Saturday, July 23, 2005

Caption Correction

Earlier today I posted Bruce Yolton's remarkable photos documenting the early hours of the Trump Parc fledglngs. He just just e-mailed me with an important correction to one of the captions I had affixed to the pictures. I had labeled the bird in the first photo Charlotte, but it was actually Fledgling II, hiding his/her orange-buffy breast. "At this point in time [when the photo was taken] both parents were way north in the 70's," Bruce writes.

I've corrected the caption on the photo...

What's next?

Carla McDonough, a website correspondent, writes:

What to expect now?  Do the fledgings go back to the nest and hang out or do
they just go from building to building then eventually venture out to the
park? How do PM Jr. and Charlotte feed they drop the prey off at
the buildings, or at the nest or what?

My answer: Here's the way it usually worked with the Fifth Avenue Fledglings:

The young almost always fledged to nearby buildings, using balconies, railings, roof walls, window ledges etc, as if they were branches on a tree. They almost never went back to the nest. On one or two occasions a fledgling took his first flight directly into the park. But without exception the bird went back to the safety of the Fifth Avenue buildings across the street. Safety from what? Safety from angry Central Park birds defending their territories from these dangerous new predators. Five angry bluejays divebombing a baby hawk's head ain't pleasant, especially if that baby can barely manage to stay upright on the swaying branch.

While the fledglings are on buildings the parents make food drops at each fledgling location. The kids no longer need to be fed. They tear at the food on their own. They also spend quite a bit of their first week sleeping. In Red-tails in Love I describe the many experiences hawkwatchers had thinking dire thoughts when they saw a fledgling stretched out on a rooftop having a little snooze. "He's dead!" was the cry at such a sight.

After about a week, or a bit longer, the hawk family moves permanently into the park. In the past they settled in the area just north of the model-boat pond with the Metropolitan Museum of Art as the northern boundary.
There commenced Hawk Nursery School and then higher education. During the next month or so the parents feed the kids, full meals at the beginning and then, as the month wears on, a bit less; the young must learn to hunt for themselves.

During the daytime, in "olden days" the kids mainly sat on branches and loudly begged for food: Kleeek kleeeek kleeek. Consequently they were always easy to locate. We also saw flying lessons and hunting lessons. Like all young creatures the hawk fledglings also spend time playing, together or each by himself. We've seen tugs-of-war over a picked-up glove, or mock pouncing on twigs or insects. As with human young, the hawks' play activities were mainly directed towards acquiring necessary skills.

We'll see where the Trump Parc family decides to setle down. It will definitely not be hard to find them, thanks to the fledglings' noisy begging.

Lincoln's Fantastic Photos of Fledglings

7/21,05, the last nestling [soon to be Fledgling Two] looking out from the nest after sibling took off earlier in the day

Two: 7/22/o5: the first fledgling on a balcony railing on 58th Street and 7th

Three: 7/22/05: The second fledgling on a roof railing

This is the place to publically express huge gratitude to the great photographer Lincoln Karim. Thanks, Lincoln, for keeping me posted yesterday and the day before about the fledges and the well-being of the fledglings. After all these years of hawkwatching [can you believe it, 15 years!] I didn't imagine I would still feel the pangs of anxiety I did about these babies during the last few days. Your telephone calls saved me.

And thanks, more important, for all your photos you've generously made available to my website for all these years. Truly this website would be very diminished without your pictures.

[And by the way, thanks for expanding your interests to moths. See you at the Moth Tree tomorrow, I hope.]

Bruce's photos of parents and FLEDGLINGS from the BIG DAY

Bruce Yolton, one of the faithful hawkwatchers from the "Little Hill" [the location of Donna's Field Notes], sent me his amazing photos of yesterday's hawk action. Thanks so much, Bruce.

Note to anxious readers: Just so you know, before you feast your eyes on these photos:
ALL IS WELL. As you will read in the next post, the Trump Parc fledglings have made their way to the park and are beginning act II of their great drama. Meanwhile, in the photos, I can't tell you which fledgling is being portrayed. But it hardly matters. They're both fine.

All photos by D. Bruce Yolton, taken on Friday July 22, 2005

Fledgling II
5:30 pm
SW 58th St. and 7th ave.

5:40 Junior and Charlotte on second E of Essex House [on Central Park South, west of Trump Parc]

5:45 Junior bring prey [ in talons] for fledglings

5:46 - Fledgling on roof of building at 58th & 7th Ave

5:46:30 --- Fledgling moves to new spot

5:46:32 - Fledgling lands

5:47 -- Fledgling: "So here I am. Where's dinner?"


Field Notes 7-22-05

Trump Parc Family, Charlotte, Junior, two eyasses.

Sunset-8:21 PM,(NYT),
Temp. 93F,
Mostly sunny,
Wind, light and variable,
Humidity 49%,
Prey Tally-Unidentified avian.

Heartfelt thanks to all who worked together today,
contributing in their wonderful individual ways to the
fullness of today's Field Notes. They include Lincoln
Karim, Ben Cacase, Bruce, Veronica, Dorothee, Irene,
Arthur, Stella, John, Norma, Kentaurian, Fred, Gabriel
plus great aid from doormen, supers and the like for
access to viewing spots!

