Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dear John: Our hawks are not slug-a-beds!

In response to Kelley Harrison's note yesterday, wondering about when red-tailed hawks get up in the morning, John Blakeman sent the note below. But even before I posted it, Kelley continued to investigate Pale Male Junior's sleeping and rising habits and came up with some very contradictory evidence. As ever, the Pale Male tribe is unique!
Kelley Harrison's amazing note follows John Blakeman's letter. Thank you Kelley for your persistance and, perhaps, insomnia.

Kelley Harrison wondered when red-tails typically "start their day."
These big hawks are famous for lounging on their perches in the morning. They are not by any account early starters. When everyone else in Manhattan is rushing to get busy each morning, the red-tails are sitting up on their perches calmly preening or just sitting in a quiet attitude of contemplation watching the inexplicable mayhem below.
In preening, they rub their beaks over the oil gland on the upper surface of the rump, then they spread this rain-repelling oil on feathers over their entire body. This daily primping can take an hour or more. Duck-like, this allows them to sit out in open rain with no discomfort.
In the morning, the air is generally cold and heavy, making flight more difficult. So red-tails tend to sit around for most of the early morning before venturing out for real hunting. In summer, many red-tails will still be perched at 9:00 am or later. Of course, there are always exceptions, with a hawk on the wing about the day's business just after sun up. But by and large, don't get up to be in Central Park before 8 or 9 o'clock expecting some good hawk flights or hunts. There won't be many.
(This is just one of many reasons I prefer red-tails over all other hawks. I'm a late morning starter myself. Seems only reasonable.)

John A. Blakeman

Kelley Harrison wrote: 7/26/05
Dear Marie:

Pale Male Jr. was already on his roost at 8:30 p.m.
when I went to Columbus Circle last night. At 9:00
p.m. I confirmed with Donna, Veronica and Jean that he
was still there. Determined not to miss fly out I
went to the roost building at 4:40 a.m. It is nearly
impossible to discern a hawk at the top of the
building at that time of day. I went on "blind faith"
that he was still there and waited. As dawn
approached I could see a dark shadow of wing movement.
He flew out at 5:18 a.m. and headed straight for the

Kelley Harrison