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Monday, June 13, 2005

Fordham Red-tailed Hawk update

I just received the following update from Chris Lyons:

“Coming in to work on Monday, June 13th, I saw one of the two young hawks not only out of the nest, but on a limb below the nest, indicating that he'd flown (or at least jumped) onto it. There was no sign of the other chick, and I wondered if one had moved to another tree, but I later saw both of them, one out on the limb the nest is on (in other words, he'd jumped back up to where he was previously), and the other was sitting up inside the nest.

Presumably the one I saw first is the older sibling, and therefore more advanced--I saw him (or her) make several quick jumps from branch to branch, not really FLYING per se, but using his wings to propel himself, and definitely getting the hang of things. Both of them were calling much more lustily and regularly than I had ever heard them do before, presumably hoping to induce their parents to bring food.

I had occasional glimpses of an adult hawk, but neither parent came to the nest while I was watching. I'd guess that both of the young hawks (chicks no more) will be out of the nest tree completely before the end of the week, at which point finding them will prove more and more difficult.

Hawkeye and Rose's eyasses have a decided advantage over some of their better known urban-dwelling brethren, in that their nest is in an oak tree with plenty of horizontal limbs to climb around on, and use as launching pads for quick hops to develop their flying skills. They don't have to fledge all at once, taking one great leap of faith into the wild blue yonder. With Pale Male's chicks (and now Pale Male Junior's on 35th floor of the Trump Parc Hotel), fledging can be fatal, and you only get one chance, though sympathetic human observers may be able to intervene on occasion. Hawkeye and Rose's offspring don't have such an inspiring view, but they do have the luxury of being able to make mistakes on their first journeys out of the nest. And mistakes are how you learn--assuming you survive them.

So does leaving the branch your nest is on count as fledging, or do you have to leave the tree entirely? Is there a rule book that settles this issue?”

I don't think that there's an official rule book, but you never know. In my personal "rule book" I consider it fledging when they fly out of the nest tree to another tree (or ground, or manmade structure). From that point they no longer return to the nest. Their fledging attempts are ocassionally less than successful and below is an excerpt from my 2002 hawk journal:

"...At one point I stepped back from the group for a different perspective and, from the corner of my eye, spotted the younger bird soaring from its high perch in the oak tree down into the grass directly beside me. The chick made a soft landing and just stood there looking a bit confused.

Stephen Rudley and I immediately placed ourselves between the roadway and the young chick. Despite the fact that it was this bird’s first experience with terra firma it could run surprisingly fast. I was amazed at how long its legs were and how it looked more like an ostrich running than a hawk. As luck would have it Ann Wong, the head biologist from the Prospect Park Alliance, was present. Moments later, Tupper Thomas, the park administrator, arrived. Within 30 minutes a work crew arrived, put up cones to block one lane of the road and began quickly erecting a snow fence along the edge of the curb. As this was happening Stephen and I continued to follow the hawk herding it away from both the roadway and the open, and very busy, Long Meadow. At one point our little friend began bolting down the dirt path while flapping its wings. When it couldn't gain altitude it just hopped up on a low boulder and looked around. The rock was in a very open spot next to the road and Stephen thought that he could gently coax the bird to perch on a large branch that he would then carry back up the hill. No dice. The hawk just sat down on its haunches as if in complete resignation. After a short rest it began running back up the hill towards its starting point."

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