All times PM unless otherwise noted.
2:52 Fledgling #2 leaves the nest.(L.K.) He, Little
for short, flies west and perches on the roof of the
white ornate brick building on the SE corner of
Seventh and 58th.
4:13 Little perched on black railing facing W, on the
roof of original touchdown building. Adult RT perched
on east E in Essex sign. Fledgling #1, Big for short,
perched on building S side of 58th across from parking
5:14 Adult RT (Charlotte?) off E in sign w/scream and
towards N.
5:15 Adult Male RT perched on silver column, north
facade of 888 7th Ave.(B.C.)
5:18 Kestrel sighted above Hampshire House, circles.
5:19 Little triangulates down to street.
5:21 Male RT left for parts unknown.(B.C.)
5:22 Big perched on E false balcony of 137 58th St.
5:27 Little flaps wings and slices.
5:28 Alert but settled on railing.
5:33 Mature RT circles in S above Columbus Circle.
Second mature RT joins first in circling, one above
the other. Lower of two RTs holds prey in talons.
5:35 Two Rts fly E, over Bent Building on CPS.
5:36 Both hawks, confirmed Charlotte and Junior, land
on east E of Essex sign.
5:38 Eating motions observed.
5:42 Junior up with prey portion in talons,(B.C.
reports prey is avian.) circles above Small. Small
watches ALERT. Jr. curves slightly south, curves back
north, prey dangling.
5:47 Small flaps wings, watches Jr.
5:48 Jr. to E and S perches peak of pointed green tile
roof south of CNN sign with prey, has a nibble.
Little agitated, flap-jumps from railing to chimney
row, slightly south of railing. Then Little flaps few
feet back S to railing.
6:02 Jr off peak with prey, circles over Little's
roof, Little alert to Jr. Jr. circles in front of
Green Glass building (888), circles over Alwyn Court,
then back toward E side of Green Glass Building then,
(Please excuse the editorial comment but Jr. then does
the most incredible about-face in mid-air,
on a dime as they say. He's flying S when suddenly
BING he's flying N, as quick as that. No curving, no
anything. Quite remarkable)Jr. circles in front of N
face of Green Glass. A fly buzzes Little and he looks
at the fly and not Jr. Jr. then circles above Little.
Little alert to Jr., Jr flies to W face of Trump parc,
cruises in front of nest, prey dangles, circles again
in front of nest, then toward Park to 58th, then W on
58th, then S.
6:06 Jr. perches peak of Green Tile roof with prey.
Little to Chimney ridge, Little back to railing.
6:07 Charlotte to peak of Green Tile Roof, perches
with Jr. Charlotte starts to eat prey. Little flaps
to chimney row ridge. Junior up. Charlotte remains and
6:08 Junior circles, lands east side of CNN
6:09 Little back to railing, watches Jr.
6:10 Little to Chimney row.
6:12 Jr. up, circles, flushes pigeons from roofs,
hunting on the fly. Pigeons wheel in front of him and
then bank to around behind him, they gain on him, he
does about-face in air, he's within a hair of nabbing
pigeon but it veers to the side.
6:14 Male circles again for a few minutes then to a
higher perch on CNN building. (B.C.)
6:18 Ben writes-Charlotte to east side of the CNN
sign, where she remained until 8:13. A roughly 2 hour
perch without moving from the spot once.(B.C.)
(Charlotte sat on the east end of the CNN sign and
faced west. There was a clear sight line from
Charlotte to Big on 58th, as well as to Little.-Donna)
6:21 Jr. up, circles Bent Building on 58th, Little
alert, then Jr. to bar between top two prongs of X in
Essex sign.
6:43 Jr. up, circles behind Essex and Hampshire House,
rising with each circle, buzzes roof, then S ot
Carnegie Tower to black prongs on W side. He flushes
(a very surprised) Chimney Swift.
6:47 Little looses balance slightly on railing,
wobbles, stabilizes.
6:48 Little preens.
6:52 Jr. between sixth and seventh vericals going S,
of top of Carnegie Tower.
6:54 Little from railing to Chimney row.
6:56 Little from Chimney row to railing.
7:01 Little UP and flies with elevation toward 220
CPS. Lands ? (Irene and I to that area of CPS to
search roofs. She shows me eating and stash area.)
7:23 Jr. to top west arm in EsseX.(B.C.)(Faces
8:13 Charlotte from CNN sign to behind building north
of MONY sign where we lost sight of her. (B.C.)
8:14 Junior off esseX - we lost sight of him. (B.C.)
8:16 Irene calls she hears possible begging sounds
while on her terrace, possibly from Parkside. (I go
to investigate.)
8:18 Check near transverse bend.
8:20 Check songbird ruckus near wall-no joy. Check
trees on Little's possibly trajectory.
8:20-8:30 Jr. seen circling NE of MONY sign. (B.C.)
8:34 Getting too dark to see, check Pin Oaks on Knoll
near transverse.
8:35 Jr. at 888 7th Ave.(B.C.) Green Glass Building-D
8:39 Jr. gone and lost. (B.C.)
8:40 Cross transverse, directly across from previously
mentioned Pin Oaks, I hear something which may be
fledge begging sound inside construction chain link
fence area but can't say for sure. (Does anyone have a
recording of this sound?)
8:42 Adult on nest site until we left "her". (B.C.)
8:50 Check Junior's roosts of the last two nights. No
9:15 Exit
Submitted-Donna Browne

More notes from Ben Cacace:

Ken and I were able to keep tabs on both adults from
the time I arrived (Ken already had the adult male in
the scope) at 5:15p until just before we left at
9:05p. The biggest surprise was that there *appeared*
to be little to no interactions with the fledglings.

