Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

Excerpt from "The Red-tailed Hawk Journals: A City Birder in Brooklyn":

Wednesday, 27 March, 2002

I made another end of day visit to the Red-tailed Hawk nest to check on any recent changes. I spent from 4pm until 5pm watching the nest. Female red-taileds do most of the incubating but occasionally the male with take her place. If I saw them change places then I would be certain that there were eggs in the nest. I was hoping to see an exchange at the nest between the two parents but for the hour I was there only the female was on incubation duty.

The closeness of the nest allows one extremely detailed scrutiny of the bird’s behavior, some of it mildly amusing.

At 4:20pm the female stepped up to the edge of the nest to stretch. She cranked her neck around for a moment much as I would after sitting for too long in front of a computer. Raising her shoulders and tipping her head down she then extended her opened wings up into a "V" shape. I felt like a voyeur observing a bird of prey performing her afternoon yoga exercises. Standing up straight, she closed her right wing against her body, pushed the other one back and stretched her left leg out to the side. Her stretching released dozens of tiny feathers. Fine, white plumes, back lit by a setting sun, drifted off the side of the nest and down onto the sidewalk.

The male arrived quietly and landed on an oak tree a few yards away. She joined him, they immediately copulated and she returned to the nest. Her absence from the nest lasted only 2 or 3 minutes.

Back on the nest she proceeded to clean house. She stood up with the large remains of a recent meal. With the sun behind her it was difficult to tell what it was. She left the nest with it in her bill and flew back over to the oak tree. Turning the piece over and over, she looked like she was trying to decide if there was any meat left. After a minute or two she dropped it to the ground and flew back to the nest to settle in for the night.

I was curious as to what she had discarded so I walked over to where it had dropped. I shouldn't have been that surprised but when I located the remains of a gray squirrel that she had picked clean I couldn't help but wonder...”Squirrelly Knievel”?

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