Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

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

Tuesday, 30 April, 2002

Outside of a brief visit from “Squirrelly Knievel” there was little activity at the red-tailed nest between 10:00am and 11:20am. The sneaky squirrel seemed interested in swiping some nest material but a quick flick of a wing ended that idea and he slowly slinked away. At the time I was standing with Sean Sime and his ever-present camera so, hopefully, he'll have a decent photo of the interaction. Sean, who had been monitoring the nest from 9am, hadn't witnessed a nest transfer or food delivery.

While we watched the nest it appeared that the female was agitated. Frequently looking around rapidly, she held the feathers out on her head and neck like the quills on a porcupine. Periodically she fidgeted with something in the bottom of the nest.

The male arrived with a small rodent in his talons at around 11:20am. After placing the meal inside the nest he stood nearby for about 5 minutes before departing. Oddly, the female seemed to ignore the fresh kill for around 20 minutes. Eventually she stood up, moved to the north side of the nest and began pulling the rodent apart.

As she fed it became apparent that there was another mouth in the nest. She alternated taking small bites for herself and holding bits of food in her mouth, twisting her head sideways and gently leaning down towards something at the bottom of the nest. The feeding went on for about 10 minutes after which she settled down on the nest again.

At 12:10pm, as Sean and I were preparing to leave, she began calling loudly from the nest. Five minutes later she left the nest and took off over the Long Meadow. We wondered why she would leave the nest unattended but within about 60 seconds the male arrived at the nest. He didn't sit down but rather seemed to be performing some nest maintenance. A few minutes later his mate returned with a stick and began weaving it into the interior of the nest.

We noticed that when she was feeding her unseen hatchling she was sticking close to the north side of the nest. When she returned to brooding she stepped around to the south side of the nest. Could she still be incubating a second or third egg? Only time will tell.

During the time that we stood around beneath the nest we heard or saw a number of noteworthy migrants. Watching two or three Black-throated Green Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Prairie Warbler and many yellow-rumpeds helped pass the time. At one point a kestrel flew overhead and, a little later, a Sharp-shinned Hawk with a full crop (yum, warblers, taste like chicken) perched briefly near the nest tree.

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