It was good to hear that the juveniles made it into
the park before dark.

The adult male was more active
than the female and the female fed for bit from a bird
carcass that Jr. brought to a green roof just south of
240 Central Park South. The night ended with an adult
hawk roosting on the nest. It arrived there before
8:42p and we both assumed, based on behavior, that
this was the female. The lighting was too dim to
determine by field marks if it was the female or the
male. Here is a rudimentary timeline of the events:

- 5:15p adult male perched on silver column, north
facade of 888 7th Ave. At 5:21p the male left for
parts unknown.
- by 5:45p both adults on 2nd 'E' in essEx.
- by 5:48p ad. male to Hampshire House-like roof south
of CNN sign with prey in talons. It fed a bit on the
- by 6:04p ad. male flew off perch for a number of
minutes and returned to the same spot.
- by 6:06p ad. female to a perch near male. She fed on
the carcass and left for the east side of the CNN side
at 6:18p where she remained until 8:13p. A roughly 2
hour perch without moving from the spot once.
- from 6:07-6:08p ad. male circled, then landed on
east edge of CNN sign.
- from 6:12-6:14p ad. male circles again for a few
minutes and returns to a higher perch on CNN sign.
- by 6:17p ad. male from CNN to top of X in esseX.
- by 6:41p ad. male from top middle on X in esseX to
west face of Carnegie Hall Towers into the eaves near
the top of the building. It remained in the eaves,
after a small northward hop at 6:43p, until 7:23 when
it perched on top west arm of X in esseX.
- by 8:13p ad. female from CNN sign to behind building
north of MONY sign where we lost sight of her.
- by 8:14p ad. male from esseX - lost sight of him.
- from 8:20-8:30p ad. male seen circling for many
minutes northeast of MONY sign.
- by 8:35p ad. male to 888 7th Ave.
- by 8:39p ad. male off 888 and lost.
- by 8:42p adult on nest site until we left 'her'
there at 9:05p. We assumed this was the female based
on behavior alone since the light was too dim to make
out any features.

Thanks for all the information passed on concerning
the fledglings.

All the best.

Ben Cacace

Friday, July 22, 2005


Second Trump Parc baby fledged successfully. I don't have all the details, but I think it flew at about 2:53 pm today. [How imprecise can I get?]

According to a very quick phone conversation with Lincoln a minute ago, everything is fine. Both fledglings are on nearby buildings. Junior and Charlotte are carefully monitoring them. They'll be bringing them food and giving them flying demonstrations.

By the way, this is the normal fledging pattern for building-nesting redtails like Pale Male and now Junior. The fledglings treat the buildings like trees. Instead of taking short flights from branch to branch, however, they take hops from building to building, or different levels of a single building -- from a balcony to a roof to a chimney, etc. They usually don't end up in the park for about a week. And even once they've made it to the park they head back for the buildings during the early weeks . It may be that life is more peaceful on their building perches. Once in the park they are mercilessly harassed by bluejays, mainly, but also by many smaller brds --- titmice, robins, etc.

Baby Bulletin

Fledgling News:

ALL IS WELL!!!![I've been getting some anxious e-mails...what's happening? It's noon and you haven't posted anything!]

The fledgling is on a ledge of a building just west of the nest, where both parents are keeping an eye on it. I couldn't see it when I went to the Trump Parc neighborhood this morning, but Lincoln photographed it there. Here's the picture:

Fledgling on Central Park South ledge

Pale Male's other grandkid is still in the nest. When I saw him [or her] this morning he was looking up at Dad, who was perched on the south chimney of the Hampshire House. From that perch he could keep an eye on both kids.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


The day before the BIG DAY
July 20, 2005
Photo by Lincoln Karim

One of the Trump Parc babies fledged successfully at around 2:30 pm today. It's on the roof of a nearby building looking out at the park. The parents are keeping an eye on it. ALL IS WELL. One more to go, probably tomorrow.

Donna's Field Notes 7/20/05

Field Notes 7-20-05

Trump Parc Nest,
Junior, Charlotte, two eyasses.

Sunset 8:23PM (NYT),
Temp. 94F,
Wind variable to 12MPH,
Mostly sunny,
Humidity 51%,
Prey Tally-rat, pigeon.

