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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Red-tailed Hawk updates

Over the weekend I scanned through my journal entries for 2002, 2003 and 2004. I was looking for the fledge dates of the previous Red-tailed Hawk broods in Prospect Park. Before walking over to the park yesterday I wanted to figure out an estimated fledge date. Previous dates were 6/11, 6/25 and 6/14. We are getting close.

My hawk watching spot has become so lush and overgrown with shrubs, saplings and low growing plants that I almost walked passed it. Fortunately, there is still an opening in the canopy framing the nest.

Alice and one of her offspring

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Alice was sitting at the south side of the nest with one of her offspring. I never observed the other chick for the two hours that I watched. That doesn’t mean something may have happened to him, it’s just difficult from my vantage point to see the east side of their huge nest. The flight feathers of the visible hawk are almost completely developed but his head plumes are still pretty thin. The effect is that he looks like a huge bird with a tiny, little head. He spent a lot of time preening his flight feathers and scratching incessantly at his emerging head plumage. I suppose it feels a lot like growing a beard. There’s a short period of time when the new whiskers cause terrible itching.

Learning to use his wings

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The young bird has begun testing out his new wings. He is at the hop-flap period of growth. Birds at this age don’t just stretch out their wings and flap, but also hop from one side of the nest to the other at the same time. The next stage will be climbing to a branch outside of the nest and flying back. I would guess that by this time next week they’ll be ready to take their maiden flight. Then the fun begins.

Also, I recently received an update from Rich and Chris at Fordham University. Their hawks are also moving along at a fast pace and should be leaving the nest soon:

Subject: Practicing Fledging
Date: 5/31/06 11:38 PM

Rob and Chris,

I do not believe that the hatchlings are quite ready to fledge but at least two of them are getting closer. Watching the nest today, I saw two of the chicks spend a great deal of time flapping their wings and one of them in particular was "jumping" all around the ledge with wings flapping. While both feet did get off of the ground, it was more of a jump than a flight. In addition, it appears that the third eyeass is developmentally behind the other two. I am attaching pictures of the wing flapping behavior.


Practicing for the big dance

(Photo credit - Rich Fleisher)

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Prospect Park, 6/4/2006
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Flicker
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
American Redstart
Baltimore Oriole

Other common species seen (or heard):
Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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