Monday, March 07, 2005



Everybody at the hawk bench is getting excited. Something momentous seems about to happen.

Thing have been going superbly from the day the spikes were restored to the nest site last December 23rd . Ever since, the hawk pair has been diligently bringing in twigs, arranging them, weaving them into a sturdy frame, bringing in more twigs, fresh greenery, and, finally, bringing in finer lining material to provide a warm, cozy, draft-free basasinet-of-sorts for the eggs to develop in.

During the last few weeks, Pale Male and Lola have been putting on a well attended and most inspiring sex show on practically every Fifth Avenue rooftop, TV antenna, chimney and water-tower between 79th St. and 72nd Street. Inspiring? Yes, I'd say inspiring for those who haven't been having much success in that department. The message the hawks deliver to those who pay attention: always bring a desirable gift to the object of your affections if you want to weaken her defenses.

I'll be specific It has been observed that every sex act of the Fifth Avenue hawks follows a similar pattern: Pale Male delivers a gift -- usually a rat or pigeon or a part therof to his mate. She inspects it intently and then takes off with it to a nearby balcony or rooftop or other perch. Sometimes she stashes it away somewhere in the vicinity of that perch, and then returns to it. Within a short time Pale Male arrives at her perching spot, descends, and the sex act occurs, lasting anywhere from three to seven seconds. As we observe them in Lincoln's super-powerful telescope, we can sometimes see the male hawk's beak moving during the act, as if he is communicating something. Your guess is as good as mine what it is, but in any event he is not a silent lover. After he hops off, they often continue to sit there companionably for some minutes. Does she eventually share her tidbit with her mate? Or has he already eaten his share before delivering it to her? Only John Blakeman knows for sure.

[I seem to have avoided the "C" word this time. But on the other hand, I didn't call it "mating" either. If you're reading this page for the first time, go back and read the debate on sex nomenclature]

The present excitement comes from our eager anticipation of the next phase of the breeding process: egg-laying and incubation. It is known that the completion of the nest releases some sort of egg-laying "urge" among most birds. The nest is nearing completion. Hence our excitement.

A female about to lay eggs is called "gravid" But we at the hawk bench have come up with a better term for her: She is "eggnant". Is Lola eggnant yet? John Blakeman, who has illuminated so many aspects of Red-tailed Hawk physiology, psychology and perhaps a few other -ologies, [certainly hawk sociology!] , writes some paragraphs below on that subject:


"If the Hawk Bench folks watch carefully, they will be
able to see when incubation begins in earnest. The
parents, especially the female, will first sit
with a slight elevation. Then, when she decides to attend
solely to incubation, she simply melts down into
the nest, showing a markedly lower profile. When you see
this, incubation is underway.

Also, a close reading of Lola's physical deportment at
the nest site can reveal that an egg is descending
through her single fallopian tube. In the day or hours
before laying, the female will often just stand at
the nest edge, or on a perch nearby, with an almost
glazed look in her eye. There may be some discomfort
involved in creating and passing an egg through her reproductive organs. I recall seeing this. The
female expressed a restrained, almost contorted
deportment that I've never seen since. She even walked
strangely around the nest rim, almost in the manner of a
duck. She didn't seem to want to pick up her feet.

All of that should be in another week or more."

For that small number of you that doesn't also look at Lincoln's web site every day, here is

Pale Male's age ~14 yrs

Lola's age ~ 7 yrs

Clutches to date 10

Chicks hatched 26

Sucessful fledges 23 [88.5%]

Mortality 3 [11.5%]

****************Chicks**** Reign
Mate #1 First Love**0******* 1991-1992
Mate #2 Chocolate** 3****** 1993-1995
Mate #1 First Love ***5***** 1996-1997
Mate #3 Blue ********11**** 1997-200
Mate #4 Lola *********7***** 1998- present