All times PM unless otherwise noted.
6:24 Both eyasses on N edge of nest preening.
7:22 Junior to nest from W with rat.
7:23 Jr. off. Bigger eyass begins rending prey, nest
left. Smaller eyass watches from nest right.
7:25 Small eats some rat, nest left.
7:26 Ben Cacase reports-Jr. lands on CNN
sign(previously Biography sign)in Columbus Circle.
7:29 Big tries to get rat. Tug of war over rat, Big
wins and swallows remains, tail and all.
7:35 Eyasses face west, alert, and look up. Ben
reports Charlotte sitting on east side of Hampshire
House, the building adjacent to the nest to the W.
7:39 Little finds a few bites of something by back
wall and eats them. Big sits mid-right, south, Little
goes and sits behind him close to wall.
7:42 Jr. over roofs of 58th to E, then circles to
57th, perches atop W branch of X in Essex sign.
7:50 Small N side of nest, Big S side of nest.
7:54 Charlotte to center nest (from HH eave-Ben).
Little to right, Big to left, Little works beak,
7:59 charlotte up, off nest to N, then W on 58th past
University Club, perches on pole bisecting a circle to
W. (240 CPS-Ben).
8:01 Nest in shade of western building, Big makes a
giant hop, and flaps, then more flapping.
8:03 Big makes another giant hop, a flap and "attacks"
something at base of wall. She picks up "prey", a
strip of bark. Little nest left, making herself
smaller and staying out of the way.
8:06 Little hops, flaps, attacks and "kills" twig.
8:10 Eyasses beak "fence" ,nest left, N side.
8:17 Jr. off X and flies west, circles green glass
8:17-8:32 Charlotte from pole 240 CPS to CNN
8:18 Both eyasses active. Little picks up twig in
beak, head moves side to side.
8:29 Trump Parc crown lights come on.
8:34 Charlotte to nest. Both eyasses stare at her,
check her talons for prey.
8:39 Big "kills" another twig, picks it up in beak.
Big scratches head.
8:46 Big picks up old feather from nest point center,
chews, it falls out and off nest, they watch it
8:51 Jr. to roost.
8:56 Nest inhabitants still active, but too dim to see
exactly what they are doing. Veronica reports that
she has seen the nest active at 11:00 PM.
9:15 Exit.
Submitted-Donna Browne.

Hawks on the Highway: John Blakeman

Another question for John Blakeman, this one from Kentucky, and his answer:

Dear Marie:

John Blakeman writes that adults drive off the first year birds. Why
then does it seem that in my suburban area, the birds I see sitting on
the light poles over the expressway and hunting in the medians are
almost always juveniles, as judged by their by their plumage? Are the
adults too smart to hunt on the expressways, leaving this dangerous
practice for the younger ones, or perhaps all the expressway foragers
are killed so that none survive to be adults? The grassy medians and
shoulders can certainly entice a hungry immature bird but a dive toward
prey can be disastrous if ill-timed with traffic! I would be interested
in Mr. Blakeman's opinion on the expressway hunters.

Thank you!

Sally Seyal, Prospect, KY

Here's the reply. I've emphasized a phrase or two of particular relevance to Central Park:

No, both immatures and adults love to hunt from perches along expressways. The grassy margins typically have high populations of voles, the favored food of red-tails.
The simple answer is that the immatures you see along your expressways just happen to be in areas that aren't adult territories. This is particularly true in suburban areas. Central Park notwithstanding, red-tails still prefer to breed in rural or wild areas, not in suburbs or cities. Consequently, immatures who find the voles in your areas are delighted to find spots that resident adults don't claim.
But someone (intelligently) is going to note that they saw both adults and immatures sitting rather closely together, apparently hunting in the same area. I must be careful in stating that adults drive immatures out of their territories. Generally, this is the case. But red-tails being red-tails, there is almost always and exception to very general rule. From time to time an immature will be seen parked right along with a pair of adults in August and September. Why? Probably because the local territory has an exceptionally high concentration of food, so the parents or adults don't perceive the youngster as a competitor for food. (This may be the case in Central Park.)
We know that in late fall and winter, generally after the migration, there can be large concentrations of red-tails of all ages in concentrated, local areas that appear to have large local populations of food. At so-called "game farms," where artificially large populations of captive-reared pheasants are set out for hunters, red-tails of all ages can concentrate in these areas.
As with so much of red-tail biology, availability of food is everything.
If you haven't, try to make mental (or written) notes on the birds you are seeing on your expressways. You will find that red-tails, for periods of anywhere from just a few days, on up to almost months on end, will tend to park at the same locations, at the same time of day. You will begin to note the same birds each day in the same spots, barring abnormal weather.
The blond-headed red-tail that I reported here in Ohio a few weeks ago, a Buckeye Pale Male, was seen sitting on exactly the same fence post at the same time of day for two weeks. He had found a local concentration of voles and exploited it for some time. I looked for him yesterday at the right time and spot, but he was gone. He's changed his daily hunting routine and is perched somewhere else now.
You raised the question of red-tail safety when hunting along major highways. I've never seen an adult killed by a vehicle strike. Adults seem to pretty much understand the rather consistent behavior of motor vehicles. Immatures out on their first hunts in July and August, when powered by the hunger of the season, aren't so competent. They will dive off a hunting perch directly at a distant mouse or vole and pay no attention at all to oncoming traffic. But because their vision includes both narrow-angle telescopic views, along with a wider landscape perspective, most often the immatures will veer away from an approaching car or truck at just the last moment. But not always. Vehicle strikes are a small, but noted hazard to inexperienced immatures.
Hawks must be able to note the position of approaching objects while in flight. The Central Park red-tails, from time to time, must be aware of the location and approach -- often at exceptional speed -- of peregrine falcons. A peregrine dropping out of the sky at 200 mph closes quickly on a red-tail drifting around at 30-40 mph. When dove upon, a red-tail better know how to evade the much quicker peregrine. The same mechanics apply to cars and 18-wheelers humming down a freeway. Fortunately for the red-tail, these wheeled predators generally fly only just above the concrete, seldom in the grass, and never in the sky. By September, most red-tails get it figured out. But I've found a few red-tail roadkills, always in July and August.
In much of North America, particularly outside of the traditional cattle ranges of the West, there just isn't much pasture or meadow available anymore. Voles don't live at all in forests, and have low densities in brush lands. They require open-sky grassy environments, and the thousands of miles of Interstate and expressway rights of way are now prime red-tail habitats, as you've seen in Kentucky. Highways are major survival factors for red-tails and kestrels, who use them for the same reasons.

