Brooklyn Hawk update
Big Mama and her old mate Split-tail
(Photo credit - Sean Sime)
I just received and interesting e-mail from my friend, Joe. He does a lot of birding in the Green-Wood Cemetery, which is a short distance from Prospect Park. His note is regarding the nesting Red-tailed Hawks in the cemetery and includes a sad finding.
Hope all is well, I expect you are getting ready for the x-mas count. I'm helping Janet in her first year as leader of Green-wood. I was in Green-wood Saturday with Marge Hanover, a Green-wood regular, and we saw some Red-Tails that I thought you might be interested in.
Red-tails have been having trouble in Green-wood for the last 2 breeding seasons. The nest in Green-wood had a long successful record of fledging young for well over 15/20 years. Every year, like clockwork, the young fledged within a few days of June 5th. The last 2 breeding seasons have not produced any fledglings. Two seasons ago, which was a very wet, cold one, the two nestlings had just barely started to stand on the edge to exercise their wing muscles by the end of May. Very late in the season. [..] The young disappeared. The fledglings of all previous years remained in the cemetery by Fort Hamilton until at least October and are easily approachable. I looked and never found a sign of them. Neither did Janet. I don't think they fledged at all, certainly they did not survive long out of the nest.
This last breeding season, the pair was back on the nest. They had added material and we had a constant bird on the nest. All was looking good, then suddenly there was only one bird in the area and no one on the nest. I found the body of the female, going by size, in Dell water. Since then Green-wood has had almost no Red-Tails. Even this fall, when you expect wintering birds would arrive, no Red-Tails.
Marge and I were happy to see a high soaring pair by Fort Hamilton and McDonald this Saturday. They basically circled just over and across McDonald Ave, occasionally coming into the cemetery. We stayed in the area watching for a while and one of the times they were over the nest realized that one of the birds was immensely huge, even allowing for sexual size difference. Big Mama? Clean bird, heavy, well defined breastband. Tail very red viewed form the top, but from underneath showed a whitish tinge to the red. We started to go back over Ocean Hill when we came upon a third Red-tail low in a tree, about 15 feet up. We looked at him he stared back, unhappy but stayed until Marge's cell phone rang. He then flew off low the bare minimum, and landed about 40 feet away low in another tree. All the time looking like a cat, who doesn't want to been seen.
I'm going to go out on a limb here. I think Big Mama, if it was her and I think it was, is interested in Green-wood. Not that she would move, but she doesn't want the Green-wood nest occupied. She was not able to intimidate the established pair, but I think this third bird is one of her offspring, they do have similar breastbands and the same clean underwings. Perhaps it is the male from the previous year and without a mate, he is a little vulnerable to her pressure. Whatever the details, I think Big Mama is being imperialistic about Green-wood. The only parallel to my scenario is that the year before Red-Tails started to nest in Prospect, a young pair tried to construct a nest by 39th street and Fort Hamilton. They were driven off by the established pair by Ocean Hill. Should be an interesting season if I'm right.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Brooklyn Hawk update