How does Pale Male stay on that flagpole?
A reader, Karen Anne Kolling, wondered how Pale Male manages to keep a grip on that smooth, round ball atop the Belvedere Castle flagpole. Lincoln Karim, who took the picture, wondered as well on his website http://www.Palemale.com .Here's John Blakeman's explanation:
I, too, saw Lincoln's pondering of this question.
Actually, Pale Male is not physically gripping the sphere at all. He's merely perched on top of it. From the tossed feathers on the side of his head you can see that there is a slight breeze up there, but it's not enough to push him over. He's standing very erect, which also indicates that the winds are light. If they were stronger, he'd be leaning aerodynamically into the wind.
Therefore, the hawk is perched here in just the way my rural red-tails sit on the tops of wooden utility poles, which are flat or only slightly sloped.
But the birds will use a locking grip when sleeping. They have a rasp-engaging set of circular muscles and tendons that wrap around the vertical tendons that extend between the leg muscles and the toes. When the bird goes to sleep on a windy night, she takes her perch and then tightens and locks the encircling muscles and tendons around the leg tendons. She falls asleep with the legs locked in a firm grip on the branch or other perch.
Lastly, however, we know that if weather changes, the birds can and do fly around at night to new or better perches. Having watched my trained red-tails for several decades, I believe that they can see at night just about as well as we can, so they can stubble upon a new branch if they have to.
That shot by Lincoln was pretty fine -- regal, if you will.