John A. Blakeman

A Moth Story

A few days ago I received a plea for help from a lady in Maryland. An interesting moth had landed outside her house, and she didn't know how to begin identifying it. Luckily she took some photos of it before it took off again. When she saw an item about the Central Park Mothers [rhymes with authors] on my website, she sent me the photos and a note:

Hi Marie

I saw this moth on the breezeway of my home in Chevy Chase, MD. ...Hopefully you or someone on your site can identify it for me. Thanks for any info you pass along to me.

Nan Brodsky

Nan sent along the following photos:

Instant puzzlement. Something about the moth in Nan's picture made me think it might be a member of the Sphinx family. But when I checked, all the Sphinx moths in The Field Guide to Eastern Moths had completely different markings. Unfortunately the Field Guide , the only one available, [and not very available since it's out of print], provides pictures of dead specimens only. Since these pictures rarely resemble the way living moths look-- the ones we encounter usually covering their hindwings with their forewings, or curling up both sets of wings, or assuming some other strange posture, I sent a request for more information:

Please tell me a bit more about this moth. Are your pictures of a living moth, or is it a specimen with slightly spread wings? How small was it, more or less? Is your first picture life size? Are the colors pretty accurate?

She replied:

He or she was definitely alive - in fact I was afraid it would be gone by the time I went inside to get my camera. . .The colors are as I remember them, so I guess they're accurate. Sort of lavender and brown. I didn't know what I was going to do with them until I saw the photos of the ILIA Underwing on your site. [7/15/05] My mystery moth was gone about 1/2 hour later. Hope this info helps. I have plenty of bird ID books, but nothing to help me find this moth. Thanks for getting back to me - I look forward to hearing from you again with any info you find out.

The chase was on! I was determined to find Nan's moth.

The Field Guide had flunked out, as it often does. So the Internet to the rescue. I have bookmarked several sites where mothophiles like me have posted photographs of living moths, moths in their natural resting positions. John Himmelman, the author of a very nice book called Discovering Moths, has a website I often resort to --- Moths in a Connecticut Yard. [There's a link for The Mulberry Wing on my Links page that includes a link to Connecticut Moths on its Home Page. That's the Himmelman site]

I went through a lot of pictures of moths on Himmelman's site -- Oh what a perfect way to procrastinate when you don't want to get to work--and suddenly, jackpot. There was Nan's moth.

It was, indeed, in the Sphinx Moth family, but no wonder I couldn't find it in the Field Guide. There was almost nothing about the Field Guide picture that looked like Nan's moth. This moth provides a perfect example of how frustrating that book is.

Here is the picture from John Himmelman's website of the living moth, in its usual resting position, looking quite like the one Nan photographed:

But here is a picture with the hind wing revealed , and the hind wing has a stunning feature that the moth hides when at rest -- a huge eye like the one on a peacock's tail. That is the dominating feature you see in the Field Guide. And note how the whole shape of the moth now looks different, because in its resting position a part of the hind wing pokes out from behind the forewing, making it seem very oddly shaped indeed. Once the moth opens its wings you can see that the forewing has a straight edge, while in the resting position...well have a look and you'll see :

Though I futzed away most of my day hunting through moth photos, I felt unusually gratified when I sent on the following information on to Nan Brodsky in Chevy Chase, MD:

OK, found it!

It's a Blinded Sphinx Moth - Paonias excaecatus. It looks quite different in my moth field guide, because they have pictures of dead, pinned moths there. The living moth often holds its wings in a way that covers its dramatic hindwing markings. I found it on a moth website, and I'll send you the picture. The website picture looks exactly like your moth.

PS It's probably called Blinded because of that resting position. The hind wing is obscured, or blinded, by the forewing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pre-fledge Bulletin - 7/20/05

Donna has been corresponding with John Blakeman.  She writes

Blakeman looked at [a photo of] the eyasses' tails and said that the
tail feathers are only half way down. So, barring
mischance, he thinks it's at least a week (from
Sunday) before they fledge.

PS If I understand her correctly, that's 7/24 she's talking about.

Field Report from the Trump Parc Nest

The Trump Parc kids
July 16, 2005
Photo by Lincoln Karim

Field Notes 7-19-05
Trump Parc nest, Junior, Charlotte, two eyasses.

Sunset-8:23PM (WT),
Temp. 91F,
Heat Index 99F,
Humidity 63%,
Wind variable 5-10MPH,
Prey Tally-pigeon, rat.

All times PM unless otherwise noted.

