juvenile, but is Split Tail still around as well?

Rob J. said...

I presume that the reason Big Mama has been spending so much time with a juvenile is that Split-tail is no longer around. :-(

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