Some Highlights of the last few days..
Saturday 5-16-05
At 7:43 a large "bouguet" of white helium balloons
drifted above the Trump Parc, Charlotte and Jr.
immediately converged on the ballons, with attacking
dives (no contact seen or balloons deflated), rapid
circling, and many, many, MANY, screams. It worked.
The balloons were "chased" from over the Trump, into
Central Park, and then west with hawks in hot

Monday 5-18-05
Discovery that certain daily activity periods for the
eyasses occur when the sun goes behind one or the
other of the tallest buildings to the west. At the
7:39 activity period, the bigger eyass, Big for short,
went to the center of the nest where prey is often
eaten and began to swallow a large feathery wing. The
wing went partially down but several long white
primaries, didn't, quite stuck actually. They jutted
for their nearly full length at a 45 or so degree
angle from her beak and stayed there. The more
diminutive eyass, Little for short, couldn't help but
be fascinated by this. She cocked her head, leaned
forward, and crept a bit closer. For a moment we
thought she was going to go for them. But just in time
at 7:57 Charlotte arrived, pulled them out, and then
motherly chores taken care of, she left again to take
up her previous sentinal position. Just an example
showing that though the adults may not always be
apparent to observers, someone is always

Field Notes Tuesday 7-19-05

7:12 RT from Columbus Circle, circles 220 CPS, then
flies into Central Park.
7:25 Little on left, Big laying center.
7:36 (Sun behind western building) Both eyasses up,
7:37 Little stretches and flaps.
7;39 Big flaps 4 to 5 times, high hops.
7:40 Big takes leap across nest.
7:49 Both left of nest, preening.
7:59 Charlotte to E side of HH chimney.
8:00 Little on left, Big on right.
8:05 Big to edge, looks over.
8:14 Jr. to N side of nest with Prey. Kelly
identifies it as a rat. Jr. off.
8:16 Little tugs and tugs at unprepared prey, finally
seen chewing a small bit.
8:17 Charlotte still on Hampshire House E chimney.
8:20 Charlotte to nest, preps food, loosens food for
Big, loosens food for Small.
8:39 Charlotte not in sight, eyasses visible on nest.
8:50 Exit.
Submitted-Donna Browne

Hummingbird link

Gloria, a reader of this website, sent the following note, with a link. Though hummingbirds don't nest in Central Park, they are seen each year during the migration seasons. A sighting of this beautiful little bird is always a special event.


This is truly amazing. Be sure to click on NEXT PAGE
at the bottom of each page; there are 5 pages in all.
A lady found a hummingbird nest and got pictures all
the way from the egg to leaving the nest. Took 24 days
from birth to flight. Because you'll probably never see
this again in your lifetime, enjoy and share.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hawk with missing tail feather

A few days ago Ben Cacace asked a question about the Trump Parc pair:

 Which hawk is molting the middle feather(s) of  its tail? Is this the female?

The answer, from Donna Browne, Irene Payne and others is: Yes, it's Charlotte.

Redtail questions and answers and a word about Pale Male [Sr.]: Blakeman

A website correspondent writes:

Hello Marie,

I found your website, and I thought you might be able to help me out. I have been observing a pair of Redtails for 2 years now. The first year I watched them build their nest and how sad it was that they did not produce any young. I believe Vultures snatched the young. This year however they did produce and on June 16th a baby fledged the nest. I have pictures and movies from beginning to now. Yesterday I took the picture that is I am sending.

Before I ask my question I have to tell you the [redtail] Mother is no longer around, but she was for about 3 weeks, the Father would bring in the food for the baby and would make the baby come to him which I understand would be teaching him. The baby is flying very well now and the Father has been around (but not much) to bring the food, I have observed that the Father will bring the food and when the baby is near drops it so that she must catch it.

Questions: When will the baby start hunting on its own or even attempt to? She calls out (crying or begging) on a regular basis looking for the Father. How will he teach her hunting skills if he is not around for her to observe.

I have had the best two years watching these hawks and so fortunate that they allow me into their world from a distance. I respect them and never want to interfere with the balance of nature.

I have great respect for John Blakeman, and I know that you are affiliated with him and I know between the two of you maybe you can answer my questions.


Claire F Rutledge

Wakefield MA

John Blakeman sent in a prompt answer:


Several points. If vultures took the young last year, the young birds were almost surely dead before the vultures got them. Red-tails are never preyed upon by turkey vultures. Black vultures (don't know if you have any of those in MA, probably not, as they are a more southern species) can be a bit more aggressive. But unless the eyasses were dead on the nest, the parents would have easily defended the young against the vultures. Let us know if you actually saw vulture predation. Very interesting if it was observed. I've never seen this, nor know of any such events in Ohio.

Secondly, don't be completely certain that the mother has disappeared. In summer, red-tails seem to frequently "disappear." They are still around, but they take hunting perches within tree vegetation, instead of sitting so commonly out on utility poles and fence posts. Last week I drove 60 miles along a four-lane into Cleveland. In fall, winter, and spring, I commonly see anywhere from four to a dozen perched red-tails. Last week: not a single bird. I've noticed this for 30 years. In June through September here in Ohio, red-tails seen sitting out on hunting perches are markedly less frequent. It appears that the population just implodes in summer. But the birds are still there, but just not as visible.

Why? l'm not sure. But it probably relates to availability of food for competent adult red-tails. These birds can capture just about anything they wish, and the roadsides are loaded with populations of plump voles, large field mice. By late morning, most adult red-tails in summer have easily captured two or three voles. They are done hunting and feeding for the day. They can simply go off and sit in the cool foliage of an oak or maple overlooking the landscape. Occasionally I've discovered these somewhat "hidden" birds, as their white breast can sometimes be seen in the foliage

So don't presume that your female is not present. She may start to appear in September and October when days shorten and more time must be spend on the hunt. Remember, red-tails do virtually all of their hunting while sitting on an open hunting perch.

Don't so much lament the loss of the first brood of this pair. This is very, very common. It appears that the vast majority of red-tails, at least in the Midwest and similar regions at the same latitude, fail in their first or second nesting attempts. Success requires that everything must be just so. The nest has to be well-constructed. Incubation must be continuous and attentive. Feeding the eyasses at the start can be problematic for parents who have never done it. In short, most red-tails have to try it out for a year or two before they get it right. After that, they are accomplished parents and will be frequently successful in ensuing years. But you have been watching apparently a typical young pair of red-tails.

Once the eyasses fledge, parents will seldom, if ever, give the food they provide directly to the young. As you've observed, it's dropped nearby, or even trailed along to entice the young to actively pursue the food. Have you seen the parent drop a still-alive animal? This entices the young to not only learn to attack the fleeing animal, but also to learn to kill it. The young have really no idea how to kill a struggling prey animal. Yes, they know that they should grab it. But where? In the head? At the tail? In the belly? The young birds have to learn what works, which is usually a head kill with the powerful talons. But their only instinct is to just grab the moving animal. They will have to learn that a talon puncture or severe squeeze to the head works best.

When will the young bird start hunting on it's own? Primarily only when the parents stop providing daily fare. When will a 16- or 18-year old kid stop spending allowance money and go out and get a real job? Only when Mom and Pop cut off the supply of free money.

And you've heard the forelorned cries of the ever-more neglected fledgling. You will never forget that sound. I hear it frequently out here in the countryside at this time of year. The hungry young red-tail wonders where today's food is. "Where are my parents and those voles they were bringing me last week? I'm HUNGRY!!"

Of course, "I'm hungry" in red-tail language is an incessant high-pitched "wheep, wheep" sort of call. It's just pitiful to hear. There is a mixture of both morbidity and selfishness to it. In late June and July, parents respond to it by providing food. But in late July or early August (at Ohio latitudes), the parents stop the routine and the young are left to their own hunting devices -- which aren't very significant.

This is when the young hawks get into real trouble. In more rustic times, when every farmyard had free-ranging chickens (and exceptionally fine-tasting -- I mean for humans), starving red-tails often couldn't resist these large meal targets. Hence the name "chicken hawk." Virtually all chicken predation was by starving first-summer red-tails.

I call these screaming hawks "wheepers," for their wheeping-sort of vocalizations. These are exactly the birds we falconers trap for the sport. They are easy to capture, and they are so appreciative that we provide the food that their parents terminated. All three of the last red-tails I trapped for falconry had been eating only grasshoppers before I took them into my care. A grasshopper diet portends a gruesome, lethal future for a wild red-tail. Remember, only 40% -- at best -- of red-tails that leave the nest will ever survive the first winter. Before winter, most die from their inability to successfully hunt and kill every day.

How, then you ask, will the young bird learn to hunt? It may not. The majority don't learn these lessons fast enough. And today, the main reason for this, just as it was before Europeans altered the North American landscape, is because young red-tails just don't have many unoccupied areas that they can fly into and find sufficient prey animals to support them. The good areas are already occupied by old, experienced adults. In August, they will drive out any young birds hanging around that compete with adults for food. The birds are dumped out on the street and kicked on their way out of the territory. Then, they've got to learn how to hunt very quickly. If, perchance, they wander into an area with lots of voles, they can learn how to hunt by the time cold nights hit in October. Otherwise, they will starve trying to eat grasshoppers or other inadequate fare.

And this, I believe, is why Pale Male, Sr. came into Central Park. When young and inexperienced, he wandered into this giant, prey-filled landscape in which no self-respecting adult would ever take up nesting residence. But Pale Make did, and the rest is history. In previous times he would have found a vacant, typical rural territory because red-tails were commonly shot, leaving openings for young birds to jump into. But today, very few hawks are shot or illegally trapped, so the countryside is saturated with adults. The young birds, such as the one you are watching, have a very difficult time living to adulthood. It's not the 1930s, 40s, or even the 70s or 80s out there any more. Life for red-tailed hawks is very different that it once was, and we are watching that in Central Park and elsewhere.


John A. Blakeman

Oh Brother

<>Thought you'd be interested in a letter I received yesterday, posted with permission:


Thank you for sharing your love of the NYC red tails and providing this forum for it. I’m particularly impressed, of course, with the writings of one John Blakeman. Being his brother, you’d think I might have had the opportunity to read his stuff from time to time, but frankly, I haven’t before this. It’s just very good writing. And, it is truly his voice. His passion for RTs mirrors his passion for life, a great privilege enjoyed while growing up.

Thanks again for this forum. Best wishes for your next hawk project.


Jim Blakeman

Monday, July 18, 2005

Redtail Molts: Questions & Answers

Ben Cacace, a long-time Central Park Hawk observer, sent me a question which I forwarded to John Blakeman. He answered, I asked for another clarification and he answered again. Below is the entire correspondence:


I have a question for you concerning molting of
Red-tailed Hawks. Could you or Blakeman let me know
what the sequence of molting is for Red-tailed Hawks?
I have a few books at home but they don't go into the
details on the timing of the molt. I am wondering when
the juvenile starts molting the tail feathers. This is
related to the molting RT I saw perched on the South
Gate House of the reservoir recently. Only one half of
one adult tail feather had grown in. This was on July
15th 2005. Here is the quote I posted to eBirds NYC:

"At the reservoir on the top of the South Gate House
was a subadult Red-tailed Hawk. This RT is the first
I've seen that is molting from juvenile to adult. The
majority of the juvenile tail feathers were intact and
underneath the worn feathers, in the center of the
tail, is a half-length bright brick-red tail feather.
The iris of this hawk is light in color. It had a dark
belly-band and a dark head."

Even though it was very hot and it was on an asphalt
roof it spread itself out flat, wings stretched and
tail spread, apparently looking to absorb as much heat
as possible. This was done for a number of minutes.

Thanks in advance!


John Blakeman replied

What you've seen, with the immature red-tail flying around with a single, half-descended red tail feather, is rather normal.
By this late in the season, the bird should have 4 to 6 red tail feathers in place. But the onset and progression of annual molting, both for immatures and old adults, can vary widely, for reasons not always clear. It seems that well-fed birds often start earlier and finish the molt early. Birds having difficulty finding food often start later and progress slowly. That's probably the case with the bird you are watching.
But don't be surprised to find several gaps in the tail where feathers have been dropped in a few weeks. In August, time gets short and molting sequences are usually advanced. I once had an immature red-tail that had a delayed molt (even though she had plenty of food from me -- I'm a falconer). Then, in late July and August she just seemed to drop feather after feather. In August she looked plainly ragged. But by October, she had a new, adult set of feathers.
The tail molt usually begins with a central feather, and then progresses outwardly as new feathers descend and harden.
Hope this helps understand what you've seen.
Keep me posted. Shoot any other RT questions my way.

John A. Blakeman

I wrote Blakeman back:

John, I want to be sure I get it right. The immature bird discussed below is not a 2005 fledgling, right? This year's crop won't have any red in their tails until 2006??

Right. I didn't make that clear. Any bird molting right now was alive and on the wing last year. This molting red-tail fledged in the spring of 2004. Every bird of every age has to take its feathers through a fall, winter, and spring before they molt out.
I also didn't point out that the new tail feathers will be about an inch shorter than the original brown feathers the bird left the nest with. By now, when molting birds are about one-third to half way through their molts, the tails can look a bit imperfect, with the older ragged feathers extending a bit beyond the bright new red feathers.
The same thing happens with the long primaries, the finger-like feathers on the tips of the wings. This is why first year red-tails, in their immature brown plumage, not only look larger than adults, they physically are -- in dimension, not weight. Because flight and leg muscles haven't completely matured when the birds fledge, the birds are able to fly with moderate ease with the longer feathers. This gives first year birds lighter wing loading. But with stronger muscles in the second year, the tail and wings molt out shorter. Hawk watchers should understand that first year red-tails look, and are, larger than the adults. They aren't as fast or strong, just bigger. They don't weigh as much, either.
But this is always a confusion for the unfamiliar. The presumption is that a small hawk is a "baby," and a big one an adult. Doesn't work that way. It's not size. It's weight that counts. What can the bird hunt and kill? That depends on muscles, and they develop more slowly than feathers.
So no one should ever be surprised to see a pair of eyasses about to fledge that appear larger than their parents. In size, they will be. That gets fixed in next year's molt.

John A. Blakeman

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Another Trump-Parc Hawk-watcher in a new spot

Ben Cacace has beeen observing raptor action at the south end of Central Park for many years. He was the first to be aware of Junior's previous nesting attempts: two at the same place on the Trump-Parc as this year's successful one and one, also unsuccessful,  on a tree near the vantage point he is describing in the letter below:. He has also been observing a pair [or perhaps a succession] of Peregrine Falcons that regularly roost on the Sherry Netherland Hotel in that area.


I try to view the nest as often as possible and return to my original place of observation which allowed me to view the 'nesting' Peregrines and the nesting Red-tailed Hawks on Trump Parc. It also offers a wide vista of Central Park South so you can see the comings and goings of the adults. This is towards the NW corner of Heckscher Ballfields.

Yesterday the female attemted to take a pigeon that was perched on the red peaked roof just east of Trump Parc. A sudden twist of her wings above the roof revealed her intentions. She didn't return to the nest before I left at 6:20p to see if she succeeded.

Today, from 5:30 to just past 6 (just like yesterday), the nestlings were not active. One appeared to be inadvertently shading the other (on both days) as one of the adults was perched on the 1st E in Essex.
BTW, which hawk is molting the middle feather(s) of its tail? Is this the female?

All the best.


PS from Marie: I don't know the answer to Ben's question. I'll ask Donna.